Dec 15, 2008: Chinese mainland, Taiwan start direct links
On Monday, December 15, 2008, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan resumed direct sea, air, and mail links. It ended a 59-year-long ban between the two sides on such links.
Formerly, air and sea movements - including mail - had to go by way of a third place.
The direct daily transport started as a mainland-based Shenzhen Airlines flight took off from the Shenzhen Airport for Taipei at 7:20 am (2320 GMT Sunday), which was followed by a Taiwan-based TransAsia Airways jetliner from Taipei to Shanghai.
More flights open later to link cities such as Chongqing, Chengdu, Fuzhou, Dalian, Haikou, Xiamen in the mainland and Kaohsiung and Taichung in Taiwan.
The first day witnessed 16 flights between Taipei and six mainland cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Tianjin and Guangzhou, which were nearly 90 percent full.
The direct air links will cut flight time significantly as planes are no longer required to fly through Hong Kong's airspace, a detour that the Taiwan authorities formerly insisted on citing security concerns.
It now takes 90 minutes, compared with two and half hours previously, to fly from Shanghai to Taipei because the distance has been shortened to 950 kilometers from 1,900 km, said Su Langen, an official with the mainland's Civil Aviation Administration of China.
The Mainland's State Council Taiwan Affairs Office Executive Deputy Director, Zhang Lizhong, said the start of direct flights marked a key step in the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.
"Given the global financial crisis, cross-Straits direct flights started at exactly the right time," Zheng said at a ceremony in Shanghai. Direct links "will help the mainland and Taiwan jointly overcome the current (economic) difficulty," Zheng said.
The launch of direct links came after the two sides signed a series of landmark agreements in November 2008 in Taipei.
Under the agreements, the two sides agreed to launch regular passenger charter flights, which formerly only flew on weekends and the four major traditional festivals.
The mainland agreed to open another 16 terminals for passenger charter flights, besides the five already opened, while Taiwan has already opened eight terminals. The number of flights will increase to 108 every week with the number to be adjusted according to demand.
They also agreed to launch direct charter cargo flights between two mainland terminals, Pudong in Shanghai and Guangzhou airports, and two Taiwan terminals, Taoyuan and Kaohsiung.
There will be 60 return cargo flights per month, evenly divided between mainland and Taiwan airlines. The first flight was conducted by the China Southern Airlines from Guangzhou to Taipei on Monday afternoon, December 15, 2008.