Ignored by American and United Airlines, Beijing threatens Qantas over Taiwan designation

The US airlines have not yet changed website designations for Taiwan, while Australia's Qantas, who previously appeared to bow to Beijing's demands, has been slow to comply, and is now being threatened over the matter

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A full week has passed since airlines in the United States, including United and American, received a threatening letter from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), demanding that they change their designation of Taiwan on their websites to be in accordance with “Chinese law.”

To date, the two U.S. airlines have not altered their web pages, and Taiwan is still listed independent of China on their flight booking pages, despite the CAAC letter’s threat that the airlines may be referred to “cyber security authorities.”

Some media outlets have suggested that Beijing may be threatening to entirely block company websites within the Chinese intranet if they fail to comply with “Chinese law.”

After the threatening letter was sent to the airlines last week, American Airlines said that they were reviewing the demand, while United Airlines said that media queries should be reported to the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the State Department.

The Foreign Policy report noted that a spokesman for the U.S. State Department said that they “object to Beijing dictating how U.S. firms, including airlines, organize their websites for ease of consumer use. Chinese companies’ websites operate freely and without political interference in the United States.”

While no official statement on the matter has been issued from either airline, on May 2, it was reported that American Airlines will be suspending its direct flight route between Chicago and Beijing starting later this year. The reason cited was that “The current fare environment severely limits our ability to successfully compete between Chicago and Beijing."

In other airline news, a similarly threatening letter as the one sent to United, and American Airlines, has also reportedly been sent to Australia’s Qantas Airlines by the CAAC, according to Australian media.

Qantas Airlines made headlines earlier in the year when it originally chose to acquiesce to China’s demands to change some designations of Taiwan on its website, releasing the official statement that on Jan.16 that; “Due to an oversight, some Chinese territories were incorrectly listed as countries on parts of our website. We are correcting this error.”

However, Qantas has apparently been slow to comply with the dictates of Beijing and Qantas may now also be referred to the “relevant cyber security authorities.”

The Sydney Morning Herald notes that as of this week “Taiwan's capital city Taipei was still listed as part of Taiwan, not China, on both Qantas' and its low-cost arm Jetstar's booking systems.”