China Airlines, Taiwan’s leading international carrier, is reportedly planning to repaint its aircraft with Taiwan-themed images and display its name in a smaller font to avoid worldwide confusion with mainland Chinese airlines.
The word “China” in the name of the flag carrier often causes confusion at international destinations, when people mix it up with Air China, which is owned by the Beijing government.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, China Airlines has flown planeloads of Taiwan medical supplies to the world, leading some to mistakenly believe the donations came from mainland China.
When the US in June proposed banning airlines from the People’s Republic of China, a news outlet mistakenly showed an aircraft of China Airlines from the Republic of China, or Taiwan.
The island’s citizens were furious and a petition requesting the name change was initiated. By July, more than 50,000 people had signed.
In July, Taiwan’s legislature approved a proposal to have the Ministry of Transportation and Communications come up with a rebranding plan, reports the Taiwan News. But lively debate ensued in the legislature.
“The ministry should make China Airlines more identifiable internationally with Taiwanese images to protect Taiwan’s national interests,” said legislative president Yu Shyi-kun. “Overseas it is mistaken for a Chinese airline.”
“This is only a political stunt,” said Lin Wei-chou of pro-Beijing party KMT. “The legislature just wants to make a show.”
The discussion took off again on Wednesday when a photo of China Airlines’ alleged new livery surfaced online. In the photo, the smaller font of “China Airlines” is near the tail of the plane, leaving a large empty space on the main section of its body.
The company said the actual new livery will be revealed to the public later.
Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung confirmed during an interview on Thursday that distinctive symbols of Taiwan will be added and official announcements will be made once the planes have been fully emblazoned with the new additions.
China Airlines was founded in Taiwan in 1959 and flies out of Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport, servicing 160 destinations in 29 countries. The majority shareholder is the China Aviation Development Foundation, which is wholly owned by the Taiwanese government.
“Please be advised that China Airlines has no comments on this topic at the moment,” Jason Liu, vice president of China Airlines’ corporate communications office, told CNN Travel in an email.