BEIJING, July 29 (Xinhua) -- Two additional cross-Straits direct flight routes linking the Chinese mainland and Taiwan were announced at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, bringing the total of direct flights to three.
A Taiwan TransAsia Airways' flight left Shanghai for Taipei at 10:42 a.m., marking the first flight via the newly-launched northern direct air route.
A China Southern Airlines' flight, taking off from Guangzhou's Baiyun Airport at 11:35 a.m. for Taipei Taoyuan Airport, became the first flight via the southern cross-Straits direct air route.
The 180-kilometer southern direct air route flight from Guangzhou to Taipei shortens the route by 20 kilometers while that from Xiamen to Taipei shortens by 150 km.
Flights will also take less time. Flights on the new 310-kilometer northern route will be shorter by 24 minutes.
The Chinese mainland and Taiwan started direct air and sea transport and postal services on Dec. 15 last year amid warming ties, ending a 59-year ban on such links. Previously, air and sea movements -- including mail -- had to be rerouted through a third location.
The first direct cross-Straits flight route cut flight time significantly as planes are no longer required to fly through Hong Kong's airspace.
The opening of the new routes followed an agreement signed on April 26 this year by Chen Yunlin, president of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), and Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).
The agreement, signed in Nanjing in eastern China's Jiangsu Province, was supplementary to a landmark agreement signed in Taipei on Nov. 4, 2008 to launch regular passenger charter flights across the Taiwan Straits.
Previously, flights across the Taiwan Straits were only offered on weekends and during the country's four major traditional festivals -- the "Spring Festival", "Tomb-Sweeping Day", "Dragon Boat Festival" and the "Mid-Autumn Festival".
A total of 108 passenger flights were launched between Chinese mainland and Taiwan every week and the two sides agreed to increase the frequency to 270 flights per week.
"The two new air routes have created condition for the launch of regular cross-Straits flights, which will start later," said Su Langen, an official with the mainland's Civil Aviation Administration of China. However, he did not provide a timetable.