The Ministry of Transportation and Communications is open to renaming China Airlines (CAL) so that it is not mistaken for a Chinese airline, but the company’s shareholders and the public would have the final say, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said on Saturday night.
Several lawmakers have proposed renaming the airline.
The public was deeply touched when the government dispatched a CAL charter flight on Feb. 21 to repatriate 19 Taiwanese who had been stranded aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship amid a COVID-19 outbreak on board, he wrote on Facebook.
Photo: Screen grab from Facebook page of Netherlands Trade and Investment Office
“Although the air transport business has declined dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline is still on the front line of disease-prevention efforts and is in charge of repatriating compatriots,” he said.
The airline has also been entrusted with the task of delivering the 10 million masks Taiwan has donated to other nations affected by the pandemic, and its hard work is appreciated by all, Lin wrote.
“We have heard from many people who think that the airline should change its name and we are open to this proposal. However, a name change is no small matter for an airline, as it involves changes in the aviation rights and routes. The airline is a publicly traded firm, which should respect the will of its shareholders and the public. It is our hope that we can continue to build consensus on this matter,” he said.
The first batch of masks sent to the EU for distribution arrived on Thursday at Luxembourg Airport aboard a CAL cargo plane and the EU posted photographs on its Web site of the plane and the shipping containers of masks being unloaded, with each container decorated with a banner emblazoned with the slogan “Taiwan can help” and the national flag.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) suggested changing CAL’s name to “Chunghwa Airlines” as a transitional step, as it would not change the airline’s name in Mandarin and would allow it to differentiate itself from Air China.
Foreigners might not know what “Chunghwa” means, but they know that China is a country, he said.
While it is better to use Taiwan as the name of an airline, the feasibility of such proposal as well as how fast such a change could be made needed to be considered, he said.
Taiwan Statebuilding Party Legislator Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟) suggested three options: auctioning the name “China Airlines,” which China in the past had expressed interest in using for its own flag carrier; retaining the name, but not operating any flights under it, and establishing a new carrier under the company; or adding “Taiwan” or “ROC” in brackets after “China Airlines,” much as has been done with the nation’s passports.
“The airline could face suspension of flights if it unilaterally changed its name without first securing permission from the International Civil Aviation Organization,” Chen said.
The public needs to reach a consensus on the name change of the airline, he added.
New Power Party caucus whip Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智) and Taiwan People’s Party caucus whip Lai Hsiang-ling (賴香伶) said the nation’s “mask diplomacy” has highlighted the need to change CAL’s name.
Noting a French television reported mask donation to the EU was from China because CAL’s name has “China” in it, Chiu said all the hard-earned publicity on Taiwan was in vain.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hung Mong-kai (洪孟楷) said Taiwan’s extraordinary performance in curbing the spread of COVID-19 is the result of the collective efforts of the nation’s 23 million people.
“Preventing the spread of the pandemic should remain our top priority. People should not politicize the disease-prevention issues by raising complicated matters such as changing the name of an airline,” he said.
Additional reporting by Hsieh Chun-lin and Wu Su-wei
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