TAIPEI - Air carriers on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have begun to cut fares in anticipation of the imminent opening of regularly scheduled direct cross-strait flights, airline sources said Friday.
Taiwan's leading carriers -- China Airlines and Eva Airways -- announced new lower fares earlier that day, including a Taiwan-Shanghai direct return flight for NT$14,400 (SGD635) on a one-month validity ticket offered by China Airlines. The fare is about 10 percent cheaper than the previous NT$16,250.
Eva Airways, meanwhile, is offering a NT$14,500 ticket for the same flight with 14 days' validity, down from the previous NT$16,000.
Lee Long-wen, director-general of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, said the cross-strait passenger flights are closed air routes and a guarantee for carriers to make profits.
"The rate cuts must not be merely lip-service. The airline operators must live up to passengers' expectations," Lee said.
Taiwanese carriers have a tacit understanding that the regularly scheduled direct cross-strait flights -- proposed at a meeting between Taiwan's intermediary Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) in Nanjing on April 26 this year -- will be launched Aug. 31.
However, Lee noted that cross-strait negotiations on the matter are still underway, although he added that "I hope the launch schedule can be brought forward a little."
Meanwhile, Chinese carriers have also announced rate cuts for cross-strait flights, including a Shanghai-Taipei direct round trip at about NT$10,000.
A supplementary agreement that was signed at the SEF-ARATS meeting in Nanjing stipulates that regularly scheduled passenger and cargo flights across the strait will be launched as soon as possible.
According to the agreement, China will add six cities to the 21 now open to direct charter flights for the launch of the regularly scheduled flights, while Taiwan will increase its cross-strait service airports to eight.
--The China Post/ANN