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Taipei, Seoul to launch direct flights for first time

2012/04/29 16:36:34

Taipei, April 29 (CNA) Direct flights between Taipei International Airport and Gimpo Airport in Seoul will be launched on Monday, marking the first time there are direct flights between the capitals of Taiwan and South Korea.

Prior to the launch of the new route, there were only direct flights to and from airports near Taipei and Seoul, not airports right in the cities.

The new air route will join Taiwan's current expanding flight network, which provides non-stop services from Taipei to Shanghai's Hongqiao Airport and from Taipei to Tokyo's Haneda Airport. Those services were established in 2010.

Enabling travelers to fly directly to and from other major cities in Northeast Asia is the goal of Taiwan's government. Under a plan dubbed "Golden Aviation Circle in Northeast Asia" and proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou, Taipei will be linked with other Northeast Asian cities through direct flights.

This will cut down on ground transport time and provide greater convenience, especially for business travelers. The plan was proposed partly to boost the number of overseas visitors to Taiwan.

"It will give full play to the airport in Taipei and make it a real air traffic hub in Northeast Asia," said the Civil Aeronautics Administration's Planning, Legal and International Affair Division in a news statement.

The Seoul airport is the last airport to be included in the "Golden Aviation Circle" and there are no immediate plans to add other cities.

By allowing travelers to fly from Taipei International Airport (previously known as Taipei Songshan Airport), rather than just the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in neighboring Taoyuan County, to other Asian cities, travelers who live in Taipei can save up to 40 minutes in ground transit time.

Likewise, landing at Gimpo Airport rather than at the more common destination for international flights at the Incheon International Airport outside Seoul, can save travelers at least an hour on the commute into South Korea's capital.

Taipei International Airport was once Taiwan's only international gateway until 1979, when the Chiang Kai-shek Airport, later renamed Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, opened in Taoyuan to handle international flights.

Since direct flights have been established between Taipei-Hongqiao and Taipei-Haneda, the flights have reached 80 percent and 90 percent of seat capacity, respectively, according to March statistics.

The administration said it was optimistic that direct flights to and from the other Northeast Asian cities will be well-used by travelers in the future.

A total of seven Taipei-Gimpo direct flights will be provided by the Taiwan-based China Airlines and EVA Air every week.

Meanwhile, South Korea-based T'way Airlines and Eastar Jet will also schedule the same amount of direct flights to the airport in Taipei.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)