‘ROC’ confuses airlines
On Sept. 28 last year, we planned to fly back to Taiwan. We had found some good tickets flying with Air Canada, first from Hartford, Connecticut, to Toronto, Canada, and from there to Taipei.
However, when we wanted to check in, the Air Canada ground staff said that we did not have a visa for Canada, saying that we were from China.
We responded that we were from Taiwan and that was different from China.
However, the ground staff pointed to the “Republic of China” on our passport, and told us: “Well, it says ‘China’ right here.”
We tried to explain that Taiwan is a separate country, and that it has visa-waiver status with both the US and Canada, but to no avail: They continued to insist that we were from “China” and that we therefore needed visas to enter Canada. We even called the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office in New York and asked them to explain the matter to the Air Canada ground staff in Hartford, but that did not help either.
As a result, we missed our flight, had to reschedule our flight home, and incurred additional costs, etc.
After our trip, we returned to Hartford and tried to get Air Canada to reimburse us for the extra costs, but the company is hiding behind regulations that state: “The passenger shall comply with all laws, regulations, orders, demands or travel requirements of countries to be flown from, into or over, and with all rules, regulations and instructions of carrier.”
The main problem was of course that the Air Canada ground personnel did not have a clue on the difference between Taiwan (“Republic of China”) and the People’s Republic of China. We understand from friends that many people have had similar problems with airlines in the US. The confusion is also caused by the fact that the “Republic of China” still figures so prominently on the cover (and inside) of our passports.
It would be much better to follow a more rational, pragmatic approach, with “Taiwan” clearly noted on the passport, and perhaps have the “Republic of China” in small print.