American airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have made changes to their websites before a deadline set by China and has stopped referring to Taiwan in their flight schedules as demanded by Beijing.
Sources have also been quoted in the media saying that Delta and United Continental would also soon do the same after consultations between the airlines and the US government.
Taiwan should not be referred to as anything but a Chinese territory by foreign firms, and airlines in particular, on their websites, Beijing has demanded. In May, this move by China was defined by the White House as “Orwellian nonsense”.
After media reports that the US carriers would change the Taiwan references soon, the first change was made by Hawaiian Airlines on Tuesday which omitted mention of “Taiwan” from its schedules. American Airlines did the same the next day.
The website of the American Airlines read “Taipei, Taipei Taoyuan Airport (TPE), Taiwan” while it was changed to “Taipei Taoyuan Airport (TPE)” the next day.
“We’re a business with significant international activities and we need to deal with regulations in all of those jurisdictions,” Peter Ingram, Hawaiian’s chief executive officer, told Reuters on Tuesday. “And obviously sometimes that can put us in challenging positions in one jurisdiction versus another.”
Before taking the decision to comply with Chinese demands, consultation with the US peers and government officials in both the US and China was done by Hawaiian Airlines. While the company does not have flights to Taiwan, it is engaged in selling of tickets to passengers for Taiwan through a code-share agreement with China Airlines that has nonstop flights from Taipei to Honolulu.
There were no comments from American, Delta and United.
Earlier this year, following a letter from the Civil Aviation Administration of China to foreign air carriers, similar changes have already been made by a number of non-US airlines such as Air Canada, Lufthansa, British Airways, Qantas, Air France-KLM and Deutsche Lufthansa AG.
The airlines were told to change any references on their websites and elsewhere that suggest that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are not part of China but are part of other countries or are independent countries. However, there are a number of US airlines that include Delta Air Lines and United Airlines which have sought an extension of the deadline to resolve the issue.
Acknowledgement of the changes being done was made by Airlines for America (A4A), a trade group that represents United, American, and other major carriers.
“As with other sectors of the economy, the US airline industry is a global business that must contend with a host of regulations and requirements,” it said in a statement.
“A4A and the affected US airlines appreciate the engagement and counsel we have received from the Administration as carriers begin to implement a solution,” it said.
It was expected that the airlines would make the changes before day end in China.
“We have told China that the United States strongly objects to China’s attempts to compel private firms to use specific language of a political nature in their publicly available content. We continue to seek to address this issue,” a US embassy spokesman said.
(Adapted from SCMP.com)