China Airlines Name Change Under Consideration

Filed Under: China Airlines

This isn’t the first time that this has been proposed, though one has to wonder if the current circumstances might just push this to actually happen

Confusion over China Airlines’ name

China Airlines is based in Taipei, and is the “flag” carrier of Taiwan. However, there has long been confusion and controversy surrounding the name. Confusion has been especially common among those who may not be familiar with the nuances of Taiwan vs. mainland China.

Many assume that China Airlines is based in mainland China, when in fact they’re based in Taiwan (People’s Republic of China vs. Republic of China), which has a very different identity.

This has caused confusion, in particular in recent weeks given what has been going on. For example, China Airlines has been operating repatriation flights, and has also been sending face masks and other medical supplies around the globe, but it’s clear that because the company’s name includes “China,” there is confusion about where these donations are coming from.

China Airlines 737

Could China Airlines’ name be changed?

Taiwan News reports that Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Lin Chia-lung, has said that he has an “open mind” towards changing the airline’s name amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.

He did emphasize, however, that a name change is a major decision, both in terms of image, and in terms of aviation rights and routes.

Since the airline is publicly traded, both the views of shareholders and Taiwan’s people needs to be taken into account, and consensus would need to be built.

In past weeks, names like Yushan Airlines, Formosa Airlines, and Taiwan Airlines have been proposed.

Could China Airlines be renamed?

Bottom line

There has long been discussion about the possibility of China Airlines’ name being changed, given the politics of mainland China vs. Taiwan, and the association that most people have with “China” (which causes them to think of the mainland, rather than Taiwan).

Obviously this would be a huge and costly undertaking, since a rebranding isn’t cheap under normal circumstances, let alone when you’re changing a company’s name.

Controversy surrounding China has increased in light of COVID-19, from Trump naming it the “Chinese virus,” to the controversy of the world World Health Organization excluding Taiwan in dialogues.

I have no clue whether this is actually going to happen, though if it actually does happen, you’d think now would be the time…

  1. I also vote for “Taiwan Airlines” I flew China Airlines last year and done many times in the past, I think they are a great airline but whenever I tell anyone I flew China Airlines they wonder if I am crazy.

  2. I think Taiwan airlines represents the identity very well but I’m sure China will try to block it and persuade other countries to ban Taiwan Airlines from landing (ironically there is Hong Kong airlines Shanghai Airlines so its just a name but Taiwan is a very sensitive word)

  3. I was one of the people who were very confused why a Taiwan-based airline is called China Airlines.
    They definitely need to change the name to something else.
    China Airlines is just wrong.

  4. same with me, Taiwan Airlines would be a proper Name taking also in mind the fact, that the island’s people are also more and €ore chanching from RoC to Taiwan (also to show the independence from Mainland China, a fact beijing does not like at all). With the name of Taiwan all confusion with the PRoC could be avoided, too.

  5. Piss off the mainland by calling it the “Repubic of China Airlines (not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China)”.

    Taiwan Airlines has its problems. Maybe Air Taipei? Or Royal Taipei, even though there’s no longer an Emperor

  6. Taiwan should not give up its “Republic of China” name. They have just as much a right to that name as the Mainland. As for the airline, maybe “Real China Airlines”…I jest. Somewhat.

  7. @JL
    There is nothing wrong with China Airlines. The airline is the oldest and flag carrier of the Republic of China, an independent democratic country.
    The only problem is that many people outside of Asia do not know anything about this country because it is blocked from most international recognition because of the economic power and pressure of Beijing. Without this economic pressure more states would recognize democratic China as they did communist East-Germany in the 50s..

  8. @derek
    Taipei (with or without Royal) would be a kotau, because Taipei China it is the only Name Beijing is allowing the RoC. To piss of Beijing I would favor China Democratic Airlines or Democratic China Airlines 🙂

  9. What Id wonder is what, if any, would be the political blowback – not to China Airlines (CI) or evening the ROC as a governmental entity directly per se, but rather to the countries to which CI currently flys. Largely because I don’t really think Beijing has a whole lot of “easy-to-implement” and low-risk (to the PRC) tools that they can readily use to punish the ROC should they chose to rebrand.

    What I can see is a case where the PRC effectively says to foreign countries that IF they allow the newly rebranded “Taiwan Airlines” (I’m assuming for a minute that they do in fact change names and it becomes something like this) to fly to that foreign country that the PRC won’t allow Air China or any PRC-based carrier to fly there, won’t permit foreign carriers from that country to fly into the PRC and/or somehow limit that countries carriers PRC services (like cutting destinations, frequencies etc)

    I think this kind of pressure might be something they could and would do as the economic impact balance isn’t (at present) really level between most countries and the PRC.

  10. The name China Airlines has nothing wrong. It represents the REAL China, ROC (Taiwan), as opposed to communist China.
    In the past, many international airlines have set up separate companies for services to Taiwan (Air France, KLM, BA, JAL, ANA Qantas etc etc), in order to maintain services to ROC and PRC, but it becomes less of an issue in the past two decades.
    Changing the name all of a sudden will create even more issues: how can Beijing allow Taiwan Airlines to land at PEK for example?

  11. Let’s be honest, anything related to China has a brand/image issue right now and will have for the foreseeable future. That’s what this is all about.

  12. @Michael

    You are right on. If China Airlines changed its name to, say “Taiwan Airlines,” Communist China may ban its flights into the Mainland, and that would not be good for business. I think China Airlines should keep its name.

    I always view PRC vs ROC like North and South Korea. I think most free people would like to see the ROC taking over the entire China, and it’s too bad that people just don’t know anything (especially history) about the two Chinas. Ignorant should not be the reason to change ones’ name.

  13. @Lucky
    You do know how to attract network traffic.It’s near midnight now in China and Taiwan so wait 12 hours and see.
    BTW maybe Central Airlines?1.They don’t need change their code.2.China in Chinese means the country in the center of the world.

  14. Ah the PRC and ROC issue. Even the people in Taiwan are divided on their identities. Makes life hard to define, as either Taiwanese or Chinese would always offend some group of people.

    Chiang Kai-shek really had no idea what he has done.

  15. Public opinion in Taiwan will likely resist a name change for their flag carrier. We say Taiwan but its name is Republic of China for important, proud historical reasons. The other consideration is the long-held wise practice, by Taiwan’s leaders, of picking their fights carefully, rather than poking China over every little thing. They choose their battles.

    The highest priority in Taiwan, after keeping their citizens safe (7 have died since the outset of the pandemic) and helping others around the world with planeloads of medical gear, is world support, including UN, USA and EU, among others. Remember Taiwan and respect their decision on this. Marketing confusion is a valid concern but National Pride is well-deserved for a population living under constant threat by well-armed thugs.

  16. Names aside China Airlines has really stepped up its game over the years especially after a period of which they had a crash every couple of years!

    Such reasonable prices and great hard products that I’d rate better than airlines like Air New Zealand or Lufthansa. I find China Airlines to be quite underrated actually.

  17. The Chinese name of China Airlines actually does not mean “China” the country, ROC or not. The Chinese name is actually “Chung Hua”—”Chung” means middle, as in Middle Kingdom while “Hua” is quite ambiguous and there are many origins of how that word came to be—it’s not a tribe nor a dynasty; more like likely an adjective derived from describing the rich soil and culture in the middle of mainland. So the Chinese name of CI has nothing to do with the current political situation. However, the English name implies the country, Republic of China, which is the name before the communist party took over and founded their own People’s Republic of China. I understand the confusion but keeping “China” in the English name is great to show that Taiwan has kept the original Chinese essence, including traditional characters. PROC would love to own the name “China” Airlines but they can’t.

  18. for sure China Airlines and Air China causes a lot of confusion generally. Taiwan Airlines makes the most sense. Or they could play the stupid game the Olympics does and call it Chinese Taipei Airlines.

  19. I propose: TWA – Taiwan Airlines

    And bring the glorious days of Flying again! Just how Howard Hughes imagined it. And China Airlines is great too!!

  20. Many Japanese avoid Chinese carriers because they have an impression that China = unsafe (whether it’s unsafe we will let statistics tell us). The Japanese name of China Airlines is based on the English pronunciation, and many Japanese do not know China Airlines is Taiwanese. I have a friend who specifically tells travel agencies that they do not want to travel on China Airlines because they thought that’s Chinese (irrelevant to its safety records in the 1990s, she genuinely was surprised when I told her China Airlines is Taiwanese). China Airlines is thus losing a lot of transit passengers, such as Japan via Taiwan to Southeast Asia. If Japan, being more familiar with Taiwan than other countries, has confusion over where China Airlines is based, it’s not hard to imagine how much transit passenger business China Airlines is missing worldwide.

    I have read that the name China Airlines is very valuable because China wants that name. Perhaps one option is rebrand Mandarin Airlines as Formosa/Taiwan Airlines, transfer long haul routes to be operated by Formosa/Taiwan Airlines. Keep the China Airlines name, and let it operate China routes and other routes that may face China’s political pressure.

    Keep in mind in the 1990s, Mandarin airlines was established to fly to Australia and Canada because at that time, China pressured those two countries to not allow China Airlines to operate.

  21. @the word Chung Hua (or Zhonghua) in Chinese denotes “Chinese-ness” or Chinese ethnicity. So Republic of China (Taiwan) in Chinese is Chung Hua Min Kuo (Min Kuo = Republic), and PR China (communist) is Zhonghua Renmin Gonghuaguo (Renmin = People, Gonghuaguo = republic). They all use the word “Chung Hua/Zhonghua”.

    So the Chinese word “Chung Hua Hang Kong” really means “China Airlines” but that word “China” doesn’t point out a single country…

  22. “China Airlines” strange as it sound, is in many’s childhood memory
    If the flag carrier of The Netherlands is called KLM Dutch Airlines
    Why not “CAL Taiwan Airlines” then

  23. Have you read about the sleep boxes at Narita at Kansai Airports ? All international arriving passengers have to stay in one of these boxes for up to 2 days whilst waiting for Covid 19 results and at a fee too. If the result would is positive what would happen given they have been required to remain with other people who may at the time be unaffected. If results are negative they are free to leave

  24. This may be the long holdover title (either public or private) by ROC to be used internationally w/o causing “reprimand” from PROC which has Air China being their main international flight operator. CI was founded long before AC. I had a school mate who was a FA at CI, cant be more proud to flash its logo during those years. I bet AC cant wait for the change to happen so they can restore the name to it’s “proper” owner.

  25. I would think their’s value in keeping the China Airlines name simply because the mainland would love to use that name for one of their own airlines. I could see rebranding the long haul name to avoid confusion outside of the region but keeping the name for the short haul network .

  26. I vote for Formosa Airlines. There is really no need to poke China more. Given everyone is busy dealing with Covid 19, China has been ramping up its military flights around Taiwan since no one is watching. Of course had Nationalist party in Taiwan (the one got kick from China in 1949 because they were corrupt) agreed to become an independent country when it had backing of US and Europe in 1971, Taiwan wouldn’t be in the predicament it is in right now.

  27. I know Lucky has connections with DPP supporters, but it’s all about politics for elections.
    But do you know DPP officially supports Donald Trump this year!! (DPP officially bet on Hilary in 2016, and they regret that)
    Could you stop bringing more politics to travel website?
    This topic had used for political purpose for more than TWO DECADES!!!
    You can simply copy-N-paste from same news almost 20 years ago and still fits.

  28. China airline is a great name they should keep it.
    BTW, they propose this every year but never implemented so I am 100% sure that you will see the same name in the next decade.

  29. I imagine they will need to stick with the name China because to not use that term signifies that they do not consider themselves to be (the real) China. If anything, they will use a two word name such as Taiwan Chinese Airlines. Formosa would be more appropriate but few recognize the name.

  30. The comments and article highlight different problems.
    1. Desire to keep China in the name
    2. Desire not to have the name “China” to attract transit passengers.

    Why not keep “China Airlines” as the holding company and a commuter airline? The main airline would take a famous name to get transit passengers. Such names might be Pan Am or Eastern (including the hockey stick livery). Other names are still owned by the big airlines (TWA, BOAC, Canadian Airlines International)

  31. I’ll second Taiwan Airlines
    I was also one of those people who was confused between China Airlines and Air China in the past.

  32. I don’t care about polities. I’m sure Air China is happy now they finally can takE China Airlines. More like business/Money decisions

  33. It would be cool if they brought back the Mandarin Airlines branding (name), which they took over some time back.

  34. Ways to keep “China” and distinguish itself from PDRC. Choose from:

    Free China Airlines
    Independent China Airlines
    National(ist) China Airlines
    Democratic China Airlines

    Any separates Taiwan from PDRC. However, Their name must be a thorn in the side of Beijing, so why change it.

  35. Definitely vote for keeping its name, though it is confusing, you can add remark if you want like a Taipei/Taiwan based airline, etc. But its name as China Airlines has its special meaning and representation in the history. I prefer to keep what it is not simply because people from other parts of the world do not understand the geography and history or many people there do not want to be identified as Chinese even though they are. It shows on their passports (if you want to check online) like the word America, like we have United Airlines and American Airlines. It might be confusing, but other people outside the USA also felt confused about the name “United States” without America. It is like a misconception of the international passengers but people there for sure understand.

  36. I have two choices. One is Dynasty Airlines and the other one is already part of China Airlines’s subsidiary Mandarin Airlines.

  37. I am Asian American and I have no problem with calling it the Chinese virus despite the concerns of many other Asian Americans. The virus came from China and was covered up by China. The WHO even participated in this cover up, and there is even a tweet of them stating that the virus is not transmittable by human-to-human contact in late January. The amount of influence China has over organizations that are supposed to be non-political is astounding, and contributes greatly to the distrust of institutions that is gripping the world right now. I prefer naming the disease “Wuhan pneumonia” instead of COVID-19, as pretty much all of the other pandemic viruses were also named after the region except the one that just so happened to have come from China (MERS, Hong Kong Flu, Spanish Flu, etc). Many Asian countries call the disease “Wuhan pneumonia” in their local language including Taiwan and South Korea, so it’s not a racist thing. China is the only country i n the world right now whose people and government are so triggered by any criticism, and they MUST be brought down to earth.

  38. Formosa Airlines is a great name. Avoids the controversy and has a nice ring to it. And BTW, I agree with one of the comments above: this is a terrific airline. Their business class product is up with the best, and very well priced. Did LAX-TPE-HKG-TPE-LAX with them last year and it was fabulous.

  39. How about…

    Tiananmen Airlines

    Tiananmen translates as “Gate of Heavenly Peace”. Who could possibly object to heavenly peace?

  40. Forgive my ignorance, but I heard that people in Taiwan are divided over their own identity – because the country had been ruled by a dictatorship-minority (ROC) who escaped from the mainland in 1949, where as the majority who were natives (who’ve been called Taiwanese) had no chance to speak out their voice until recently, where democracy finally arrived and now the country is headed by the party headed predominantly by the natives (By natives I also mean the Chinese-dialect speakers whose ancestors lived on the island pre-1949).

    As the airline was formed during the minority rule which was attached to the mainland, it makes sense that they want to rename the airline – and may be the country name too but then that’s a different topic.

    Yes, it’ll be nice to have Taiwan Airlines or Formosa Airlines!

  41. I agree that China Airlines confuses too many people.
    If China (Beijing) is so keen to have the name, why not sell it to them?

    Formosa/Mandarin/Dynasty are all obvious and logical.
    But how about Plum Airlines, Blossom Airlines, or Prunus Airlines, which would mean only logo change would be the text.

  42. I quite like Air Formosa or Formosa Air. A lovely throwback to the nation’s old name.
    If it was RoC Air the marketing lines could be fun, use Queen’s We Will Rock You as the music.

  43. China airlines is a confusing name. Even as an avgeek I sometimes mistake China Airlines for Air China. But out of all those names they are probably going to change it to Taiwan Airlines because it’s clear and it immediately answers the question of where they’re from.

  44. May I suggest Taiwan Air. Shorter option with much higher visibility. Thank you. I wish they would fly to Miami.

  45. If they want to avoid confusion, and they can’t or don’t want to call themselves Taiwan or Formosa Airlines, how about just go with Zhonghua Airlines? Which, um, is already their name. So they would only be changing their name for non-Chinese speakers, simply romanizing it instead of translating it. But since non-Chinese speakers don’t know that Zhonghua means China, problem solved.

  46. A partial and quick solution might be to put the ROC flag prominently on the planes and/or make it the logo.

    Obviously won’t cover all your bases (i.e. when it is copy only) but gets the point across.

  47. If this this outpouring of xenophobia is an indication of what has, is and is about to occur it’s truly terrifying. No less coming from a supposedly well travelled / educated group…

  48. I used to work at China Airlines and it’s very nostalgic and a symbol to many Taiwanese abroad. I say leave the name and paint the Taiwanese flag back on.

  49. It’s sad to see so many ppl just make comments without trying to understand how China Airlines was named at the very beginning and the very valuable meanings behind it.

    Taiwanese ppl (nowadays probably only the elder ones) and Mainland Chinese knew it well and how important it is.

  50. Are you kidding. I could care less about the history of that name. If I’m running a for profit business I would ditch the word China in any way shape or form for the next 10 years. Do you want to go bankrupt? They mind as well rename it to Hello Kitty Super Happy No virus airlines.

    You call anything China, Corona, Wu anything and you’re going to invoke disease to customers whether they realize it or not.

  51. The China name is both an asset and liability which makes whole thing delicate.
    But more and more proof showing it’s more a liability.
    Call it Republic of China Airlines will be best of both worlds I imagine.

  52. I don’t think the Chinese government will mind the name change, at all. An interesting move is the Chinese postal system has included the Taiwan postal system as a branch, although of course they are in no way linked. It will probably even deemed a positive move for mainland, but for Taiwan people, some will see it as self-dwarfing since Taiwan is of course much smaller in scale…

  53. Many Taiwanese friends even report various immigration officials being confused by their passports ( Republic of China) , so it is totally understandable that in today’s world, the word “China” does indeed belong to the other China, whatever the history may be.

  54. Makes good sense. A brand with the ‘china’ word in it has probably not a high brand equity right now.
    Taiwan Airlines sounds good to me or alternatively Formosa airlines.
    Anyway they are a separate country so there is no need to be too closely associated with China.

  55. Don’t give Beijing the name on a plate by ditching it.

    No Need to have a name change. China Airlines Taipei (please, same fontu) as a registered logo, no name change. You can write what you want on the side of a plane, as many do!

    The time may well have past anyway. China Airlines is an established brand now.
    But whatever is decided, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t change the sentimental livery and the beautifully charismatic tail.

  56. Oh the joy of political insults within this blog in reference to anything China.*

    Ben, do you enjoy creating all this fuss? Having people of both sides of the field attacking each other? I thought this is a travel/airline blog and yet, this blog is getting more political as the days go on.

    Guys, Please, can we just stick to what this blog is meant to be?

  57. CI = Celestial International

    Provides a whole crop of imagery for marketing campaigns that can go for decades…..but keep the blossom motif.

  58. The CCP trashed the image of the word “China” so much, I don’t know why any Taiwan company would want to be associated with it.

  59. @K.Sunidja I doubt Ben went in with the specific intention of stirring up a round of political mudslinging by publishing this post.

    Discussion of an airline’s branding and possible name change falls within the realm of travel/airline geeks, doesn’t it? If, say, Air France was considering a name change, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some coverage of that on this blog.

    If you’re suggesting that any aviation-related discussion of Mainland China and Taiwan is off-limits because of the inherently political nature of the topic, then it’s worth pondering the ramifications of such a suggestion. Or did I misunderstand you?

  60. I work in an airline and, based on my experience, it is highly unlikely that CI will engage in such an endeavor in corona times. It’s a relatively complex aeropolitical matter that has a lot of side impact, let alone the cost for rebranding on the pure marketing side. So, in my opinion, it’s not gonna happen. Besides that, I personally like the name China Airlines.

  61. As much as I want China Airlines to adopt the name Taiwan Airlines, I know that would make them lose tons of business in China. For any business, that’s just not smart.

    What about Chunghwa Airlines? Chunghwa is the Mandarin pronunciation of 中華. 🙂

  62. Agree with Chunghwa Airlines. Name would change in English branding only. People in Chinese-speaking countries already understand the difference.

  63. They should just call it Chung Hwa airlines! (i.e., keep the name in Chinese but just transliterate it instead of translate). Then they can keep the Chinese name (which is probably what most people in Taiwan care about), and it would also be in line with the Taiwanese national post / telecom etc (which are all called Chung Hwa ________).

  64. UNI Air, subsidiary of EVA, owns the name right of Taiwan Airlines which they acquired when UNI merged with Taiwan Airlines, in case some people don’t know that.

  65. Formosa Airlines had terrible and very lethal safety records which is the reason CI would never adopt this name even they own the name right.

  66. I always think China airways belongs to China, not Taiwan. Now definitely should be changed to Taiwan airlines!

  67. I wonder if the mainland government might have been more approving of a name change maybe 10-15 years ago when the dubious safety record of CI was perhaps putting people off flying with mainland airlines due to name confusion.

    Like Creditian said, several of the name ideas might run into problems for reasons besides Chinese politics. Several of the suggestions are the names of defunct airlines and might cause legal issues if CI were to want to use them.

    One potential solution would be to have a new English name while retaining the current Chinese name.

    @ktc says: April 13, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    While CI is the IATA code for China Airlines, AC is the code for Air Canada. You presumably mean CA, the code for Air China which was handed down to it following the break up of the state monopoly CAAC Airlines.

  68. Politics/CCP blockade/IATA requirements aside, CI should always be called China Airlines. It’s called Republic of China. People of Taiwan still has “China” on their passport to identify their nationality. Taiwan will always be called “Republic of China”, unless Tsai can boldly make aggressive move of renaming ROC.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reminder: OMAAT comments are changing soon. Register here to save your space.