Huge growth forecast in China-Taiwan traffic

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Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) director general Andrew Herdman expects huge growth in travel between China and Taiwan in the coming years following recent agreements to open up the market.

Herdman said on the sidelines of the AAPA's annual gathering of member airline CEOs in Taipei that "the market could double or triple in size".

Regular non-stop flights between the two sides were banned until July, when a groundbreaking deal took effect that allowed for passenger services by six airlines from China and five from Taiwan.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province and regular flights had been banned since 1949 when the two sides split following a civil war. As a result passengers were forced to travel through a transit point, normally Hong Kong or Macau.

The market for travel between the two sides is currently relatively small, in part because of visa and other restrictions, and demand remains predominately business-focused.

But Herdman expects it to grow strongly in future in large part on the back of new tourist demand.

"The market potential across the Taiwan Straits is much bigger than the current market size suggests," he says.

"The potential is orders of magnitude bigger than it is now."

The AAPA does not currently have members from China but it has two from Taiwan, EVA Air and China Airlines, which are now serving China. Herdman says the AAPA remains interested in recruiting members from China.

The number of passenger flights between China and Taiwan is currently restricted to 18 weekly from each side and flights are only allowed between Fridays and Mondays. An expanded agreement that was reached recently will allow 54 passenger flights by airlines from each side, any day of the week, from next month.

Cargo flights will also be allowed from next month, capped initially at 30 per week from each side.