Taiwan's China Airlines looks ready to change its name

The Taiwanese flag-carrier moves closer to a rebranding from the confusing 'China Airlines'.

By David Flynn, July 24 2020
Taiwan's China Airlines looks ready to change its name

Goodbye China Airlines, welcome to Taiwan Airlines? The likelihood of the Taipei-based carrier changing its name inched a little closer this week, continuing a drawn-out process to better reflect its home on the tiny island known as the independent Republic of China, rather than the communist-run monolithic mainland (officially dubbed the People’s Republic of China).

Abandoning any China-based tag in favour of a new and very different name – potentially becoming Taiwan's true flag-carrier – would also reduce long-running confusion at an inopportune moment, when any association with China could prove damaging to both the airline and the country by keeping travellers and tourists away.

Founded in 1959, China Airlines has an extensive international footprint of 160 destinations across the Asia-Pacific, North and South America and Europe.

The SkyTeam member operates a fleet of 88 aircraft including the modern Airbus A350, which is fitted out with a highly-regarded business class cabin.

Review: China Airlines Airbus A350 business class, Brisbane-Taipei-London

China Airlines' flagship lounge at Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport is also rather impressive in an elegant rather than 'showy' way.

Review: China Airlines business class lounge, Taipei Airport T1

As a state-owned operation, China Airlines has two competitors: the well-established EVA Air, and the newer boutique start-up Starlux.

The Taiwanese Parliament this week passed a bill to rename China Airlines, saying that the new brand should make the carrier "more identifiable internationally with Taiwanese images to protect Taiwan’s national interests, as overseas it is mistaken for a Chinese airline."

The country's Transport Ministry has been asked to develop both short and long-term rebranding plans, although no timeline has been set.

A spokesperson for China Airlines told Executive Traveller that it had "no comment on this issue".

What's in a name?

There are obviously concerns that any shift in the brand away from China, especially one which embraces the name Taiwan, will provoke mainland China, which has always protested the island-nation's independence and identity, remaining intent on what it calls "peaceful reunification" and the adoption of the same "one country, two systems" policy it has applied to Hong Kong.

While a short-term measure could include aircraft displaying the China Airlines name in a smaller font, suggests Forbes columnist and Asia aviation specialist Will Horton, "next is a longer phase to possibly change the airline’s English translation, rename it in Chinese, adjust the livery or overhaul the design – more options than on a bubble tea menu."

"Taiwan’s national flower, the plum blossom, is already in the China Airlines logo and adorns aircraft tails."

Horton believes that "any mention of “Taiwan” or depicting its island shape or flag are a firm no since they will surely raise objections from Beijing."

"Sceptics doubt any major branding change will emerge, pointing to other failed initiatives over the years. But in the theoretical, a political name is ruled out. That leaves the abstract category."

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 339

Good!

30 Aug 2018

Total posts 6

Good to see Taiwan moves toward independence and differentiating themselves from China.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 304

About time!

P1
P1

24 Apr 2017

Total posts 48

Great move.

06 Sep 2019

Total posts 8

I was booked to fly business class to Europe with them last week. Once the first of the legs was cancelled, they sent me a refund request and I got a full refund in 3 days.

15 Dec 2017

Total posts 9

I believe they have only voted to recommend their ministry of transport start working to submit a plan which will need to be voted in parliament in the future.

The government is a major shareholder of the privatised airline and hence is able to make the suggestions.

It is a highly political issue so expect this to drag out into a long process.

NMC
NMC

Etihad - Etihad Guest

27 Apr 2019

Total posts 2

I will search for some reviews on this airline. I've flown business class on EVA from Brisbane to London and it was an amazing experience.

plenty of punters think China Airlines is Chinese & so avoid them.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 300

I flew them Sydney-TPE-Sydney mid 2019 on the new A350 in J and I just couldn't fault them, they were excellent. Product, meals, service all great at a reasonable price. I would choose them to Europe/USA (when we can) in J without hesitation.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 710

Taiwan is still constitutionally called the Republic of China so a bit tricky for a name change for the national carrier as it is correctly a ‘ Chinese airline'.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 514

Another perfectly valid name would be the regional domestic carrier that China Airlines already owns .. and is certainly known to some older Australians and Canadians. That would be Mandarin Airlines which has served Taipei-Sydney and also Taipei-Vancouver during the 90's.

Renaming the China Airlines group to Mandarin Airlines has a lot less political implications than Taiwan or Taipei Airlines would have. Should Mandarin Airlines not make the cut, a further option would be Formosa Air or Dynasty. Both Mandarin and Dynasty have some reasonable attraction and convey a feel for the Asian heritage and design aesthetic that China Airlines represents.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Nov 2019

Total posts 33

Great airline, Great country, long live independent Taiwan.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 351

It's not that simple to rename or even change all to Mandarin airline. Renaming will require a new IATA code, and may require renegotiation of rights to fly.

One of an easier way is simply call it CAL airways, like EVA actually stands for Evergreen Airways (They couldn't use Evergreen because the name was already registered with IATA with another US cargo airline). It's like Japan Airline is AKA JAL, All Nippon Airways is AKA ANA. If the livery just say CAL, and everyone starts to call it CAL airways, I don't think it will confuse with China much. The IATA code of CI can be retained.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 514

No, it doesn't require a new IATA code. Mandarin Air already operates under a separate IATA code which is AE. Both the CI and AE codes are owned by the China Airlines group. Nothing to stop the transfer or parallel usage of rights except agreement and paperwork. An example: QF splitting daily rights to HNL many years ago to a mix of JQ and QF.

UA

30 Jun 2015

Total posts 20

As one of my favourite airlines. I'd like to see them rebrand to their callsign of Dynasty and retain the plum blossom logo. This would remove the existing stigma and confusion with Air China, yet remain ambiguous enough to be non-confrontational, and most importantly provide a distinctive neutral branding to build on.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 710

I rather like dynasty as it is also a very Chinese concept and the mainland would have problems arguing with, given their preoccupation with it.

08 Jul 2020

Total posts 3

They are a very good airline, often with very good sales thanks to peoples incorrect perceptions.

I convince 10 family members to fly them to London and Vienna for a wedding 2 years ago. The biggest struggle I had was convincing them that the airline wasn't Chinese or any relation to China Air. Once that was established convincing them to fly return in middle of European summer for $900 economy or $1300 premium was easy. They all loved it. Especially the premium economy travellers. Even at normal prices their premium is one of the best out there. Only downside it one of the directions involves either a medium or long layover, but they offer free half and full day tours of Taipei. Plus their is a hotel inside the airport you can rent by the hour.

It has so much going for it, that a name change for better international recognition, would be a smart move.

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 30

Their call sign Dynasty would be nice, although it might not sit well with the PRC.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jan 2015

Total posts 12

If they take China out of their name then I for one will be quite happy to look at them for my next SE Asia flight (whenever that may be allowed).

Air Taiwan would be an excellent name and knowing that they weren't spying on you while on the plane or downloading the entire contents and contacts from your smartphone would be an even better sales pitch.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 279

Let Beijing start heaving their pandas out the cot, why should Taiwan care what China thinks of the airline's new brand name (provided it doesn't breach trademarks, etc.)? Tai Air would be confusing, but Air Taiwan sounds good to me.

FWIW, I'd always assumed 'China Airlines' was a PRC airline - which promptly ended any further consideration. So there's no better time to re-brand and publicise it globally.

28 Feb 2014

Total posts 16

China Airlines is one of those underestimated/forgotten carrier that flys to Australia. They have an excellent value for money product, slightly different way to get to Europe / East Coast USA, and great connections in Europe with SkyTeam. I wish them all the best with the name change....

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1389

Mandarin Air I'd think still sounds Chinese to most Westerners, so doesn't overcome that issue.

Blossom Air or Plum Blossom Air probably works (it's Taiwan's national flower, but not China's - Peony is the flower for mainland China)


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