US airlines have caved to China's 'Orwellian' demands on Taiwan

American Airlines

  • American Airlines is the first major US carrier to change its description of Taiwan as a deadline imposed by China looms.
  • Delta Air Lines followed suit several hours later.
  • US airlines had until July 25, Beijing time, to stop describing Taiwan as a country.
  • Despite the White House calling China’s demands “Orwellian,” dozens of airlines around the world have complied and it looks like US carriers are following suit.

American Airlines has become the first US carrier to modify its description of Taiwan after China demanded changes earlier this year.

American describes all destinations in its booking form in the format of “Airport Name, City, Country” but in Beijing on Wednesday morning local time, the carrier had deleted any city or country name from airports in Taiwan.

Delta Air Lines made a similar change several hours later, listing all destinations in Taiwan as “City,” without any country descriptor.

On April 25, China began demanding that airlines stop listing self-ruled Taiwan as a country, and instead describe it as a province of China, which frequently tries to assert its claim to the island on the global stage. The incident involved letters sent to at least 36 foreign airlinesGovernments got involved, and the White House even released a statement slamming the demand as “Orwellian nonsense.”

Despite the political pushback, dozens of airlines have altered their websites. China threatened the airlines with marks against company social-credit scores if they did not comply, and this could have affected carriers’ access to what will soon be the largest air-travel market on the planet.

US airlines were given until July 25 to make the change. A White House spokesperson said on Tuesday that they are “aware” of the situation.

A spokesperson from the US State Department told Business Insider that it has consistently conveyed to the Chinese government that it strongly objects to demands that private firms use specific political language and that US airlines shouldn’t be forced to comply. The spokesperson also said the State Department has raised the issue with other governments and has been in close contact with US airlines, but did not tell them how to respond.

United Airlines is yet to make a change, but is expected to follow a similar solution.

Earlier this year, Delta was censured by China’s Civil Aviation Administration for listing both Taiwan and Tibet as countries on its website. The agency demanded an “immediate and public apology” and the airline responded by saying it had made a “grave mistake.”

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