TAIPEI, Jan 22 – The number of direct flights between Taiwan and China will rise more than 10 per cent this year to 616 flights a week as ties between the two former rivals grow closer, an official said yesterday.
The two sides have agreed to add 58 flights to the present 558 weekly trips, Lee Wan-li, deputy director-general of Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration, said.
“It is fair to expect the new flights no later than April, but in the end it will be up to the carriers from the two sides which provide ... services on the routes,” he said.
China will put eight more destinations on the map, including Lijiang, a popular scenic spot in the southwest, while Taiwan will add Chiayi city in the island’s south, Lee said.
Direct chartered flights began in 2008 and scheduled flights the following year, as relations thaw between Taipei and Beijing following the election of Taiwan’s China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou five years ago.
He was reelected last year for a second and final four-year term.
Travel between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland stopped at the end of a civil war in 1949. A ban on solo Chinese travellers was lifted in June 2011.
Previously, mainland tourists had only been allowed to visit Taiwan as part of official tour groups due to fears they might overstay their visas to work illegally on the island.
A record 2.23 million visits were made by Chinese travellers to Taiwan in 2012, up almost 50 per cent from the year before, according to Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency. – AFP/Relaxnews