Sun, Mar 19, 2006 - Page 1 News List

CAL rumored to be preparing a name change

STAFF WRITER

China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 華航), Taiwan's largest air carrier, may change its name when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) uses it on his next state visit, a report said on Friday.

The report -- in the Chinese-language Liberty Times, the Taipei Times' sister newspaper -- quoted a source described as close to a private pro-independence group, which visited the airline on Friday.

The group, the "908 Taiwan Republic Campaign," visited CAL's headquarters in Taipei on Friday, and asked the carrier to decide on a timeframe in which to get rid of the term "China" from its title, the sources said.

The group threatened to hold a protest rally if the airline does not rename itself.

Wait and see

According to the report, an unnamed airline official responded with a Chinese-language idiom, "shimuyidai (拭目以待)," which roughly translates as "rub the sand from your eyes and anxiously await what happens."

Pro-independence activists have long demanded that state-run enterprises, such as Chinese Petroleum Corp (中油), China Steel Corp (中鋼), China Shipbuilding Corp (中船) and CAL, get rid of names that use "China" or "Chinese." In late 2004, Chen pledged to rename all state corporations bearing the name of "China" or "Chinese" within two years. CAL is nominally not a state-owned company, but the carrier is 54 percent owned by the government-backed China Aviation Development Foundation (航發會) under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.

Discussions

Chen has reportedly asked CAL to take action on the issue, and the airline has discussed a name change during internal meetings and decided to make the change the next time Chen boards an aircraft to travel abroad, the source said. But CAL officials haven't disclosed exactly what the change will be, citing commercial secrecy, the report said.

Former CAL chairman Chiang Yao-chung (江耀宗) said in December 2004 that a name change would cause problems for CAL's aviation rights, as well as creating legal issues regarding commercial contracts with lenders and code-share partners.

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