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Mainland-Taiwan festival charter flights end amid calls for regular direct flights
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The ending on Friday of charter flights between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, which lasted two weeks over the Lunar New Year, has brought calls for regular direct flights across the Strait.


A total of 94 round-trip charter flights connecting the Chinese mainland cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Xiamen with Taipei and Kaohsiung on Taiwan, were made since Feb. 2.


The passenger total was 20,000, with 2,289 of them traveling between Shanghai and the island. More than 210,000 Taiwan compatriots lived in Shanghai for at least six months in 2007.


Despite the prolonged icy rain and heavy snow that hit southern parts of China causing blackouts and traffic chaos in some areas, all of the 94 planned flights were made without cancellation or severe delay.


It has been the fifth year in a row that both sides have operated charter flights for the Lunar New Year holidays.


However, all the planes from Chinese mainland cities to Taiwan were still required to transfer through Hong Kong air space instead of making direct flights to the island.


Airlines across the Strait have urged authorities to arrange regular direct flights as soon as possible.


Yang Guanghua, chairman with the Xiamen Airlines, said direct flights can cut the cost of a single flight by 35 percent and reduce flight time by 100 minutes.


He said he hoped direct flights can be realized soon to "satisfy the demands of Chinese across the Strait longing for family gatherings during the holiday season."


(Xinhua News Agency February 16, 2008)

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