Several major airlines once operated wholly owned Asian subsidiaries specifically to operate flights into Taiwan. This was due to a Chinese law which prevented national carriers from flying to both China and Taiwan.

Disguising the airlines was necessary. China considers Taiwan to be part of their country, while the people of Taiwan see themselves as independent. Therefore, a national airline flying to Taiwan was seen in Chinese eyes as supporting Taiwanese independence. To get around this, new airlines were created with different names and modified liveries.

British Asia Airways

British Airways formed British Asia Airways in March 1993 and it operated services from Taipei to London Heathrow via Hong Kong. The writing on the tail means “British Asia” and they used the IATA airline code BR.

When then Utopia scheme came in, the tail was changed to the Chelsea Rose, which you can see at the top of this article. Flights to Taipei ceased in December 2001 and the operation was wound up at that time.

Australia Asia Airlines

Australia’s Qantas formed Australia Asia Airlines in 1990, using two Boeing 747SPs and a Boeing 767 for their services. Originally they used the IATA code IM but switched to the standard QF designator in 1994.

Once Qantas was privatised and was no longer a national carrier, they were able to operate to Taipei and mainland China as themselves. The operation was wound up in 1996.

Japan Asia Airlines

The longest serving subsidiary was Japan Asia Airlines, which commenced operations all the way back in 1975. Various aircraft featured on the services including a Douglas DC-8, a few Douglas DC-10s, various Boeing 747s and also a few Boeing 767s.

Final flights took place on 31 March 2008, after which Japan Airlines operated under their own brand. The IATA code for Japan Asia was EG, differentiating from the JL of the main company.

KLM Asia

KLM Asia is operated by Dutch airline KLM, which started services in 1995. The aircraft have no Dutch flag or crown logo and are still flying today.

A number of Boeing 777’s are in the livery and they can also be found operating other services in the network. Of course, you probably wouldn’t notice anything different, as for all intents and purposes, they are KLM.

Air France Asie

Founded in 1994, Air France Asie was responsible for the French services to Taipei. The livery had the new airline name and the fin had the red stripe replaced with a blue one.

A couple of Airbus A340s and a couple of Boeing 747-400s were used for the these flights. Passenger services ceased in 2004 and that marked the end of the subsidiary.

Swissair Asia

Starting in 1995, Swissair Asia operated a pair of McDonnell Douglas MD-11s on flights to Taipei via Bangkok. Instead of the usual cross on the fin, the Chinese character for Switzerland was used instead.

Of course, Swissair ceased operating entirely on 31 March 2002, replaced by SWISS. As a result, I am not entire sure when their Taipei operation was wound up.

Mandarin Airlines

Taiwan’s China Airlines also created a subsidiary called Mandarin Airlines for the same reasons. They commenced operations with a Boeing 747SP loaned from the parent airline on 16 October 1991.

In 1995, the parent company changed its livery to remove the national flag from its aircraft, meaning they could then serve the routes in their own right. Mandarin Airlines continues today as a small domestic and regional airline – one with an interesting history, it seems.

Overall Thoughts

It’s interesting when political rules impact business, and it’s fun seeing the response to circumvent the rules. Since national carriers were not allowed to be seen in China’s eyes to be “supporting Taiwan”, this is what had to be done in order to run air services.

Lufthansa also served Taiwan, but they used their Condor subsidiary, which has long been their charter and leisure arm. As such, they already had a vehicle to do what they wanted to do with flights to Taipei.

Were you aware of this challenge the airlines had to face? Did you ever fly to Taipei on one of the Asia versions of the airlines and if so, was anything different? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Air France Asie by Aero Icarus via Wikiwand.
Australia Asia Airways by R.N. Smith via
British Asia Airways Chelsea Rose by Edge to Edge Photography on Flickr.
British Asia Airways Landor by Tim Rees on via Wikimedia Commons.
Japan Asia Airways by S.Fujioka via Wikimedia Commons.
KLM Asia by Kok Vermeulen via Wikimedia Commons.
Mandarin Airlines by JetPix on via Wikimedia Commons.
Swissair Asia by Ken Fielding on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.