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Domestic airports seek new revenue ideas to pull out of financial nosedive

Domestic airports must undergo a complete examination of their operational efficiency before seeking solutions to fill in their financial black holes, according to National Cheng Kung University professor Chang Yo-heng (張有恆).

Fierce rivalry among domestic airlines and competition from the high-speed rail system have left airports in Hengchun, Chiayi, Tainan, Taitung, Hualien and Kaohsiung all struggling and seeking new sources of revenue.

Due to a lack of flights and an inconvenient location, Tainan Airport suffers an average daily loss of NT$260,000. The airport is looking at ideas to utilize its vast space and attract citizens to witness planes' departures and arrivals. Its operators have also held negotiations with solar panel industry figures and artists, with eyes on additional revenue from the sale of solar-produced energy and more visitors from art exhibitions.

Far Eastern Air Transport is also assessing potential airline plans of flying from Tainan to select cities in mainland China. This idea is also being looked at by Chiayi and Taitung airports.

As an extra revenue stream, the two airports also rent out idle store space to pineapple cake and egg roll vendors, anticipating that diversified travel demographics could offset miserable sales.

Chiayi Airport Director Chiu Yung-sheng (邱永昇) said the airport currently operates in poor conditions, with only six to eight fights carrying about 300 passengers to the airport running every day. As such, store owners foresee no new opportunities arising in the near future.

Pingtung County's Hengchun Airport, nicknamed “Mosquito Airport” for its poor occupancy rate of 24 percent — giving it more than enough empty space for mosquitoes to breed — is considering opening its space for light aircraft training runs. According to the airport, some business owners have already responded well to the proposal. Tenders are set to be announced in the near future.

As for projections of tourists flying in from mainland China, Hualien Airport Director Hsu Yun-tsu (徐雲祖) and Kaohsiung Airport Director Chu Yao-kuang (朱耀光) said they are optimistic about potential business opportunities brought by the growing number of visitors and their increasing purchasing power.

Hsu said he expects more stores to open branches in Hualien Airport as tourists fly in from China's Wuhan and Hangzhou, and Japan's Ishigaki. Chu said Kaohsiung Airport has prepared to handle increasing numbers of cross-strait flights.

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