Taiwan CAA warns airlines to stay on course during 'pleasure flights'

StarLux pilot wanted to deviate from approved course to show Diaoyutai to passengers

A StarLux flight taking off from Taipei Songshan Airport 

A StarLux flight taking off from Taipei Songshan Airport  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After a StarLux Airlines “pleasure flight” reportedly planned to veer off course to give passengers a closer look at the Diaoyutai Islands, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) sent a letter to Taiwanese airlines telling them to stick to the planned routes, reports said Saturday (Sept. 12).

Because of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, airlines have launched “pretend travel abroad” flights that take passengers around the island and sometimes to areas close to Japan or the Philippines.

However, on Aug. 8, the pilot of a StarLux Airlines told passengers he would change course to give them a better view of the Diaoyutai — uninhabited islands controlled by Japan but claimed by Taiwan and China, the Liberty Times reported. The control tower forced him to abandon his plan as changes to the itinerary were not allowed.

A StarLux spokesman said the airline’s flights would only differ from the approved route if there were poor weather conditions, and then, only with the approval of air traffic controllers.

Following the incident, the CAA sent a letter to all Taiwanese airlines in late August informing them that all flights had to follow the officially submitted routes. The authorities were reportedly concerned about planes heading off course during the Mid-Autumn Festival in early October, the Liberty Times reported.

CAA emphasized the need for airlines to obtain the necessary approvals if they plan to cross into neighboring countries’ Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ).