‘Hamlet’ in the skies? The story behind Taiwan’s newest airline

Air traffic controllers may soon have a moment to themselves at Taipei’s Hangan airport

‘Hamlet’ in the skies? The story behind Taiwan’s newest airline

The man or woman sitting in the nearest office chair, removed from their desks and transported to a cockpit cockpit just 300m (1,000ft) above the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, would still see the pilot and co-pilot when air traffic controllers begin preparing for the next takeoff.

Then, for nearly half an hour, they would keep a six-second pause before the plane takes off. Just what they might be looking at remains a mystery.

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“It’s not for me to reveal it,” said a lone air traffic controller at Taipei’s Hangan airport on Wednesday, as he watched one of Taiwan’s newest airlines, Hangzhou Airlines, take off.

“This is our job, our purpose, our responsibility,” he said, pointing to the restrictions placed on his flights, imposed on safety grounds.

Hangzhou Airlines plans to operate daily scheduled flights to Hong Kong beginning in early December, initially with the help of Indonesian airline Lion Air and the national carrier, Taiwan’s EVA Airways.

The United States has eased regulations on Chinese carriers for such charter flights and the agreement provides increased access to Vietnam, South Korea and the United States for Chinese carriers.

The rules will also allow similar flights to other countries such as Belgium and France.

“We don’t know if that will happen,” said the air traffic controller, referring to the other countries.

Hangzhou Airlines said on its website that its flights would be operated on Boeing 737s and 330s to and from China’s second city, Taiwan, under a pilot agreement with EVA. It will add flights to and from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Melbourne and London as well as Taipei.

On Wednesday, travel on the newly opened service was light. Most were interested only in the quality of the pilot, according to the airport’s line manager, Liu Jieh-hsieh. “They don’t care about the flight itself,” she said.

Rih Wu, 28, a Taipei consultant who grew up outside Hong Kong and fled with her family to Taiwan when China invaded in 1949, said the airline’s high-level team suggested that Chinese culture had influenced Hangzhou Airlines.

“Chinese people usually travel like this. They want to go to Beijing and Shanghai and just have one exciting day. This flight is different,” Wu said.

“Because I don’t really know, I’m really happy to see the Shenzhen airlines first,” Wu said.

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