Taiwanese carrier China Airlines considers name change

Aviation Updates Philippines – Taiwanese carrier China Airlines is reportedly considering changing its name amid reports that it is being mistaken as an airline from mainland China during humanitarian missions in countries battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

NAME CHANGE. Taiwanese carrier China Airlines is reportedly considering changing its name to avoid being associated with mainland China. Photo by Aeroprints.com
China Airlines, the national carrier of Taiwan (officially called the Republic of China), has gained some international media attention in recent weeks for its role in delivering face masks and other donated medical supplies abroad. The use of "China" in its name, however, has caused some to mistakenly believe that the donated supplies are from mainland China, also known as the People's Republic of China.

In a Facebook post, Taiwan's Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung said that he is open to working with the airline regarding the name change, but cautioned by saying that a name change is a major decision in terms of image, aviation rights, and routes. He added that since the airline is a listed company, the views of shareholders and the people of Taiwan would have to be considered first.

The airline's name has long been a source of confusion and a subject of debate, leading to numerous discussions about the possibility of a name change.

In addition to the confusion over the source of donations, growing calls to emphasize the distinction between Taiwan and mainland China have also triggered a renewed interest in this matter. In recent weeks, Taiwan has received praise from the international community for its handling of the COVID-19 situation, while mainland China has been criticized for its lack of transparency.

In February, two groups made separate pleas to change the airline's name.

On February 3, ten members of the pro-Taiwan independence group Taiwan Republic Office protested outside the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei, calling for the removal of the word "China" from the airline's name. The group suggested the names "Formosa Airlines" and "Yushan Airlines", the former being a reference to the name given to the island by Portuguese sailors in the 16th century and the latter being a reference to Taiwan's tallest peak.

A few weeks later, the Taiwanese American Senior Society - East Bay & Washington D.C. launched a petition on Change.org to rename the airline to "Taiwan Airlines", saying that the airline's current name has led to the airline being mistakenly included in travel restrictions by countries such as Italy, Vietnam, and the Philippines that banned flights to and from mainland China. The campaign has so far received over 52,000 signatures.

Taiwan's premier Su Tseng Chang expressed his support for the name change but also said that it is a complicated issue that had many factors to consider.

"The name change involves aviation rights and many other factors, which are not that easy to do, but for the national carrier to be labelled with the name Taiwan, that is something the government must endeavour to do and the government will do so on a step-by-step basis," he said in a statement.

Lai Hsiang-ling, a legislator from the Taiwan People's Party, said that though this was something to be discussed, the time was not right for such a change given the pandemic, citing the numerous negotiations, changes to aviation agreements, and other issues that would be involved.

An official from the Taoyuan Union of Pilots, meanwhile, said that making such a change could cost more than US$1 billion.

"The airline would need to also reapply for all of its flight time built up at various airports in the world and re-sign all of its commercial contracts with other companies, change the title and logo of all administrative papers, change the International Air Transport Association code, sales systems, and it must repaint the bodies of all of its fleet with new title and logo," he said in an interview.

China Airlines, one of Taiwan's two major airlines along with EVA Air, is headquartered in Taipei Taoyuan International Airport and flies to more than 100 destinations across Asia, Oceania, Europe, and North America. It is a member of Skyteam Alliance and operates a fleet of Airbus A330s, Airbus A350s, Boeing 737-800s, Boeing 747-400s, and Boeing 777-300ERs.

With reports from Taiwan News and South China Morning Post