Flights between Taipei's Songshan & Japan's Haneda resumes

Flight services resumed Sunday between Taipei's inner-city Songshan airport and Tokyo's Haneda airport after almost 32 years, promising to boost tourism and economic ties between Taiwan and Japan.

Regular aviation services between Taipei and Tokyo have until now operated exclusively out of Taoyuan International Airport and Narita International Airport, the main international gateways for the two countries.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin said commuting time from downtown Taipei to Taoyuan airport sometimes exceeds the duration of the flight.

Reopening Songshan to international flights not only saves time, but also assists in developing a "golden Northeast Asia flight circle," he said.

Hau said with Songshan now servicing Haneda, which was reborn Sunday as a full-fledged international airport, and Shanghai's Hongqiao airport, and hoping to start services to Seoul's Gimpo airport, 2010 is "the year that Taipei City takes off."

Hau spoke before government and airline officials, as well as Japan's representative to Taiwan, Tadashi Imai, while marking the 7:30 a.m. departure of the first flight to Haneda.

Japan is a vital source of tourists, with more than 1 million arrivals a year since 2005, according to Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, which hopes that the number will increase in the future.

Just as Songshan is located in inner Taipei, Haneda is less than 30 minutes away from downtown Tokyo, whereas it takes about an hour to travel between central Tokyo and Narita.

The first flight from Japan arrived before 10 a.m., with VIPs treated to a lion dance and traditional drumming in the arrivals hall.

A protest involving Taiwanese employees retrenched by Japan Airlines, one of the four airlines servicing the route, prompted a strong police presence, but a handful of protesters managed to enter the terminal in a bid to storm the stage during the welcoming ceremony.

First open to commercial flights in 1950, Songshan was replaced by CKS International Airport -- since renamed Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport -- as Taiwan's international aviation hub in 1979, the year after Narita airport replaced Haneda as Tokyo's main international facility.

With the opening of Taiwan's high-speed rail network in 2007, Songshan's passenger volume suffered badly and the airport languished amid aging, near-deserted facilities and a struggling domestic aviation sector.

After President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008, easing tensions between Beijing and Taipei saw direct cross-strait charter flights commence from both Songshan and CKS airports as well as investment in new infrastructure.

In March 2009, Japan and Taiwan signed an aviation pact allowing four airlines -- two Japanese and two Taiwanese -- to operate the Songshan-Haneda route.

(Source: 1 NOV2010)

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew into Taiwan yesterday for a two-day visit, taking advantage of the first direct flights between Taipei's Songshan Airport and Tokyo's Haneda Airport since 1979. 

Abe, Japan's prime minister between September 2006 and September 2007, said upon his arrival at the Taipei city airport that he was extremely happy that the resumption of Songshan-Haneda flights — one of the policies he pushed while in power — had finally been achieved.

When asked about relations among Taiwan, China and Japan, Abe responded briefly that Japan-Taiwan ties have always been very friendly and he hoped that triangular relations would remain amicable and constructive.

After making stops around Taipei during the afternoon, Abe met on Sunday evening with President Ma Ying-jeou, who also pushed for the direct flights between the Taipei and Tokyo city airports while serving as Taipei mayor until late 2006.

Flights between the two airports ended 31 years ago when Taiwan's international flights were moved to the newly opened Chiang Kai-shek International Airport (now known as Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport) in Taoyuan County, about 45 minutes from the city.

Songshan Airport — now known formally as Taipei International Airport — then served as a domestic airport, but has been repositioned in recent years as part of a golden flight circuit connecting city airports in Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul, and Shanghai.

Soon after arriving in Taipei, Abe had lunch at the famous dumpling restaurant Din Tai Fung, accompanied by Tadashi Imai, the director of the Interchange Association, Taipei Office, Japan's unofficial embassy in Taiwan.

He then headed to the Martyrs Shrine located in the city's northern suburb of Dazhi for a short visit.

He is scheduled to meet with opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen at 9 a.m. Monday, before attending a cocktail reception at noon jointly hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to celebrate the new direct flights between Taipei and Tokyo.

Some 300 dignitaries and well-wishers from both countries are expected to attend.

After the reception, Abe will be the guest of Foreign Minister Timothy Yang at a luncheon.

He is scheduled to return to Tokyo via a CAL flight scheduled to arrive at Haneda Airport at 9:55 p.m. Monday.





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