Cheaper flight in store as Taiwan-China links continue to open up

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International tourists are set to directly benefit from the continued thawing of relations between mainland China and Taiwan after the Chinese government ordered its airlines to cut ticket prices for flights between the two countries.

Direct flights between China and Taiwan were only established in 2007 - with tourists previously having to travel from Hong Kong to Taipei or connect with international flights to Taiwan from other regional centres.

But there are now around 380 weekly flights between the two countries with a further 40 set to be added before the end of the year. But last week China's Civil Aviation Administration ordered the country's airlines to ticket prices for direct flights cut by 15 per cent.

This move has placed addition pressure on airlines servicing the direct Hong Kong-Taipei routes - namely Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, China Airlines and Eva Air. Between them, they have been up until now providing 35 direct flights per day. Dragonair, China Airlines and Mandarin Airlines also provide between eight flights per day between Hong Kong and Kaohsiung.

Capacity between Hong Kong and Taiwan had dropped by 30 per cent since direct flights from China to the island nation were established, according to the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Aviation Policy & Research Centre.

The drop has been attributed to the shorter flight and transit times made available through direct flights from mainland China - even though tickets on Chinese airlines can cost as much as 50 per cent more.

The first reaction to the move from Hong Kong-based carriers Cathay Pacific and Dragonair has been to lobby the Shanghai government for more access to the city's Hongqiao Airport, which is not only closer to Taiwan, it is closer to the centre of Shanghai than the larger Pudong Airport.

A regular economy class ticket on Cathay from Hong Kong to Taipei currently costs around US$500 (400 euros), while a flight on from Shanghai to Taipei will set you back around US$700 (550 euros).