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China Eastern Airlines to set up Taiwan office

  TAIPEI, July 6 (Xinhua) -- The Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines has become the first mainland aviation company approved to set up an office in Taipei, handling cross-Strait charter flights services, a company official said Sunday.

  Cao Jianxiong, general manager of China Eastern Airlines, told Xinhua that a five-people "preparatory office" will be established at the first step.

  The chief of the "preparatory office," an airport liaison officer and an officer in charge of aircraft maintenance are already in place, he said.

  Taiwan's China Airlines and Eva Air will act as sales agents for China Eastern Airlines at the moment, he said.

  "We wish to employ Taiwan stewards to serve on our flights across the Taiwan Straits if a ban on this is removed by Taiwan authorities," said Cao.

  He called for the normalization of cross-Strait charter flights, saying that the current arrangements of still could not satisfy the needs of cross-Straits travelers.

  "We hope to operate daily flights. Even 10 return flights are not enough on the Shanghai-Taipei route each day," he said.

  Under an agreement signed last month, 36 return flights will operate every weekend, Friday to Monday, divided evenly between mainland and Taiwan airlines.

  The two sides signed the agreement to begin these flights during a meeting between the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation on June 13.

  Six airlines from the mainland and five from Taiwan were operating the 18 return flights on Friday, the first day of the weekend service between five terminals in the mainland and five in Taiwan.

  Previously, services only ran during major Chinese festivals. Charter flights started for the Spring Festival, a major event for Chinese family reunions, in 2003.

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