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Cross-Straits airfares can 'be reduced'

There is scope for reduction in airfares between the mainland and Taiwan now, since flights are direct and short, and operating them does not cost a lot, a Taiwan affairs official said yesterday.


Yang Yi, spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said carriers of both sides will soon be told that travelers are finding cross-Straits flights "too expensive".


"The current fares might be high due to the Spring Festival, a peak season for travelers," he said.


"Now that there are direct flights between the mainland and Taiwan, flying time has reduced significantly and it does not cost airlines a lot to operate flights. So, airfares can be slashed," Yang said.


As of now, a return ticket from Beijing to Taipei costs about 4,000 yuan ($590). There is usually no discount on air tickets during the festive season.


A ticket agent surnamed Tian, who is posted at the Huaxia ticket office in Beijing, said: "There are a lot of people traveling to Taiwan these days. Weekend flights are going packed despite the fact that fares are high - 5,000 yuan ($730) to 6,000 yuan per ticket."


Zhang Mingren, a Taiwan sales manager in Hulai photoelectric technology company in Kunshan, Jiangsu province said, he still preferred to take an indirect flight, which costs 3,100 yuan, to his hometown.


"Some of my colleagues chose to fly direct to Taiwan, but it is very expensive. If I fly to Xiamen and then take a boat to Quemoy, I save nearly 2000 yuan," he said.


Yang said the mainland has approved 12 airlines to operate "138 additional chartered flights", 64 from the mainland and 74 from Taiwan, to cope with the peak season rush


"Even though there is tremendous pressure on the air transport capacity of the mainland, the aviation authorities are trying their best to ensure all people hailing from Taiwan get back home for the festival," he said.


Hong Kong-based Wenweipo newspaper reported last week, quoting sources from the Taiwan aviation bureau, that some "565 flights" will operate between the mainland and the island during the holidays, offering 120,000 seats for Taiwan people in the mainland to get back to their families.


Spy charge denied


Yang refuted media reports, which alleged that a staffer in a Taiwan leader's office leaked secrets to the mainland.


"It (media reports) was a mere fabrication and there is no truth to it," he said.


The media in Taiwan reported that confidential documents had been leaked to the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait by one of Ma Ying-jeou's staffers, Wang Ren-bing.


He was arrested earlier this month.


Xinhua contributed to the story