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China Airlines Sees 20% Cut in Hong Kong Flights

Taiwan carrier China Airlines will cut its Hong Kong-Taiwan passenger flights by about 20 percent once direct weekend charter flights between Taiwan and the mainland begin on July 4, a local newspaper said.

The South China Morning Post Monday quoted Michael Wu, general manager of the airline's Hong Kong branch, as saying 2 to 3 daily flights from Hong Kong would be cut while some Airbus 330-300 aircraft would be redeployed to provide direct cross-strait services.

Taiwan president-elect Ma Ying-jeou has pledged to relax cross-strait travel and has suggested that Taiwan airports should be opened to destinations in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xiamen, with effect from July 4, the paper said.

"Its pretty obvious that people would prefer to travel directly from Taiwan to the mainland in 90 minutes instead of spending half a day transiting in Hong Kong," Wu said.

The Hong Kong office of China Airlines, which accounts for 10 percent of the airline's total sales, sees an increase in revenues of between 5 and 10 percent this year to about HK$4 billion ($512.9 million), Wu said. He said revenue from the airline's cargo division in Hong Kong was up 30 percent in March and April, while passenger sales increased 5 percent.

"But the impact of the changes (to cross-strait policy) on us will be far less than that on Cathay Pacific and Dragonair," Wu said. He gave no further details.

Cathay Pacific and Dragonair fly 18 daily flights to Taipei and 5 daily flights to Kaohsiung, the paper said.

Cathay Pacific chief executive Tony Tyler had said that the airline would cut unprofitable routes due to soaring fuel prices.

Five airlines currently operate a total of 3,000 flights between Hong Kong and Taiwan each month, providing about 1 million seats. China Airlines provides more than 270,000 seats a month with 80 percent of the seats sold on average, the paper added.