• Tom Jordan

Taiwanese government approves flag carrier's renaming

A China Airlines Boeing 747 departs Taipei-Taoyuan Airport. Photo by Ernest Leung | AeroNewsX

China Airlines, the flag carrier of the Republic of China (Taiwan) will be renamed to avoid confusion with airlines from the Mainland of China (People's Republic of China) after the Taiwanese parliament today passed a bill in favour of the proposal to rename the carrier.

China Airlines was formed in December 1959 by a retired air force officer, with all of its shares held by the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan). The airline was initially a charter-only airline operating with piston-engine PBY Catalina amphibian aircraft. During the 1960s, China Airlines expanded into the scheduled market and established its first domestic routes in 1962. The airline added its first jet aircraft, Boeing 727-100s, in 1967 which were used to launch flights to Japan, Hong Kong and South Vietnam. These aircraft were later followed by new Sud-Aviation Caravelle aircraft in 1971. Over the next four decades China Airlines expanded rapidly becoming the largest airline in Taiwan and in 2010 joined the SkyTeam Alliance in order to help expand its growing global route ambitions.

Over the past few months, rhetoric has persisted about a possible renaming of China Airlines as a way of making it more distinctively Taiwanese, as well as avoiding confusion with major Chinese airlines with similar names such as Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines. In April 2020, the Taiwanese Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) stating they were "open minded" about a name change, however being a public asset of Taiwan, a passing of a parliamentary bill would be required in order to mandate the change of name and brand for China Airlines. A rebranding for the airline is more of an issue than what it might sound and according to Lin Chia-Lung, Taiwanese Minister of Transportation and Communications, as "a name change is major decision which would involve aviation rights and routes."

However, despite the odds, news out of Taiwan today has stated that the country's lawmakers have approved the airline's renaming and rebranding, asking the transport ministry to draw up long and short term rebranding plans for the airline. This historic decision means the airlines 61 year history as China Airlines will soon come to an end. Despite the decision being made, no official timeline was set out for when the airline would actually be renamed and interestingly no official new name for the airline has been put forward as of yet. Some suggested names for the rebranded national carrier are "Formosa Airlines" or "Taiwan Airlines", though nothing has been confirmed by either the airline or the government.

According to Taiwanese parliament speaker Yu Shyi-kun, "The ministry should make CAL more identifiable internationally with Taiwanese images to protect Taiwan's national interests as overseas it is mistaken for a Chinese airline." However, a less exciting prospect for China Airlines' rebranding is the fear that it may provoke anger within the People's Republic of China, who maintain a rollercoaster-like diplomatic relationship with Taiwan.

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