The first non-stop flight services between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland since 1949 began, but whether they could be termed "direct" was a matter of debate. Although the charter flights do not have to land in either Macau or Hong Kong, they still have to pass through Hong Kong or Macau airspace en route. The special Lunar New Year services, lasting for three weeks, involve some 48 flights between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou on the mainland, and Taipei and Kaoshiung on Taiwan. At least 300,000 Taiwan citizens work on the mainland and until the new services were permitted, flights home involved a long and expensive detour via a third country or territory. Chinese officials downplayed any political significance in the flights, but officials in Taiwan called them a historic milestone which could form the basis of future exchanges and talks between the two sides.
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