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Non-stop Charter Flights End

When flight HU 7952 landed at Beijing’s Capital International Airport on Sunday night, it marked the end of the non-stop charter flights across the Taiwan Straits that had been organized for Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year.


The flight, by mainland-based Hainan Airlines, was the last of the 48 round trips that have allowed more than 10,000 Taiwan business people and their families on the mainland to return home for holidays.


Twelve airlines from the mainland and Taiwan offered the temporary service, which began on January 29 with an Air China flight heading for Taipei, the first mainland civil airliner flying to the island in 56 years.


For most of the travelers, who must normally fly an extra four hours through a third destination such as Hong Kong, the success of the flights has raised hopes for regular direct air links across the Straits.


"Charter flights shorten the geographical distance and save time. But more importantly, they bridge a psychological gap," said Zhuang Zongyu, a Taiwanese business person. "We hope we can have direct charters not only for holidays, but for normal times as well."


Air China said it would donate all the revenue from eight charter flights to organizations that strive to facilitate cross-Straits exchanges.


Although the temporary service may help ease tension across the Straits to some extent, experts say direct air links are still a long way off.


"The charter flight service is only an economic matter. It cannot bear the political task of improving cross-Straits relations," said Zhang Guanhua, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.


With the Taiwanese people voicing strong hopes for better cross-Straits ties, "the Taiwan authorities should consider carefully how to take its next step," he said.


(Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2005)

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