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Tickets Tight for Spring Festival

updated: 2013-01-18

China Daily, January 17, 2013

Taiwan people living on the mainland are experiencing difficulties of getting air tickets back to their hometowns due to a short supply of cross-Straits transportation during Spring Festival.

More people are choosing to stay on the mainland to avoid the trouble of traveling and of rising ticket prices.

For those living in Shanghai, getting a ticket seems almost impossible as cross-Straits flights linking Shanghai and Taipei is becoming one of the hottest air routes.

"Basically, you cannot get tickets now, unless you take the red-eye flights," said Liou Jing-fang, general manager of Nantong Quanyong Electronic Industry based in Jiangsu province, and chairwoman of the local Taiwan business association.

This year Spring Festival falls on Feb 9. All air tickets on Feb 7 and Feb 8 from Shanghai to Taipei were sold out a week ago.

Air tickets linking Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen to Taiwan are all in short supply.

Aviation authorities in Taiwan and the mainland approved carriers to add temporary charter flights to meet the demand, but all the temporary flights will depart late at night.

The mainland and Taiwan started direct air and sea transport and postal services on Dec 15, 2008, ending a 59-year ban on such links. Direct flights cut travel time significantly as planes were no longer required to fly through Hong Kong, saving at least two hours.

The number of passenger flights between the mainland and Taiwan has increased substantially since then, and more than 550 flights travel across the Straits every week.

Even so, supply may still fall short of demand.

Shanghai now hosts more than 700,000 Taiwan people, according to the population census at the end of 2010. The number would be much bigger if counting those working in neighboring cities such as Suzhou and Wuxi.

More than 100,000 Taiwan people live in Kunshan, a county level city in Jiangsu province near Shanghai. About 60 percent of them are going back to Taiwan to celebrate Spring Festival, said Lee Kwan-sin, chairman of the Kunshan Taiwan business association.

Lee said he hopes authorities in both Taiwan and the mainland can increase supplies of air tickets during Spring Festival to make prices more reasonable and give more travel options.

"Usually a return ticket costs about 3,500 yuan ($555), but Spring Festival will push it above 6,000 yuan due to big demand. It is even more expensive than flying via Hong Kong," Liou said.

She would rather stay in Kunshan for Spring Festival. After working and living on the mainland for over 20 years, she has moved her family to Kunshan.

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