Empty seats show glitches in China-Taiwan flights

Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:49am EST
 
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By Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Planes are flying with many empty seats a month after daily direct flights began between political rivals Taiwan and China, and travel officials are urging that some of the restrictions in the landmark deal be loosened.

Taiwan and China launched more than 100 direct daily charter flights a week on December 15, a month before the busy Lunar New Year holiday season, underscoring how quickly ties have warmed under Taiwan's pro-China President Ma Ying-jeou.

But restrictions on destinations and rowdy receptions to visiting Chinese envoys to Taiwan amid deepening financial gloom have thrown turbulence around the historic air links.

Flights are filling to only 71 percent of capacity, while Chinese tourism arrivals reached only 10 percent of projections last month, the Taiwan government said.

A lack of flights to popular Chinese cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing, account for the low number of Taiwanese travelers, industry analysts say. They say too many serve secondary cities put on the map to stimulate tourism in lackluster areas.

"You have some routes that are driving down the average," said Gary Chia, greater China co-head for Yuanta Securities.

SUDDEN DESTINATION CHANGES

Taiwan's TransAsia Airways, for example, sees "room to expand" on flights from Taipei to the northeast China industrial city of Dalian, spokeswoman Janet So said.   Continued...