If you were planning to fly from China to Taiwan for the Lunar New Year, you may have to revise your plans.
Two Chinese airlines have cancelled nearly 200 flights to Taiwan over problems between the two governments.
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Beijing has been fighting with Taiwan’s government, led by president Tsai Ing-wen for a while. Beijing sees Taiwan as a province which should be reunited with the mainland, under the “One China” policy.
However, Taiwan doesn’t see it that way and maintains that it is its own state, the Republic of China.
Why is this affecting Chinese airlines?
Earlier this month, Tsai protested a new decision by China’s government to approve four new flight routes over the Taiwan Strait. Her party, the Democratic Progressive Party, said the move violated a 2015 agreement and could cause passenger safety issues.
In particular, the new passenger routes are close to airspace used by Taiwanese airliners and military planes.
As well, the party also sees this move as an opportunity by China to undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty.
In a statement, the Taiwanese presidential office said protecting the safety of all people flying across the strait was “a responsibility that cannot be abandoned”.
As a result, Taiwan refused to approve new flights by two airlines, China Eastern and Xiamen Air. The two airlines have been forced to cancel 176 flights between them during the Lunar New Year period.
However, this will negatively affect Taiwanese nationals living in mainland China. It is expected that nearly 50,000 Taiwanese citizens will not be able to return home for the celebrations when families traditionally come together to mark the holiday.
Instead, Taiwan is going to deploy military transport planes to fly its citizens home. The director-general of Taiwan’s navigation and aviation department, Chen Chin-sheng, said:
“We have encouraged [Taiwanese] passengers to change their flights to other airlines, or to return to Taiwan by way of Hong Kong or Maca.
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“In the worst –case scenario, we have military planes ready in Quemoy and mainland-based businessmen can return from Xiamen [by boat] to Quemoy where they can take either civilian or military planes back to Taiwan proper.”
The military planes will be able to pick up a total of 840 passengers per day.