Passengers using international airlines flying to and from Taiwan, which have buckled to demands from Beijing to change the way they describe the island, may be in for a bumpy ride.
Higher ground handling fees, less favorable time slots, no jet bridges for boarding and disembarking and other punitive measures may be on the horizon for those airlines which changed their references to the self-governing island.
If those in charge of aviation in Taiwan have their way, then the ease and comfort of air-conditioned aerobridges may be a thing of the past and passengers flying on certain carriers may have to climb onto or get off planes on the tarmac at Taiwan’s airports during the island’s scorching summer.
They may also have to dig deeper into their pockets as airlines may hike fares due to higher ground service charges.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications is reported to have outlined reprisals against “blacklisted carriers” – those that now categorize Taiwan as a province of China or which simply pulled “Taiwan” off their country lists before Beijing’s deadline at the end of last month.
Almost all international airlines, including US carriers, have conceded to Beijing’s demands to avoid their operations – in the worse case – being grounded in the world’s second largest aviation market.
But now they may hit some turbulence as Beijing and Taipei retaliate at one another. However, Taiwan’s civil aviation authority noted on Monday that their retaliatory measures were yet to be finalized.
The moves have been talked about after Taipei’s protests against the airlines for “undermining its sovereignty” fell on deaf ears. Taiwanese papers also noted that Taipei would also “reward” carriers that do not list Taiwan as a Chinese territory by reducing their landing charges and facility fees.
Yet aviation stakeholders have already voiced their concerns as banning foreign carriers from using jet bridges could deal a blow to an airport’s income. Cramming flights operated by foreign carriers into other time slots is not practical either, as it entails extensive coordination with carriers and air traffic controllers on the other end of the routes. Some carriers may simply opt to cut flights serving Taiwan as the island is not a major market.
The island’s biggest aviation gateway, Taoyuan Airport, handled about 45 million passengers last year, compared with Hong Kong Airport’s 72.6 million and Beijing Capital International Airport’s 95.7 million, according to data cruncher Airports Council International.
Some have gone so far as to say Taipei’s retaliatory measures would also be “self-destructive,” adding that it would mostly be Taiwanese travelers who would have to bear the brunt of the new rules.
But China Airlines – Taiwan’s flag carrier, despite its name – as well as the island’s second largest airline, EVA Air, may reap the benefits of the tit-for-tat moves as more Taiwanese are expected to switch to their home carriers.
Lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party have slammed whistleblowers in the civil aviation authority for leaking the ideas to the media, according to the Taipei Times.