China Eastern Airlines' first cross-Strait charter flight of 2008 took off from snow-covered Shanghai on schedule on Saturday morning, taking Taiwan compatriots home for the Spring Festival.
The A330-300 plane, carrying 299 passengers, went through an hour of de-icing before moving onto the runway at 11:00 a.m. at Pudong airport.
Many of the passengers had been worried that the departure would be postponed by bad weather. The Shanghai Municipal Observatory Friday night upgraded the snow warning from yellow to orange, second only to red.
China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines will operate 12 and eight round trips, respectively, on charter flights to Shanghai.
Wang Wanlong, the public relations manager of Shanghai Airlines, told Xinhua that the airlines had prepared sufficient de-icing agents.
He said that passengers could get a full refund on return flights that were postponed or cancelled due to bad weather. The airline would also help passengers change to flights by way of Hong Kong or Macao to Taiwan.
Charter flights from Shanghai have been welcomed by some 1 million Taiwan compatriots working and living in the mainland's Yangtze River Delta region. More than 210,000 Taiwan compatriots lived in Shanghai for at least six months in 2007.
The Chinese mainland and Taiwan will arrange 94 cross-Strait charter flights during the Lunar New Year, from Feb. 2 to 6 and from Feb. 11 to 15, according to China's General Administration of Civil Aviation (CAAC).
The Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 7 this year, is the most important festive occasion for family reunions.
As in previous years, 12 airlines -- six from each side -- will offer flights during the festival period. The airports served include Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Taipei and Kaohsiung, according to the CAAC.
(Xinhua News Agency February 2, 2008)