Taipei, April 14 (CNA) Mandarin Airlines, a wholly owned unit of Taiwan-based China Airlines, launched direct flights between Taichung and Okinawa Saturday, flying about 100 passengers from central Taiwan to the popular Japanese vacation destination.
Mandarin Airlines said it will operate round-trip flights between Taichung and Okinawa twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday, and fly a 104-seat E190 aircraft on the new route.
The new service will be operated as a charter flight in its initial stage, but the carrier said it hoped to begin regularly scheduled flight services to Okinawa within three months.
Mandarin Airlines said Japan is a favored destination among Taiwanese tourists, and because Okinawa is closer to Taiwan than any other part of Japan, it is especially attractive to potential travelers.
The carrier said the Ryukyu Kingdom, which ruled most of Okinawa between the 15th century and 19th century, has left many attractive cultural footprints.
Nine ancient sites of the kingdom, including the Shurijo Castle, have been declared World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Okinawa is also at the center of 200 islands in the Ryukyu archipelago that are ideal for diving, surfing and other marine leisure activities, and the shopping area on Okinawa Island itself will also prove satisfying to foreign visitors, the carrier said.
Mandarin Airlines added that it hoped to use the new service to also build up Taichung as a gateway through which Japanese tourists visit Taiwan.
In the first two months of this year, Taiwanese made 224,263 visits to Japan, up 7.43 percent from a year earlier, while visitor arrivals from Japan to Taiwan rose 9.23 percent to 227,371, according to the Tourism Bureau.
Meanwhile, Mandarin Airlines is scheduled to begin charter flight services between Taichung and Macau on April 21, providing seven round-trip flights a week to meet rising demand from Taiwan.
The carrier also launched charter flight services between Taichung and Seoul on April 6, operating four round-trip flights every week.
(By Chao Hsiao-hui and Frances Huang)