Mainland civil aviation authorities on Friday strongly condemned Taipei's disregard for the well--being of the people across the Taiwan Straits by obstructing plans for additional Spring Festival flights.
Adding more flights during the Chinese New Year has been a common practice between the two sides for years to facilitate Taiwan people returning home for family reunions. This year, mainland airlines have applied to add 614 flights from mainland cities to Taiwan from Feb 2 to March 2. This year's Spring Festival falls on Feb 16.
However, Taiwan authorities have created obstacles in approving 176 flights by China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines because the two companies are using the new flight route M503 and its connecting routes, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on Friday.
The island's civil aviation department has required airlines operating in Taiwan to stop using the northbound flight route M503, which was launched on Jan 4 by the CAAC, as it causes potential flight safety concerns, island media has reported.
The CAAC said the northbound route, along with three new connecting routes, is to relieve air traffic pressure along the southeast coastal area, and it has undergone full technical appraisal and been approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization so "there's no so--called safety issues".
The new route has allowed an average of 27 flights per day. "After a half--month safety operation of the new route, Taipei still takes it as an excuse to take 'revenge' on the mainland. It will ultimately damage the interests of air companies and people of both sides," the CAAC said.
"Taiwan authorities must bear all the subsequent consequences of such a practice," it said.
Both China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines issued statements on Friday, calling on Taiwan authorities to comply with public opinion and approve the applications as soon as possible.
China Eastern Airlines has applied to open 106 additional flights and about 20,000 people have booked the flights, its statement said, adding that the company had expected the number to reach 40,000.
Xiamen Airlines, which has applied for 70 additional flights, said more than 10,000 people have already booked tickets for the flights, and that number is expected to surpass 20,000.