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Airlines seek weekday cross-Strait flights after weekend success

  TAIPEI, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- As weekend charter flights linking Chinese mainland and Taiwan reach the one-month mark, airlines on both sides of the Taiwan Straits want to offer the service on weekdays.

  "Judging from the one-month results, the weekend charter flights are indeed widely welcomed by people on both sides of the Straits," Nieh Kuo-wei, vice general manager of Taiwan-based EVA Air, told Xinhua here on Tuesday. "We wish for more flights and destinations, as well as weekday flights to provide more choices for passengers."

  The cross-Strait weekend charter flights kicked off on July 4 under an agreement signed by the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation.

  According to the island's aviation authority, during the four weekends since, 144 round-trip flights, carrying some 53,000 passengers, were made. The average load factor was 87 percent.

  Nieh said EVA's weekend flights carried more than 10,000 passengers and the average load factor was above 85 percent.

  However, Nieh pointed out that EVA could easily carry 10,000 passengers on its Hong Kong-Taiwan flights in just two days. "Compared with that, the current cross-Strait charter flights are still inadequate and airlines from both sides haven't shown their full efficiency."

  Cheng Jun, a senior official with the Shanghai Airlines office in Taipei, had similar concerns. "Many Taiwan people can only take one-way weekend flights due to their personal schedules, and it led to some market loss for airlines from both sides."

  To provide more choices for passengers, several island air carriers launched cooperative agreements with the mainland carriers for charter services. These enable customers to take mainland flights once they've booked the charter tickets from airlines based in the island.

  But Cheng said this was still not enough.

  "The booking rate is good, which once again proves that there is demand for cross-Strait flights. It is for the good of both passengers and airlines to realize full-week charter flights as soon as possible," Cheng added.