SHANGHAI: The first non-stop chartered cargo flight over the Taiwan Straits touched down at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport at 0:33 this morning.
Flight CI 6901 of Taiwan-based China Airlines (TCA) took off from Taoyuan Airport in Taipei at 10 pm, carrying Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company equipment. The Boeing 747-400 will return to Taiwan empty.
Although the airliner had to fly through Hong Kong airspace, the duration of the journey had been shortened by nearly two hours to 2 hours and 50 minutes.
TCA applied to operate the flight immediately after the mainland's Cross-Straits Aviation Transport Exchange Council and the Taipei Airlines Association reached an agreement last month, stating that companies based on the island will be allowed to use special chartered cargo aircraft to fly goods and equipment over the Straits. Five cargo planes are due to operate in the following weeks until August 10.
"This is a milestone in developing economic links across the Straits, and it is the fruit of consultation by both sides," said Dong Guoliang, chief representative of the TCA Shanghai office.
He said the non-stop flights will save one-fourth of the typical transport costs.
He also said he hoped the types of cargo would be extended to include semi-manufactured goods and even fruit rather than just mechanical and electrical equipment.
Economic and trade relations across the Straits have developed rapidly over the last few years. Export volume via cargo planes from Taiwan to the mainland was US$24.9 billion in 2004, compared with US$4.4 billion in 1998.
All cargo flights across the Straits were previously required to stop in Hong Kong. Taiwan airlines delivered goods there, which would then be transferred to Shanghai via Dragonair or China Eastern Airlines. Only Dragonair's cargo flights had the right not to reload the goods.
Accordingly, initiating non-stop cargo flights became an urgent issue.
Eva Airways Corp Ltd (EAC), a competitor of TCA, was also optimistic about the future.
"The chartered cargo flights not only save time but also lower loading expenses," said an employee of the Representative Shanghai Office of EAC, who declined to be named. "It is absolutely a promising step, benefiting more business people."
He said EAC officials hoped the operations of chartered cargo flights would be normalized soon.
Chen Chienming, editor of a Taiwan magazine, urged both sides to carry on further consultation to begin regular chartered services in both cargo and passenger flights as soon as possible.