WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The three largest US airlines have changed the behavior of self-determined Taiwan on their websites to avoid Chinese punishment by Wednesday.
FILE PHOTO: American Airlines planes are parked at Washington National Airport Ronald Reagan in Washington, USA, on August 8, 201
Beijing has demanded that foreign companies and especially airlines not refer to their websites on Taiwan as non-Chinese territory, a move that was referred to by the White House in May as "Orwellian nonsense".
China has set a final deadline for amendments on July 25 and last month the US rejected discussions on the matter that contribute to tensions in relationships that are already frayed by an escalating trade dispute.
Taiwan is China's most sensitive territorial issue. Beijing considers the island an idiosyncratic province of "one China".
Reuters reported early Tuesday that American Airlines Group Inc. ( AAL.O ), Delta Air Lines ( DAL.N ) and United Airlines ( UAL. N) ) should change on their websites as they relate to Taiwanese airports. American Airlines confirmed the change later in the day.
A review of the websites of all three airlines on Wednesday morning showed that they now only provide the airport code and the city of Taipei, but not the name Taiwan. Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it "strongly condemned" the use of political power by the Chinese government "to intervene roughly and unreasonably in private commercial activities and operations of international companies".
It was not clear how China could penalize airlines that did not comply, but in December a clause was included in the rules of foreign airlines stating that regulators could change the approval of a company if it did not meet the requirement of would correspond to public interest.
American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said the company had implemented the changes at China's request in line with other airlines. "Air travel is a global business, and we follow the rules in countries where we operate," she said Tuesday.
Hawaiian Airlines ( HA.O ) had changed their website before the deadline to display searches for flights to the Taiwanese capital Taipei as "Taipei, Taipei" in drop-down menus, Reuters reported Tuesday morning.
The US State Department and the White House did not respond late to requests for a late Tuesday.
Numerous non-US airlines, including Air Canada ( AC.TO ), Lufthansa ( LHAG.DE ) and British Airways ( ICAG.L ) Reuters checks have already made changes to their websites after China's Civil Aviation Authority sent a letter to 36 foreign airlines earlier this year.
Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; additional coverage by Jamie Freed in Singapore and Jessica Macy Yu in Taipei; Edited by Michael Perry, Stephen Coates and Himani Sarkar