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FAT to restore five canceled flights to get passengers home

2019/05/20 22:08:28

CNA file photo

Taipei, May 20 (CNA) Far Eastern Air Transport Corp. (FAT), a medium-sized international carrier in Taiwan, announced Monday it will restore five flights that were originally canceled through the end of May to transport stranded passengers home.

FAT said it will fly three round-trip flights between Taoyuan and Fukushima in Japan on May 23, 26 and 30, and round-trip flights between Taipei Songshan Airport and Tianjin on May 24 and Taiyuan on May 25.

The airline hopes those flights will help bring passengers grounded in those cities back to Taiwan, FAT said.

The new schedule was made after FAT announced on May 17 without warning that it was canceling round-trips to Palawan and Boracay in the Philippines and Danang in Vietnam for the rest of May, effective the following day.

Two days later on May 19, the airline said it would cancel 29 flights between May 21-31 in order to keep its flight hours under 1,350, a limit set by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) in 2017 to assure flight safety due to the carrier's aging fleet.

Among the flights affected in the cuts announced May 19 were those connecting Taoyuan with Niigata and Fukushima in Japan, and Jeju in South Korea, as well as the Songshan-Taiyuan and Songshan-Tianjin flights.

According to the CAA, all eight of FAT's McDonnell Douglas (MD) aircraft are over 20 years old, with the oldest topping 28 years, and flying those aircraft too many hours could pose serious flight safety concerns.

FAT said, however, that it managed to restore the five flights after learning that it had cut more hours than necessary to meet the CAA requirement.

The carrier said it chose the three Japanese and Chinese cities first after consulting local travel agencies and finding that most of the stranded passengers were in those destinations.

It acknowledged, however, that it did not have any firsthand information on how many people are in fact affected.

The problem was triggered when one of the airline's original ATRs experienced mechanical problems and had to be repaired, reducing FAT's fleet capacity to lower than what the airline was prepared for.

To fill in the gap, the airline had to use MD aircraft on domestic routes originally operated by its ATR aircraft, leading to an excess of MD flight hours, the CAA said.

FAT started to modernize its fleet by ordering four ATR72-600 twin-turboprop aircraft from Nordic Aviation Capital in February 2017, which have all been delivered.

A fifth was ordered from Aviation Plc. in June 2018, and that aircraft is expected to be put into service in late May.

The launch of the fifth ATR will allow FAT to resume its normal flight schedule in June except for flights between Taoyuan and Palawan and Taoyuan and Boracay, which will be canceled, the airline said.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)
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