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Expanded Cross-Straits Charter Flights
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Aviation organizations on the Chinese mainland and in Taiwan have agreed to provide more chartered flights during traditional festivals in addition to the Spring Festival or Chinese lunar New Year.


Chartered flights will be available during Qingming, or the tomb-sweeping festival, the Dragon Boat and Mid-Autumn festivals.


The General Administration of Civil Aviation (CAAC) announced on Wednesday that the mainland-based Cross-Straits Aviation Transport Exchange Council and the Taipei Airlines Association have reached a consensus on the framework of chartered flights for festivals and special cases.


The festival chartered flights will operate during the 14 days of the Spring Festival, and for seven days around the other three festivals.


Each side will undertake 84 round-trip flights, including 48 during the Spring Festival.


Destinations include Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xiamen on the mainland, and Taipei and Kaohsiung in Taiwan. All Taiwan residents, businessmen and their relatives with valid certificates are eligible to travel on these flights.


Six airline companies on each side will operate the flights, and this year's Spring Festival arrangements will be used as a model for future flights.


The two sides also agreed to open chartered flights for emergency medical rescues, special services for the disabled and certain cargo flights.


"We welcome any progress in promoting direct, two-way and comprehensive links across the Taiwan Straits, which is in the interests of Chinese compatriots on both sides," Pu Zhaozhou, director of the Cross-Straits Aviation Transport Exchange Council, said on Wednesday.


"Our sincerity to promote direct air links between the mainland and Taiwan has never changed," Pu said.


The new agreement, however, isn't adequate enough to meet the demands for direct transportation links from the compatriots on both sides, he added.


"We hope the Taiwan authorities can abide by their pledges and approve talks to make arrangement for weekend or regular chartered flights and facilitate cargo flights as soon as possible to satisfy compatriots' demands," he urged.


A spokesman from the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council welcomed the agreement on chartered flights and called for the launch of chartered flights at weekends or on a regular base and realization of direct air services across the Taiwan Straits.


Direct air links have become an urgent issue in cross-Straits exchange, the spokesman said.


It is the demand of millions of Taiwan compatriots who come to the mainland every year on business, to visit relatives and to travel. It's also the demand of Taiwan farmers who want to lower transportation costs for exports to the mainland.


"We hope Taiwan authorities can offer convenience for the aviation organizations on both sides to continue talks on this issue," the spokesman added.


The first non-stop chartered flights across the Taiwan Straits were launched during last year's Spring Festival.


(Xinhua News Agency June 15, 2006)

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