Foreign flag carriers and flights to Taiwan

Taiwan’s relationship with Mainland China is a complicated one, and the dispute has spilled out into the world of aviation, after the People’s Republic of China objected to the flag carriers of foreign governments serving what they regarded as a breakaway province. The result – a slew of subsidiary airlines that just fly to the island nation.

KLM Asia

KLM established KLM Asia in 1995 to operate flights to Taipei and still operates today.

It uses the the same livery as the parent airline, but without Dutch national symbols such as the flag of the Netherlands and KLM’s stylised Dutch Crown logo.

Air France Asie

Air France Asie and Air France Cargo Asie were established by Air France in 1998 to operate a route to Taipei. Air France Asie ceased operations in 2004 along with the route, with Air France Cargo Asie following in 2007.

Their livery replaces the usual red strip of the French tricolour with a blue strip in the same colour as the other blue lines.

British Asia Airways

British Asia Airways was established by British Airways in 1993 to operate flights between London and Taipei via Hong Kong. It ceased operations in 2001 following suspension of the route.

The standard British Airways livery had the Union Flag tailfin replaced by the Chinese characters 英亞 (Hanyu Pinyin: Yīng Yà; literally “British Asia”).

Australia Asia Airlines

Australia Asia Airlines was established by Qantas in 1990 to operate services between Australia and Taiwan. It was wound up in 1996 following the privatisation of Qantas.

The kangaroo logo on the standard Qantas livery was replaced by a dynamic ribbon, and the Flag of Australia removed.

Japan Asia Airways

Japan Asia Airways was established by Japan Airlines (JAL) in 1975 to operate air services between Japan and Taiwan, after the parent airline was given approval to operate direct flights to Mainland China. Privatisation of the parent airline and a new Japan-Taiwan air transport agreement in 2007 saw the airline merged into the parent in 2008.

The airline used liveries similar to that of parent Japan Airlines, but without national symbols.

Swissair Asia

Swissair Asia was established by Swissair in 1995 to operate a route between Zurich and Taipei via Bangkok. The airline folded in 2002 along with the parent company.

The livery featured the Chinese character “瑞” (ruì, from the Chinese translation of Switzerland, “瑞士” (Ruìshì), on the tail fin instead of the standard Swiss cross.

The reverse – Mandarin Airlines

During the 1990s the People’s Republic of China also objected to Taiwanese flag carrier China Airlines serving foreign countries, triggering trade disputes with Australia and Canada. Their solution in 1991 was the establishment of subsidiary Mandarin Airlines, operating flights to Sydney, Brisbane and Vancouver.

This situation remained until 1995, when China Airlines adopted a new “plum blossom” livery, dropping their Republic of China flag and downplaying their Taiwanese connection, which enabled the parent company to re-establish international routes.

Mandarin Airlines still operates today, but as a regional airline serving both domestic and international routes in and out of Taiwan.

And flights to Mainland China

Flights from Mainland China to Taiwan are now common, but they aren’t domestic or international – they leave from the “International, HK, Macao and Taiwan Departures” terminal.

'International & Hong Kong / Macau / Taiwan Departures' sign at Xi'an Airport

And arriving passengers from Taiwan don’t pass through passport control, but obtain a “Travel Document for Taiwan Residents” on arrival.

'Travel Document for Taiwan Residents' sign on arrival in China

Clear as mud?

Further reading

Foreign relations of Taiwan and air lines at Wikipedia.

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