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The pilot of the Xiaman Airline plane carrying the first group of Chinese tourists to arrive in Taipei from Xiamen waves from the cockpit as landing at the Songshan airport in Taipei. - 


Renita Jablonski: Taiwan and China have been drawing economically closer for 30 years. This past weekend, the first regular non-stop flights between the two former rivals began. Bill Marcus reports from Shanghai.

Bill Marcus: A million Taiwanese live in mainland China. But it's joked that another half-million islanders are forever stuck in transit, wasting a whole day switching planes in Hong Kong.

That's all history now. This weekend, the first regular weekend flights arrived in Shanghai. Taipei resident Christina Chen and her daughters, Jiajia and Felicia, were among the first off the plane.

Christina Chen: I want my two girls to have this experience to remember for their whole life.

One Taiwanese owner of a mainland plastics factory says direct flights will make his life a lot easier.

Taiwanese Owner (voice of interpreter): I used to fly from Taipei to Hong Long, but my factory is in Ningbo, so I had to take another flight from Hong Kong to Ningbo. But this time, I fly from Taipei to Shanghai, and on my way to my factory I can visit several customers.

Five million people a year are expected to fly the $500 round trip. The mainlanders expected to visit Taiwan could be rocket fuel for the island's ailing economy.

In Shanghai, I'm Bill Marcus for Marketplace.