U.S. airlines complying with Beijing’s demand not to mention Taiwan

China-Taiwan controversy for airlines is coming to a close

All commercial airlines in Hong Kong have changed the destination name for Taiwan to "Taiwan, China" on Wednesday - the deadline set by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). The authority said Taiwan should not be placed on an equal footing with China and that airlines must call it "China Taiwan" or the "China Taiwan region". On the other hand, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines were still keeping the abbreviation TW for Taiwan behind the names of Taiwanese airports, according to CNA.

American, Delta and United declined to comment.

"Like other carriers, American is implementing changes to address China's request", said Shannon Gilson, a spokeswoman for American, the world's biggest airline.

As relations between Beijing and Taipei deteriorate under Beijing-sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen, China is ramping up military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan.

The carriers were told to remove references on their websites and other materials that suggest Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are part of countries independent from China, but several U.S. operators, including Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and United Airlines (UAL.N), had requested more time to handle the matter.

"They can't sell within China", Mann said.

China, however, is a rapidly growing airline market with a booming middle class that is eager to travel.

United States airlines in particular have come under the microscope on the issue after the White House in May scorned China's semantic demands as "Orwellian nonsense".

Taiwan and China have been ruled by separate governments since a break in 1949, but China has continued to claim Taiwan as its own territory. American owns almost 3 percent of China Southern Airlines while Delta owns about 3.5 percent of China Eastern Airlines.

"China is willing to share China's development opportunities with foreign companies and welcomes them to invest in and operate in China", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters on Wednesday.

The move was met with approval from Chinese officials, who had demanded the airlines stop mentioning Taiwan, which is a source of controversy.

On Wednesday morning, the same search produced "Taipei Taoyuan Airport (TPE)".

A check on Eva Air, a Taiwanese worldwide airline, showed that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mainland China are listed under three separate entities. It's vital for their business that they stay in China's good books.

"I don't think the U.S. carriers ultimately had any choice", said Tom Ballantyne, chief correspondent with Orient Aviation Magazine. Eight U.S. senators led by Florida Republican Marco Rubio and New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez told the CEOs of American and United that Congress supported Taiwan, "a democracy and important partner to the USA".

"China wants to use methods like changing Taiwan's name to push Taiwan closer to China, but the result is the opposite - it will make Taiwan drift further and further away - it's counterproductive", he told the ABC.

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