CAL to make first flight between Taipei, Moscow

The China Post staff

The first direct flights between Taipei and Russia are scheduled to take off when China Airlines (CAL) makes its maiden voyage to Moscow today and Russia’s private airliner Transaero Airlines launches a charter flight to Taipei on Aug. 31.

The CAL charter plane, an Airbus A340, will leave Taipei at 900 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive at Moscow at 500 local time after 10 hours and 50 minutes. The plane will return to Taipei the next day. The Transaero carrier, a Boeing 767, will depart from Moscow on Aug. 31, and return home on Sept. 1. According to CAL, Taiwan’s flag carrier, the inaugural flight has been fully booked, and will carrying a group of lawmakers and four officials from the Ministry of Transportation and Communication (MOTC), including Department of Navigation and Aviation Director Lee Long-wen and Civil Aeronautics Administration Deputy Director General Huang Hsi-rung. Others who will be on board include those who purchased group tour packages priced at NT$56,000 to NT$58,000 from seven local travel agencies. They will visit major tourist attractions as well as enjoy ballet and circus performances. CAL noted that the launch of regular commercial flights between Taipei and Moscow depends on further negotiations on aviation rights between the two sides. The airliner also hopes that the direct flights will be viable commercially. Taiwan and Russia signed a draft aviation pact in 1993, but it has yet to be finalized because of pressure from Beijing.

It was reported that CAL hoped to combine the Moscow route with its Frankfurt route in order to enhance the profitability of the route, considering the long winter season in Russia. But the two sides did not reach an agreement on this. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the launch of direct charter flights to Taiwan on Monday, but stressed that Russia upholds the one China policy and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of mainland China. The ministry added that unofficial and commercial air links between the two sides are aimed at expanding unofficial trade, economic, tourism and cultural ties with Taiwan. In related news, the Directorate General of Posts was forced to cancel the issue of commemorative envelopes of the Taipei-Moscow direct charter flights reportedly due to Beijing’s objection. It was reported that the Directorate General of Posts was informed on Wednesday by its Russian counterpart that it would not be able to participate in the event.