Rejection of festival flights 'harms Taiwan people'

Updated 2018-02-01 14:40:01

Taiwan's rejection of additional flights during Spring Festival harms Taiwan people's rights by obstructing them from returning home for family reunions, a Chinese mainland official said on Wednesday.

"The move is very stupid and unpopular among people," Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said at a news conference.

He noted that the Taiwan authority is linking additional flights during Spring Festival with the M503 air route, which are two completely unrelated issues.

"The Taiwan authority is taking Taiwan people hostage to get revenge on mainland airlines," he said, adding that it is against people's human rights.

The island's aviation authority rejected 176 additional cross-Straits flights operated by China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines, claiming safety concerns over the south-to-north operation of the M503 air route, which both airlines use.

The decision is expected to affect 50,000 passengers.

This year, mainland airlines applied to add 508 flights from mainland cities to Taiwan between Feb 2 and March 2. Spring Festival falls on Feb 16.

Wang Zhiqing, deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said on Wednesday that the airlines will give a full refund or reschedule passengers who have booked tickets.

South-to-north operation of the M503 air route began on Jan 4.

Although Taiwan claims concerns over safety, the mainland insists there are no grounds for concern.

The south-to-north operation of the air route aims to ease traffic congestion amid the growing number of flights over the Yangtze River and the Pearl River Delta areas, Ma said.

In March 2015, the mainland started operation of the M503 flight route from north-to-south.

Figures, however, showed that flights from Hong Kong to Pudong in Shanghai were delayed for an average of 103 minutes last year, up 5.1 percent year-on-year. The average on-schedule rate was only 46 percent, said Ma, who added that the south-to-north route would ease traffic pressure.

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