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Direct flights via Kinmen applauded

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Travelers from Taiwan visiting China via Kinmen and Matsu praised yesterday the new government’s action of liberalizing regulations to allow people to enjoy the convenience of the transport service.

The shortcut flight service that saves travelers from unnecessary detours to places such as Hong Kong was confined to only residents of the two frontline islands.

But the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou changed the rules to allow all the people from Taiwan to travel to the Chinese mainland through Kinmen and Matsu starting from 2 p.m. Thursday.

Residents here going to China’s southeastern Fujian Province now can save much traveling time plus around NT$3,000 to NT$4,000 each person.

Some travelers using the new service said the government should have taken the step a long time ago.

There were businesspeople who took the route to Fujian Thursday and returned to Taipei yesterday after completing some face-to-face business negotiations or other matters there.

Some were local men who have married Chinese wives taking their family for visits to relatives in the mainland.

One said the trip to China via Kinmen saved a lot of money for the family, allowing them to take more trips in the future.

The tourists on pleasure trips said the new direct flight route enabled them to spend a couple of days at Kinmen for sightseeing on the flight across the Taiwan Strait.

But the sudden surge of Taiwan residents going to China through Kinmen or Matsu caused inconveniences for people with families still living on the offshore islands but working in Taiwan.

They complained yesterday morning that they could not get the tickets for flights home.

One at the Songshan Airport in Taipei said she could not get a standby seat although she reached the airport as early as 5 a.m.

Officials from the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said they had arrangemed with airlines to add extra flights.

All passengers stranded at the airport were able to get seats in the afternoon.

From now to June 30, a total of 57 extra flights will be added by the air carriers.

But the additional flights are concentrated mainly during the weekends from Friday to Monday since there are still plenty of empty seats on Tuesday through Thursday, the CAA officials said.

Beginning in July, there will be 62 scheduled Taiwan-Kinmen flights everyday.

But there will be 112 extra flights during weekends for the whole month to meet the growing needs of passengers, the officials said.

If such additional flights are unable to meet demand, new arrangements can be made with airlines to run more extra flights, they added.

Separately, Kinmen County Magistrate Lee Chu-feng proposed that the central government remove the 5,000 military personnel in Kinmen so that the island can shake off the old memories about the bloody battles between Taiwan’s troops with members of the People’s Liberation Army that attempted to invade Kinmen and Taiwan in the 1950s.

But the county government on the offshore Penghu Islands said it is more than willing to have the troops from Kinmen stationed in Penghu.

County government officials said service personnel can actually help with the county’s development because the servicemen tend to spend most of their salaries there.

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