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Last Taipei-Kaohsiung air service to be discontinued

2012/06/25 22:36:15

Taipei, June 25 (CNA) Officials confirmed Monday that Mandarin Airlines will soon discontinue its commercial flights between Taipei and Kaoshiung cities, ending the last airline passenger service left on that west coast route since the high-speed rail began operation in 2007.

Airline service on the west coast reached a peak 1997-1998, when more than 100 regular flights were operating daily between Taipei in the north of the country and Kaohsiung in the south.

But when the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THRSC) launched its service five years ago, demand for passenger flights between the two cities dropped sharply. Mandarin Airlines was the only carrier that continued to offer three weekly flights on that west coast route.

However, the airline's seat occupancy on the route has shrunk to less than 50 percent, mainly because the cost of a ticket is around NT$2,100 compared with NT$1,500 on the high speed train, according to the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA).

Of the passengers who still take the flight, 40 percent are employees of Mandarin Airlines or its parent company China Airlines, and the employees' dependents, the CAA said.

The employees and their dependents pay NT$300 to NT$500 for a one-way trip, which makes it uneconomical to maintain the service, the CAA said.

Yeh Kuang-shih, a deputy minister of transportation, said it is "totally reasonable" for Mandarin Airlines to withdraw from the west coast market.

Mandarin Airlines officials said the company plans to increase the number of flights between Taipei and Taitung on the southeast coast once the Taipei-Kaoshiung service is closed.

It means the only west coast air service left in Taiwan will be Uni Air, which currently serves the Taipei-Hengchun route carrying passengers to the southern Taiwan tourist area.

The second North-South freeway that opened in 2004 contributed to some extent to the decline in demand for air services on the west coast but it was the high-speed rail, which takes 1.5 hours between Taipei and Kaohsiung, that sounded the death knell for the airline service.

(By Wang Shu-fen and S.C. Chang)
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