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Cross-Straits Flights for Mid-Autumn Festival Successful

The last direct charter flight for the Mid-Autumn Festival landed in Taipei on Sunday night, ending the direct flights between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland during the festival.

Staff at the Xiamen Gaoqi Airport wave hands to see off a charter flight belonging to the Uni Air of Taiwan on Sunday, Oct 8, 2006.

Six airlines from each side operated 24 round-trip flights between Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen and Taipei from Sept.29 to Oct. 8.

The Mid-Autumn Festival charter flight marks the extension of the cross-Straits charter flight service, which used to be restricted to the Spring Festival, or traditional Chinese Lunar New Year.

Charter flights, conducted after talks between civil aviation associations of both sides, were arranged in the absence of regular direct flights across the Taiwan Straits.

Following a decision made by non-governmental aviation industry associations in June, similar flights have been arranged for other traditional holidays, including the Qing Ming Festival (Tomb-Sweeping Day) and the Dragon Boat Festival.

The two sides also agreed to open charter flights for emergency medical cases, first aid for the handicapped and special chartered cargo flights.

However, the rest of year, travelers take at least six hours on indirect journeys between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

The mainland has been urging early realization of "three direct links" of trade, mail and transport across the Straits since 1979.

In 2002, Spring Festival chartered flights were proposed by a group of Taiwan business people and eminent persons, after more than 50 years of no direct air links.

The first non-stop charter flights across the Taiwan Straits were launched during the Lunar New Year in 2005, and 72 round flights were arranged during the Spring Festival of 2006.

Qing Ming, an occasion for Chinese people to pay homage to their ancestors and dead relatives, falls on April 5 or 6.

The Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated by racing dragon boats, eating "Zongzi" - rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves - and hanging wormwood around houses, falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, is observed as a day for family reunions.

(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2006)

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