The Taipei-based airline will carry the banner of Taiwan’s political classification – an unlikely way for a growing airline to follow in the footsteps of Norway’s SAS
Passengers of Taiwan’s newest airline may be forgiven for wondering if they had landed in the land of Arabian Nights.
While the new airline company – Taiwan Airlines (TAI) – has not put a woman in a lead role, it has chosen to fly the flag of Taiwan rather than of its parent Communist state, China.
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TAI will take flight on Friday at the Taipei airport, officially unveiling itself as Taiwan’s fifth national carrier. It will be the first airline to carry Taiwan’s political classification – the “Republic of China” – an unusual – and controversial – choice for a company that frequently seeks to boost a brand that aims to appeal to its dominant customers: mainland Chinese tourists.
While political pundits have suggested that airlines were one of many corporate actions in the past 12 months that might influence US president Donald Trump’s willingness to find a deal to hand the island’s self-ruled island of Taiwan back to China, they are nonetheless unusual.
“We selected this name because we want to attract aviation consumers as tourists,” Lee Jun-min, the chief executive of TAI, told China’s state news agency Xinhua. “We used the idea of flying the flag of the Republic of China, which is no longer part of China, to create more positive and result-oriented communications.”
While China claims that its navy is duty-bound to protect Taiwan from attack, the island’s leaders have repeatedly stated their willingness to bring relations between the two countries back to normal.
The Republic of China, Taiwan’s colonial ruler from 1895 to 1945, regards its self-ruled island as a sovereign state, and has not renounced the use of force to bring it back under Beijing’s control.
Former state-owned airline Airlines TAI struggled for years after a government restructuring and lagging profits, until being taken over by a private company in 2017. On Sunday, TAI announced that it will be cutting 5.1% of its workforce, or 280 people, amid surging growth and overwhelming demand.
TAI has emerged from a relatively private ownership structure to become an independent state corporation and is owned by government bodies ranging from energy to education. It does not control the airline’s gates and also does not hold control of its marketing or advertising, a decision made a year ago following two unsuccessful takeover bids.