US airlines Delta, United, American and Hawaiian yet to complete Taiwan changes, China regulator says

Carriers have requested a two-week extension, Civil Aviation Administration of China says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 July, 2018, 4:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 July, 2018, 10:41pm

Forty of 44 international airlines have amended their website references to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, China’s civil aviation regulator said on Thursday, adding that measures taken by some US airlines were still incomplete.

China has demanded that foreign firms, and airlines in particular, do not refer to Taiwan as a non-Chinese territory on their websites, a demand the White House slammed in May as “Orwellian nonsense”.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China, which has been pushing airlines to make the change, said four airlines had submitted rectification reports on Wednesday and sought a two-week extension for website audits.

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The four were American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, it said.

The US carriers removed any reference to Taiwan, retaining the airport name in booking pages, while Hong Kong’s airlines added “Taiwan, China” or similar references on websites.

However, Delta and United still referred to Taiwan, with no reference to China, in the option to select the country, region and language on the website.

Among airlines flying between the US and China, Chicago-based United Airlines is expected to offer 6,860 flights this year – the most frequent flier, followed by national carrier Air China, according to British air travel data company OAG.

American Airlines plans to offer 4,300 flights and Delta Air Lines is expected to operate 3,750 services this year, according to the data schedules.

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Beyond scheduled flights, major US airlines also have partnerships with Chinese carriers, including American Airlines’ US$200 million purchase last year of a 2.7 per cent stake in China Southern to gain a better foothold in the booming Chinese air travel market.

A senior US government official said the change was ultimately the airlines’ choice.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday that the changes by the airlines were “positive progress”.

All four Hong Kong-based passenger airlines – Cathay Pacific and sister carrier Cathay Dragon, Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express – added “Taiwan, China” to various sections of their websites.

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Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island views itself as a sovereign nation and is a self-ruling democracy.

For Taiwan, the coercion against foreign carriers represents yet another move to limit the island’s space in the international arena.

It follows other campaigns launched by Chinese internet users to pressure multinationals to change how they refer to the self-ruled island, including US hotelier Marriott and Spanish fashion brand Zara.