China airlines cancel Taiwan flights as air space row intensifies
31 January, 2018, 10:32 | Author: Manuel Hopkins
China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines have cancelled 176 round-trip flights to Taiwan that had been added to meet increased demand during Chinese New Year, amid a row over flight routes between China and Taiwan. Xiamen Airlines said it will fully refund or help with ticket changes for the more than 10,000 passengers affected by the cancellation of the 70 extra flights.
The airlines said they would give refunds to almost 25,000 passengers who'd already booked flights. China's launch of the new flights reportedly goes against a deal between Taiwan and China to first discuss certain flight paths before they come into operation.
While not specifying that the drill simulated an invasion by mainland China, the authorities said the exercise was to "show determination to safeguard peace in the Taiwan Strait and national security".
China's move has been viewed in Taiwan as a show of disrespect, one that could heighten the risk of a risky incident and potentially provoke a crisis in the increasingly tense cross-strait relationship.
Authorities in Taiwan have reacted sharply to China opening new air routes above the Taiwan Strait without consulting Taipei.
Taiwan's Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said it could arrange military aircraft in Kinmen for Taiwanese people who wished to return to Taiwan from China during the Lunar New Year after the mass cancellation of cross-strait flights.
Taiwan, though, has objected to a new route known as M503, which it says passes dangerously close to existing airports on the Tiaoyutai Islands.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration in Taiwan said that it was never consulted over the flight routes.
Cheng Chin-sheng (陳進生), chief of MOTC's Department of Navigation and Aviation, said on Monday that Taiwanese travelers could use flights between China's Xiamen Province and Kinmen, where airplanes and military aircraft would be arranged to take them back to Taiwan.
Alternatively they could choose a Chinese airline or Taiwanese airline that had not been using the new routes, though the availability of tickets would be an issue.
Taiwan, which has served as home to twenty-three million people, is an island off the southern coast of China that has been governed independently from mainland China since 1949.
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