This has benefitted Hong Kong and Macau greatly which both see a massive throughput of connecting passengers between the island and the mainland. Despite the 'Three Links' policy of the PRC since Deng Xiaoping's ascent to power in 1978 progress on implementing the links (postal, commercial and transportation) has been slow largely because of the PRC's failure to recognise the sovereignty of the ROC. The PRC considers the flights as domestic which the ROC perceives as a threat. Nevertheless gradual progress was made from 2001 with limited ferry trips and from 2003 with some indirect ROC charter flights that needed to touch down in either Hong Kong or Macau on their way to the PRC.
Air China and Hainan Airlines operated from Beijing, China Eastern from Shanghai and China Southern and Xiamen Airlines from Guangzhou. Air China's flights were operated by a pair of leased Shandong Airlines Boeing 737-300s (B-5065 and 5066) as Air China's livery prominently featured the 'Five Star Red Flag' of the PRC and Chinese characters that meant international. The PRC was keen to not suggest the flight was international so the Chinese characters on the repainted Shandong airplane used an abbreviation of Air China without the international connotations and no flag.
Above 3 of the aircraft used on the first day:
B-2055 CZ 777-200 B-6055 MU A340-600 B-2498 FM 767-300
Air China was very keen to be the first airline to provide service and its first flight left (CA1087) on January 29 14 minutes early at 07:46 am. It used the 737 B-5065 and carried 88 passengers. Despite being the first flight to the ROC it was not the first to land as a China Southern flight (3097) landed at 09:20 am due to the much closer location of Guangzhou to Taiwan. The Air China flight was flown by Captain Yibin Gin, aged 37. All the airlines used their best staff and provided their very best service and catering.
B-5065 was originally delivered to VARIG as PP-VPQ in October 1997 via Bouillion Aviation Services. She was returned in 2003 and onward leased to Shandong. They returned her in 2011 and she has since joined Canadian North as C-GCNZ.
The 2005 charters opened the way for a gradual normalisation of operations between the two nations and were repeated in 2006, though to much less fanfare. From 2008 direct flight links were enabled between the mainland and Taiwan via the Three Links agreement.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: