August 27, 2008

Taiwan Aviation Body Responds to Uni Air Cancellation of Route to South China

Text of report in English by Taiwanese Central News Agency website

[By Steve Bercic]

Taipei, Aug. 27 (CNA) - Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) Director-General Lee Long-wen said Wednesday, in response to Uni Air's decision to cancel charter service on the Kaohsiung-Guangzhou route, that the CAA does not have the authority to tell airlines on which routes they should offer flights.

The Taipei-based carrier said that it has decided to halt its service on the route due to low passenger numbers.

Service on the route began July 4 with the launch of weekend charter flights that same weekend under an accord signed in Beijing between the heads of Taiwan's quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.

Uni Air said that despite the fact that the average passenger load on the Kaohsiung-Guangzhou flights reached about 70 per cent, the figure for the return flights was a lowly 40-50 per cent.

As a result, based on considerations of operating costs, the airline said it decided to temporarily halt the charter service.

It stressed, however, that it could reopen the service in the future if there is sufficient demand.

On Uni Air's decision, Lee said that the CAA could not force airlines to operate services on specific routes, pointing out that the decision is dependent on market forces.

"Wherever there are passengers, airlines will offer flights," he added.

Since the launch of cross-strait weekend charter services, only one flight per week has been offered on the Kaohsiung-Guangzhou route, with the exception of the second week in July when China Airlines offered one flight.

After the accord between the SEF and ARATS was signed, eight airports in Taiwan, including Taipei's Songshan, Taoyuan International Airport and those in Taichung, Kaohsiung, Hualien and Taitung, were designated to handle the cross-strait charter flights.

However, none of the airlines applied to fly from Kaohsiung International Airport until the last minute when Uni Air stepped in to offer flights between the southern port city and Guangzhou.

Originally published by Central News Agency website, Taipei, in English 1000 27 Aug 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.