04/23/2009, 00.00
TAIWAN - CHINA

Direct flights between China and Taiwan will be increased for the sake of more profit

The idea is to double them to more than 200 per week. Behind the desire for closer relations is also pure economic calculation by the Chinese airlines, which are looking to tap in to a lucrative market.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) - It is "highly likely likely" that an agreement is on the way "to double the number of flights [between China and Taiwan] to 216 because there is a mutual need." This is the opinion expressed yesterday by Kong Dong, president of Air China, one of the companies that provide the highly profitable service.

For decades, there were no direct flights between China and Taiwan, but only flights through Hong Kong and Macau. Direct flights were resumed a few months ago, in the context of better open relations after Ma Yingjeou, a proponent of dialogue and collaboration with Beijing, was elected president of Taiwan.

The flights of Air China are currently about 78% full, but Kong maintains that the actual demand is much higher, although it is hampered by a complicated procedure to obtain a visa.

A meeting between the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait and the Taiwanese Strait Exchange Foundation is scheduled for April 26, in part to discuss direct flights.

Kong is one of the Chinese delegates. To those who ask him why direct flights will be increased, he does not speak of the importance of relations and reconciliation between the two sides, but presents a simple economic calculation. He observes that, thanks to the elevated demand compared to the limited supply, with these flights the Chinese airlines will earn much more than they do on other routes. It is estimated that they will earn between 80 fen (yuan cents) and one yuan per passenger kilometer, while the average figure for other flights is between 59 and 63 fen.

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