China and Taiwan agreed a groundbreaking deal in mid-January to allow the first nonstop flights between the rival sides in more than 50 years.

The historic agreement was reached during talks on 15 January, allowing for passenger services between 29 January and 20 February. Intended officially to enable Taiwanese business people living in China to return home for the Chinese New Year holidays, airlines from the two sides hope the temporary arrangements will eventually become permanent.

Under the terms of the agreement, each side was to have been entitled to designate up to six airlines to operate 24 flights between the mainland Chinese cities of Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai and the Taiwanese cities of Kaohsiung and Taipei.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province and non-stop flights between the political rivals have been banned since 1949, benefiting airlines from Hong Kong and Macau where most passengers make stopovers. Taiwanese airlines serve Hong Kong and Macau but are barred from flying onward to mainland China, while Chinese airlines cannot fly to Taiwan.

In October Taiwan extended an invitation to China to talk about temporary charter flights. Importantly, it said it would no longer insist that Chinese airlines be barred from flying to Taiwan for security reasons and that flights be required to operate via a third point. This represented a major change in policy as Taiwan previously insisted that only its airlines be allowed to fly between the two sides, and only then via third points.

Source: Airline Business