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Taiwan is looking at new names for China Airlines

The national airline of Taiwan is often mistaken for its counterpart Air China from the People's republic. The Corona crisis is now causing a debate over renaming China Airlines.

Tis Meyer/Planepics.org

China Airlines Airbus A330

Where is China Airlines based? Beijing? Shanghai? Guangzhou? A lot of people would probably guess that it is in one of Chinas big Cities. But the correct answer is Taipei. China Airlines isn’t the national airline of the People’s Republic of China, but of the Republic of China – better known as Taiwan.

Its name has always been a source of confusion. But in the current Corona crisis, it has come under particular criticism. For instance, the delivery of protective masks from Taiwan to Europe has sometimes been assigned to the wrong sender.

Government open to name change

According to Taiwan’s Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang some countries, people and media mistakenly assumed that the aid came from the People’s Republic of China, which caused him a lot of grief. However, it is understandable that the name could lead to some confusion. The national airline of the People’s Republic is called Air China – pretty similar.

Taiwan is the name of the island on which the Republic of China is located. The People’s Republic of China considers it part of its territory. The Republic of China, on the other hand, considers itself a sovereign state.

High barriers

The government in Taipei has now instructed China Airlines to make the origin of the planes clear by using more Taiwanese symbols. In the long term, however, the airline would also be open to a name change if the majority of the population was in favour, said Transport Minister Lin Chia-lung. China Airlines could become Taiwan Airlines, Republic of China Airlines or China Taiwan Airlines.

The hurdles are quite high, though. Premier Su Tseng-chang pointed out that a name change could affect air traffic rights, amongst other things.

Renaming the airline would cost millions

It’s also not certain that the voters are in favour of a name change. In a referendum in 2018, they voted against a motion to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games under the name Taiwan. Its Olympic name remains Chinese Taipei.

Despite the hurdles, China Airlines is already calculating the costs of a name change. The aviation authority estimates that a renaming would cost the equivalent of around 34 million euros. Who would pick up the bill is still being discussed within the government. Now the airline’s board of directors is to deal with the matter.

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