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Taiwan, Macau agree to expand number of direct flights, capacity

TAIPEI -- A new aviation agreement between Taiwan and Macau will expand the number of direct flights between the two sides and increase both seating and cargo capacity, Taiwan's aviation regulator said yesterday.

Under the deal signed that day between Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council and the Macau Economic and Cultural Office, the current ceiling of 19,400 passengers and 400 tons of cargo per week will be lifted.

The new arrangement means Taiwan and Macau can operate an unlimited number of flights based on market demand, a step toward a comprehensive open skies agreement, according to the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA).

The new agreement, which replaces a Taiwan-Macau pact inked 13 years ago, does not include the Fifth Freedom Right, the CAA said, explaining that local carriers will still be barred from extending their Taiwan-Macau flights to third destinations.

The Fifth Freedom Right refers to the right of an airline to carry passengers from one's own country to a second country, and from that country to a third country.

The only countries that have open skies deals with Taiwan are the United States and New Zealand. Taiwan and Japan are currently negotiating on the Fifth Freedom Right, while Taiwan and Singapore are expected to reach a certain level of aviation liberalization in 2017.

Average passenger loads on Taiwan-Macau flights operated by the two sides is about 70 percent, the CAA said.

EVA Airways and TransAsia Airways are the sole operators on the route on Taiwan's side, with 8,320 seats on 40 flights, and 6,370 seats on 35 flights per week, respectively.

No airlines currently operate Taiwan Macau cargo services, the CAA said.

Despite the pact, however, neither airline has shown any interest in offering more flights on the route.

EVA said there remains room for improvement in the ridership of its existing flights, while TransAsia said any expansion of its services will depend on market demand.

China Airlines (CAL), Taiwan's largest carrier, said it is optimistic about the greater air links under the new deal and that it will evaluate whether it is time to enter the market.

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