China and rival Taiwan have formally signed an agreement allowing regular non-stop flights from 4 July, representing a significant easing of restrictions on air services that had been in force since 1949.
Under the deal reached yesterday and firmed up this morning in Beijing, airlines from both sides will be allowed to operate flights every week from Fridays through Mondays.
State-run media reports say 36 return flights will be allowed each week, with each side allowed to allocate 18 to their carriers. The Xinhua news agency quotes the minutes of the successful discussions as saying the number of flights will increase over time based on demand.
There will initially be five cities in China designated for services, specifically Beijing, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai and Xiamen, says Xinhua, which adds that flights will be allowed to and from eight Taiwanese points.
The deal represents a major breakthrough, as regular non-stop flights have been banned since 1949 when the two sides split following a civil war.
Since then China has considered Taiwan a renegade province and passengers have been forced to travel between the two sides via a third point, normally Hong Kong or Macau.
Under an agreement reached two years ago, flights have been allowed over four annual holiday periods but these have been limited.
The agreement to allow regular flights over four days of each week comes just weeks after a new government took power in Taiwan with a promise to improve relations with China.
In a related development, another landmark agreement was signed today to allow mainland Chinese tourists to travel to Taiwan.
The agreement will initially allow up to 3,000 Chinese tourists to visit the island daily in groups of between 10 and 40. The first group will arrive in Taiwan on 18 July.
Source: flightglobal.com's sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence news