I figured I’d go for two Asia stories in a row, especially after I saw this one in the news yesterday. It looks like Mainland China and Taiwan have finally come to an agreement to allow flights between the two countries. This is long overdue, to say the least.
I’m guessing that many of you don’t know the deal here, so let me explain. It’s no surprise, of course, that Mainland China and Taiwan aren’t exactly the best of friends. I won’t get into the politics, but you can read here if you want more info.
But when it comes to aviation politics, all I can do is shake my head. Let me try to explain how messy things have been here. In the past, you may have seen planes from Swissair Asia, KLM Asia, etc. Believe it or not, Mainland China previously wouldn’t allow any airline to fly to the Mainland if it also flew to Taiwan. So, airlines were forced to set up subsidiaries and paint their planes with new titles just to serve both. That rule hasn’t existed for a few years, but I think it gives you a good idea of how bad things have been.
Of course, just because the governments don’t get along doesn’t mean that the people don’t want to go see relatives and friends living on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. With limited exception, the only way to get between the two today is to connect through Hong Kong. As you can see, that’s not exactly a straight line. In fact, it adds a 4 to 5 hours to a flight.
As you can imagine, business was good for the Hong Kong-based airlines. I seem to recall that the traffic between Taiwan and China alone was able to make Dragonair a success in the early days. (Anyway have more info on that?) But, it’s not exactly ideal from a passenger perspective.
So, in order to help save the environment, we now have an agreement to allow charter flights between many cities on both Taiwan and Mainland China. Ok, this has nothing to do with the environment at all (I mean, it’s China, come on), but it’ll be very good for business.
To start, there will only be 18 flights each weekend for now, but the agreement says that regular scheduled flights will begin as soon as possible. Chinese airlines on both sides are all, as you might expect, anxiously awaiting the ability to ramp up and start serving this market. It’s about time.