How United Airlines decided to counter Beijing's Orwellian bullying with Taiwan Dollars

United Airline's solution of using currency to differentiate countries is a mode other companies could emulate 

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United Airlines 767-300.

United Airlines 767-300. (By Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- United Airline's solution of using currency to delineate China, Hong Kong and Taiwan on its online booking system was as much based on the pragmatic need to keep the locations separated in their system as it was to take a neutral political stance, but it could be a good example for other companies to follow, according to Apple Daily

After Beijing had delivered an ultimatum to 44 airlines to stop treating Taiwan as a separate country online, United Airlines held numerous meetings and discussions, according an inside source cited by Apple Daily. Some employees said they did not want to offend China, but there was also a group of advocates who felt there was no need to bow to political pressure. 

After consultations with employees and legal departments, the company decided to adhere to political neutrality, consistency and uphold the airline's policy of treating passengers alike, regardless of race or religion, and without political interference. 

Following an analysis of the situation, it became clear to the airline that the passports, visas, entry and exit regulations and currencies were all different on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Though Beijing stubbornly insists that official corporate websites should combine Taiwan and China into one "country," such a forced listing would only increase the confusion and distress on the air carrier's operations.  

Therefore, United Airline's approach was to distinguish China, Taiwan and Hong Kong though the currency by which tickets are purchased in those places. United Airline's solution was not necessarily intended to be creative, as much as meeting the need to distinguish the booking systems in the three places. 


Screen capture of United Airlines option to choose country based on currency. 

In essence, the airline's solution was also very much in line with the requirements of Beijing, because Hong Kong and Taiwan were no longer listed as "countries." 

Some employees of United Airlines have privately disclosed to Apple Daily that using currency to differentiate between the destinations is an ideal practice at this stage. They suggested that other companies or non-governmental organizations being pressured by China could also consider follow suit to avoid cooperating with Beijing's unreasonable demands. 

Taiwanese netizens mocked China after seeing United Airline's solution:

"You can't stop people from making New Taiwan Dollars!"

"If such flexibility is not acceptable to Beijing, simply switch to spicy strips (China), fish balls (Hong Kong), and Ba-wan (Taiwan) to represent the three places!"