Analysis | Now is the best time to fly domestically. This is why

Domestic airlines are flying large international jets during this unique period

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Tigerair Taiwan (臺灣虎航), a low-cost subsidiary of the China Airlines Group (華航集團), made its first appearance in Penghu on Sunday morning.

With a full flight of 180 passengers, the Airbus A320 aircraft painted in bright orange and white livery was greeted with a water cannon salute upon arrival at Magong Airport (馬公機場).

Passengers were welcomed with local treats, such as Penghu’s famous Brown sugar cake (黑糖糕), personally handed out by Penghu Tourism Department Director Chen Mei-ling (陳美齡).

The special inaugural flight comes at a time where Penghu, an island located between Taiwan and China, is benefitting from unprecedented travel demand.

Because many individuals, couples, and families are unable to travel abroad due to travel restrictions from the Wuhan Coronavirus, they choose to visit Taiwan’s outlying islands during this period, including Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu.

In order to meet the surging demand, Taiwanese domestic airlines Mandarin Airlines (華信航空) and UNI Air (立榮航空) have wet-leased larger aircraft from their parent companies, China Airlines and EVA Air, respectively.

As a result, passengers can expect to see larger aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and Airbus A321, normally found on international routes to regional Asian destinations like Japan, China, or Macau, deployed on these extremely short flights throughout the Taiwanese summer travel season.

But why exactly are these arrangements so noteworthy to the Taiwanese travel industry?

There are various benefits to people who travel to Penghu and other islands during this time. First, with the ability to seat 180 or 184 passengers, these international jets serve more passengers than the 70-seater ATR 72 commonly found on regular domestic flights.

Thus, there is a significant increase in capacity for the Taiwan-Penghu market, granting Penghu residents the ability to travel to Taiwan during a time where seats are usually difficult to come by. In addition, people in Taiwan have more flights to choose from, as there are more seats available on each specific flight and less likely to be completely full.

In fact, passengers who book and fly on such flights can enjoy an enhanced experience in the air as well. The Airbus A320 and Airbus A321 feature wider fuselages, thereby providing passengers with more cabin space, higher ceilings, and larger overhead bins.

Because these jets are used on international flights lasting several hours long, the seats are more comfortable than the small ATR propeller planes, with the EVA Air A321 even featuring a business class cabin that domestic passengers can select free of charge.

During this period, the number of seats available across both airlines has drastically increased, so many promotional fares are offered directly on the respective airlines’ websites.

When booking with the airlines, one can easily identify the large planes by selecting flights operated by A320 or A321. Below is an example of a helpful chart (in Chinese) from Mandarin Airlines for passengers to pick their desired aircraft type:

Screenshots from Mandarin Airlines Website

It is worth noting flying larger planes to Penghu is not only beneficial to passengers, but also airline companies themselves. For example, airlines are able to sell considerably more seats on each flight, allowing the companies to earn more revenue during a time where demand for traveling outside of the country is almost non-existent.

In addition, with flights to Penghu flown by international jets, the domestic careers are able to re-deploy additional smaller propeller planes to destinations where a large plane cannot land, such as Matsu.

Through aircraft upgrades and adding flights, Taiwan’s domestic airlines are able to work with their parent companies to meet the sudden spike in demand for domestic flights, while also utilizing the internationally configured aircraft that would otherwise be parked.

Given the current state of the Wuhan Coronavirus around the world, there is no better time than now to explore Taiwan’s beautiful outlying islands.

With many people missing the thrill of traveling abroad during the summer holidays, taking a quick domestic flight can allow travelers to escape the hectic city lifestyle. In fact, some travelers have expressed that flying large planes give them the feeling of international travel that they are used to during this time of the year.

Since Mandarin Airlines and UNI Air are using bigger, more comfortable planes to operate short hops to Penghu, now is a good time to fly domestically in Taiwan with more flights, cheaper fares, and overall better flying experience.