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No more Taipei-Tainan flights after July

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- There will be no flight service between Taipei and Tainan in southern Taiwan starting in August, leaving only the Taipei-Kaohsiung air service, officials at the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA).

The CAA approved a request from TransAsia Airways, presently the only air carrier operating the Taipei-Tainan route, to suspend flights because of the dwindling number of passengers and soaring fuel costs.

The officials said they gave the approval mainly because there are alternate choices for passengers, including the high-speed rail, the conventional railway, and bus service on the west coast of the island.

TransAsia will give refunds to customers who already booked flights for after July 31.

With the withdrawal of TransAsia from the route, Mandarin Airlines will become the only domestic air carrier flying the route linking Taipei in the north and southern Taiwan.

Mandarin, affiliate of China Airlines, currently provides two or three flights per day on the Taipei-Kaohsiung route with an occupancy rate of 60 to 70 percent.

But the air carrier will reduce to two flights a day beginning on Aug. 1.

Company executives said they will have to stop flying the route if the occupancy rate drops to below 60 percent.

While the domestic air carriers continue slashing their flights, the high-speed rail service between Taipei and Kaohsiung is enjoying spectacular growth.

Customers took 15.56 million rides aboard the bullet trains as of mid-July this year, surpassing the total number of rides for the whole year of 2007.

It takes 50 minutes and costs NT$1,450 for flights between Taipei and Kaohsiung.

It takes two hours and about the same price for the high-speed rail service.

People who are not in a hurry may take the conventional railway service offered by the state-owned Taiwan Railway Administration. It costs NT$845 and takes 4 hours and 30 minutes to travel between the two largest cities on the island.

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