Touchdown at terminal for first Air Macau plane
SECURITY men grappled with photographers amid chaotic scenes yesterday at Macau international airport during ceremonies to mark the delivery of the first aircraft for Air Macau.
Macau Governor-General Vasco Rocha Vieira and Xinhua (New China News Agency) Macau branch director Wang Qiren welcomed the arrival of the aircraft, an Airbus Industrie A321, with speeches on the apron.
But the lack of microphones meant they could not be heard by the hundreds of people - including Macanese and Chinese government officials, airport and airline representatives - who gathered to watch.
This did little to mar the excitement as the Airbus appeared through overcast skies to become the first commercial aircraft to land on the single runway.
The terminal resounded to wild cheering and clapping when the aeroplane, in Air Macau's purple and red, touched down at about 10.40 am, completing its 15-hour delivery flight from Airbus' Hamburg factory.
Mr Vieira said its arrival was 'an unforgettable event for Macau'.
Guo Jiading,, head of the Chinese side in the Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group, said the Chinese Government had always supported the project.
The aeroplane will make its first commercial flight on Thursday with a 9.30 am departure to Beijing. It will return to Macau in the afternoon before leaving for Shanghai at 7.35 pm.
Air Macau will initially operate two flights a day to China, one each to Beijing and Shanghai.
By April there will also be 42 flights a week to Taipei and seven flights a week to Kaohsiung and Xiamen using three more Airbuses.
Talks are continuing with the Joint Liaison Group to agree a Macau-Taiwan air pact with Taipei and a deal is expected in the next few weeks. This will allow semi-direct flights from Taiwan to Chinese cities via Macau and provide air passengers with a faster route than through Hong Kong.
Macau International Airport chairman Professor Antonio Diogo Pinto said 1.6 million passengers a year, out of the 2.6 million passengers a year expected to use the airport, will choose the Taiwan-Macau-China route.
But he denied this would threaten Hong Kong's position as the leading airport in the region. As the terminal building reverberated to the sound of workmen banging hammers and sawing timber it became clear what he meant.
Fancy a drink or a meal? Not yet - the restaurants have still to be finished. Want to buy a present? Not yet - there are no shops ready.
The automatic entrance doors are manually controlled and there is no hotel or public transport.