Taiwan’s EVA Air is caught in the seemingly endless historical battle of wills between the communist mainland Peoples Republic and the remnants of the former Republic of China, know to all as Taiwan.
The mainland sees the island state as a breakaway province and is determined to bring it back, but the facts are that the 70 years that have passed since the two went their separate ways has left a cultural and political gulf between them.
All these years later and the communists are constantly trying to find ways of making life difficult for the island, on one hand while offering concessions on the other, the traditional carrot and stick approach. In many ways this has intensified in recent years.
This has left Taiwan’s two primary airlines, China Airlines and EVA Air unable to fly over China to Europe. They have to take extended routes south and over SE Asia some of the year, and north over Russia and the Arctic when viable, adding two to three hours to many of their flights, noteably Vienna, Heathrow, Frankfurt and Paris.
While both airlines have aircraft capable of the journey, being allowed the simple courtesy of flying over China would make a commercial and viable difference to both airlines.
The Chinese however see it as leverage, and if they granted the request to EVA Air, it would inevitably come at some kind of cost, almost certainly one that further undermines Taiwan’s independence, even in small incremental ways.
Only two years ago every company from airlines to cruise ships that travelled to Taiwan was told by the Chinese that unless they changed their website and brochures to “Taiwan, China” – making it clear China possessed Taiwan – they would be banned from flying or sailing to mainland China. Most airlines around the world objected and did it anyway, some US airlines made a huge fuss over it, and haven’t changed. China did nothing.
EVA Air has a modern fleet of 777-300ER’s, along with 787-9’s, the fourth of which arrives next year, with 787-10’s on order. It recently scheduled its final 744F flight as it takes delivery of its last 777F. China Airlines recently ordered A321neoLR’s – one of the reasons was to get around the Chinese mainland.