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Updated: Airlines Changing Taiwan References as China’s Deadline Approaches

China Southern became China’s first A380 operator in 2011 (Photo: Airbus)

With a deadline on Wednesday fast-approaching, many airlines are expected to change how their websites refer to Taiwan in response to pressure from the Chinese government. The changes are the result of a Chinese mandate that foreign firms are not to refer to Chinese-claimed Taiwan as a self-ruled entity. The ruling also applies to Hong Kong and Macau, both autonomous regions but still part of China.

While many foreign carriers including Air Canada, British Airways, Lufthansa, Japan Airlines and Qantas have already made the required changes to their websites as to appease the government and not risk future flights to the country, some U.S. carriers have yet to do so. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have both requested additional time to handle the matter. The Chinese government, however, has set a firm deadline of July 25 for the changes to go into effect.

It is reported that Beijing has denied the U.S. airlines’ request to discuss the matter, as relations are already tense due to a trade conflict between the two countries.

According to Reuters, an unnamed U.S. airline executive told the Chinese government that his airline would list certain destinations by city, not by country. Therefore, avoiding referring to Taiwan as its own country. There have also been multiple reports of U.S. carriers making the change, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

Additionally, Airlines for America (A4A), a trade group representing U.S. carriers, released a statement on the issue: “As with other sectors of the economy, the U.S. airline industry is a global business that must contend with a host of regulations and requirements. A4A and the affected U.S airlines appreciate the engagement and counsel we have received from the Administration as carriers begin to implement a solution.”

While the punishment that China plans to impose on the carriers that fail to comply is unknown, Chinese regulators could change the airline’s permit if it doesn’t meet “the demand of the public interest.” China can also prevent Chinese booking agencies from booking flights on airlines that don’t comply and can limit how many tourists can travel to the U.S. from China, a move that has been implemented on South Korea and Taiwan in the past.

The diplomatic relations between Taiwan and other nations has been an issue of contention for China for many years. There has even been one airline, Palau Pacific Airlines, based in the Pacific Ocean island nation of Palau that had been forced to shutter after the government of Palau refused to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

The Chinese government reportedly named Palau an illegal tour destination, therefore prohibiting sales of tour packages to the country. The resulting decision of the Chinese government resulted in Palau Pacific Airlines ceasing its services indefinitely.

The United States has maintained unofficial diplomatic relations with Taiwan since 1979 when it officially recognized the People’s Republic of China and moved its embassy to Beijing. By recognizing the People’s Republic of China and Beijing as its capital, the U.S. was forced to cut ties with the Republic of China on Taiwan as it cut not recognize both countries as China.

“We hope that the U.S. government will urge the companies concerned to abide by the one-China policy and make improvements to their websites as soon as possible,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines have made changes to their website. American now refers to cities in Taiwan as stand-alone cities with no country designations. Meanwhile, both United and Delta made changes to where airports in China as well as Taiwan now appear as just cities, with no country designations after the city.


Akhil Dewan


  • Akhil Dewan

    An “AvGeek” for most of his life, Akhil has always been drawn to aviation. If there is an opportunity to read about an airline, fly on a new airplane, or talk to anyone about aviation, he is on it. Akhil has been on over 20 different kinds of aircraft, his favorite being the MD-80. Additionally, he has visited 5 continents and plans to knock out the remaining two (Africa and Antarctica) soon. Based in Dallas, Akhil graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Management Information Systems and currently works in consulting. His dream is to become an airline executive.

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