Direct flights between Taiwan island and Fuzhou, capital of Southeast China's Fujian Province, resumed on Monday after being suspended for over three years due to the pandemic and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities' obstacles.
A flight departed Fuzhou at 6:17 pm Monday and arrived at Taipei Songshan Airport at 7:31 pm. The return flight departed Taipei Songshan at 9:04 pm and arrived in Fuzhou at 10:18 pm. Xiamen Airlines will operate six round-trip flights per week.
Analysts said the resumption, following the common aspiration of compatriots on both sides of the Straits, will facilitate people-to-people exchanges and cooperation in terms of the economy, trade and culture, and accelerate integration between the two sides.
Since direct air routes across the Taiwan Straits started in 2008, a total of 31,000 flights have been operated between Taiwan island and Fuzhou, with more than 3.41 million passenger trips made, according to the Fuzhou local authorities.
The resumption was announced amid the 6th Fuzhou-Matsu Talks, one of the most important events of the 25th Cross-Straits Fair for Investment and Trade, on May 18 in Fuzhou. More than 70 representatives from Matsu attended the event.
On May 19, Chinese mainland announced the resumption of group tours for Taiwan residents coming to the mainland.
Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, expressed a warm welcome to Taiwan compatriots on May 19. On May 17, Ma called on the DPP authorities to scrap unreasonable restrictions on fully restoring direct cross-Straits passenger flights as soon as possible.
Other mainland cities have also announced the resumption of direct flights to Taiwan island. Direct flights from Chongqing Municipality to Taiwan Taoyuan Airport officially resumed on May 17.
Flights between Fuzhou and Kaohsiung are also expected to restart on June 2, and the direct flight from Shandong Province to Taiwan is scheduled to resume on June 16.
Wang Yu-ching, a Taiwan cross-Straits observer who lives in the mainland, welcomed the resumption of the flights.
"The resumption of direct flights will help bring more Taiwan residents to the mainland and promote cross-Straits understanding and exchanges… It's a positive role in easing cross-Straits relations caused by DPP secessionism provocation," Wang told the Global Times.
Wang also called on the DPP authorities to reopen Taiwan tourism to mainland travelers, and stop being a stumbling block to cross-Straits exchanges.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the DPP authorities drastically reduced the number of cross-Straits direct flights from 61 to four, serving only Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Xiamen.
On February 1, 2023, the mainland called on the Taiwan authorities to restore direct flights across the Taiwan Straits as soon as possible to facilitate exchanges, proposing to restart 16 direct flights across the Taiwan Straits first. On March 9, the Taiwan authorities agreed and announced the resumption of direct flights to 10 mainland cities.
Li Chih-yue, a Taiwan-based tourism worker, told reporters recently that before 2019, cross-Straits tourism was the largest source of business for Taiwan's aviation sector and tourism, accounting for 40 percent of the market in Taiwan and nearly half of the output value of the island's airlines. Taiwan's tourism industry has a high desire to restart cross-Straits tourism.
According to Li, 80 to 90 percent of the 4,000 travel agencies in the Taiwan region offer tour groups to the mainland. In 2019, direct flights across the Taiwan Straits carried more than 8 million passengers.