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Regular Cross-Straits Flights to Start
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Aviation organizations of the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have agreed to open chartered flights for more traditional festivals in addition to the Spring Festival.

Chartered flights will be arranged for during Qingming, or the tomb-sweeping festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, besides the Chinese lunar new year season, according to the agreement.

China's 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 be opened during the 14 days around the Spring Festival, and the seven days around the other three festivals, according to the agreement.

Each side will undertake 84 round flights, including 48 during the Spring Festival, according to the agreement.

The destinations of the chartered flights include Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen on the mainland, and Taipei and Kaohsiung in Taiwan. All Taiwan residents, businessmen and their relatives with valid certificates can take the flights.

Six airline companies on each side will carry out the chartered flights. Specific arrangements will follow the operation of the Spring Festival chartered flights in 2006, the agreement said.

The two sides also agreed to open chartered flights for emergent medical rescue, first aid for the handicapped and chartered cargo flights for special need.

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

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

The new agreement, however, still cannot meet the demand on direct traffic links from the compatriots on both sides, he added.

"We hope the Taiwan authorities can allow the airlines on both sides to make arrangements for weekend and regular chartered flights as early as possible to satisfy the compatriots' demand," he urged.

Qingming, an occasion for Chinese people to pay homage to their ancestors and deceased beloved ones, 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 5th day of the 5th lunar month.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, is observed as a day for family reunion.

(Xinhua News Agency June 14, 2006)

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