September 5, 2008

Cross-Strait Charter Flights Scheduled for Mid-Autumn Festival

Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

["Cross-Strait Charter Flights Scheduled for Mid-Autumn Festival"]

BEIJING, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) - Passengers can take 16 round-trip charter flights across the Taiwan Strait during the Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional Chinese feast, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced here on Friday.

Eight airlines, three from the Chinese mainland and five from Taiwan, will operate the flights between two mainland cities - Shanghai and Xiamen - and Taipei in Taiwan, from Sept. 7 to Sept. 21, CAAC said.

As of Thursday, 90 per cent of the tickets for the cross-Strait charter flights operated by China Eastern Airlines had been booked, while 74 per cent of the seats on Shanghai Airlines had been taken up.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional holiday when family members get together and eat mooncakes, falls on Sept. 14 this year.

About 4 million people from Taiwan visit the Chinese mainland annually and an increasing number of Taiwan residents reside in China as students and businesspeople.

For more than five decades, no direct regular flights were available across the Strait. Passengers had to transfer in Hong Kong or Macao, which was more expensive and time-consuming.

The two sides started charter flights during the Spring Festival, a major event for Chinese family reunions, in 2003.

The service expanded in 2006 to three other major Chinese festivals: the Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

On July 4 this year, the two sides kicked off cross-Strait weekend charter flights under an agreement signed by the mainland- based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation.

Thirty-six return flights were scheduled every weekend (Friday to Monday) under the agreement, to be increased in line with demand.

The average passenger load factor exceeded 80 per cent during the first two months of the service, according to the island's aviation authority.

Originally published by Xinhua news agency, Beijing, in English 1159 5 Sep 08.

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