US airlines revise websites to change Taiwan reference
WASHINGTON – Reuters
Beijing has demanded that foreign firms, and airlines in particular, not refer to Taiwan as a non-Chinese territory on their websites, a move described by the White House in May as “Orwellian nonsense.”
China set a final deadline of July 25 for the changes, and last month rejected U.S. requests for talks on the matter, adding to tension in relations already frayed by an escalating trade conflict.
Reuters reported early on July 24 that American Airlines Group Inc, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines were set to change how they refer to Taiwanese airports on their websites. American Airlines confirmed the change later in the day.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry on July 25 said it “most severely” condemned the Chinese government’s use of political power to “crudely and unreasonably interfere with private commercial activity and international companies’ operations.”
It was unclear how China might punish airlines that do not comply, but in December it added a clause to rules governing foreign airlines saying regulators could change a company’s permit if it did not meet “the demand of public interest.”
American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said the firm had implemented the changes at China’s request in line with other carriers. “Air travel is global business, and we abide by the rules in countries where we operate,” she said on July 24.
Hawaiian Airlines had changed its website ahead of the deadline to showing searches for flights to Taiwan’s capital Taipei as “Taipei, Taipei” in dropdown menus.
Numerous non-U.S. airlines including Air Canada, Lufthansa and British Airways had already made changes to their websites, according to Reuters checks, after China’s Civil Aviation Administration sent a letter to 36 foreign air carriers earlier in the year.