[photopress:air_eva_air.jpg,full,alignright]The prospect of weekend ‘charter services’ from July 8 across the Taiwan Strait, as pledged by Taiwan’s President-elect, Ma Ying-jeou, could kick-start the process of opening one of North Asia’s biggest air travel markets. Currently, non-stop services are only permitted in the four major holiday periods on the Chinese calendar.
Daily charter services could be introduced this Northern Winter and be replaced as scheduled services in 2009, under Ma’s proposal.
Airlines on both sides are moving quickly to take advantage of the opportunity.Air China, for example, has applied to establish a representative office in Taiwan after Ma Ying-jeou is sworn in as President on 20-May-08.
EVA Air (shown in our illustration) forecasts a 50% increase in passenger numbers between Taiwan and the Mainland after the first stage of expanding the charter operations.
More than 1.5 million Taiwanese live on the mainland and are expected to travel more, if the inconvenience and added expense of a transit at a third point are removed. Furthermore, the Ma government proposes increasing ceilings on Mainland tourists, to help stimulate the island’s economy. Mr Ma plans to allow 3,000 Mainland arrivals per day to Taiwan from Jul-08, rising to 10,000 by 2012.
But the expansion of cross-Straits services is a serious looming threat for airports in Macau and Hong Kong and the carriers based there that have built large revenues from transfer services between Taiwan and the Mainland.
In terms of seat capacity, Cathay Pacific is the most exposed. Cathay accounts for almost one quarter of seats across the Taiwan Strait (from Hong Kong and Macau) at present, or around 38% including Dragonair. It will have to seriously consider how it will make good that shortfall.
Source: Centre for Aviation