Civil aviation authorities on the mainland and Taiwan agreed to add extra flights across the Taiwan Straits for Spring Festival in January and February to meet the demands of Taiwan residents on the mainland to return home during the holiday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on Tuesday.
Air regulators on the two sides came to an agreement that airlines of the two sides could arrange additional Spring Festival flights across the Straits from Jan. 11 to Feb 8 to meet the needs of cross-Straits travelers.
The total number of the additional flights is not limited, the CAAC said in a statement. The Spring Festival holiday on the mainland is Jan. 24 to 30 as the first day of the Lunar New Year falls on Jan 25.
Due to limits on availability of mainland airspace, the number of additional flights is capped at a few busy mainland airports. Airports in Beijing will not arrange additional flights, and the maximum number is 147 for airports in Shanghai, 9 for Guangzhou and 23 for Shenzhen, both in Guangdong province, and 17 for Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, the CAAC said.
Specific plans for extra flights will be approved by the air regulators of the two sides before the last day of the year to facilitate passengers' booking and scheduling, according to the statement.
"Adhering to the principle of serving passengers, the two sides will do their best to ensure that all airlines' plans for additional flights are carried out, and they will not place restrictions on airlines that apply under the plan," the CAAC said.
Adding more flights during Chinese New Year has been a common practice between the two sides for years to facilitate Taiwan people returning home for family reunions.
Also, the election for the island's leadership is expected to be held on Jan 11, when many Taiwan residents on the mainland will return to vote. The Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland said in a statement last week that tickets from some busy mainland cities to Taiwan were in short supply around election day and many couldn't get tickets. The association urged the island's air authority to make arrangements to open up more flights.
Considering the market demand, extra flights are expected be arranged in some places on Jan. 9 and 10, the CAAC said.
The Cross-Straits Air Transport Committee of the China Air Transport Association said in a statement last month that it had contacted the air authority of the island several times to allow the arranging of extra cross-Straits flights from Jan. 4 to Feb. 15, but that was declined.
Spring Festival and election day are very close, so many Taiwan residents on the mainland want to make two consecutive round trips across the Straits. Some 10 mainland air companies have offered discounts for ticket packages.