Airlines cancel almost 200 flights amid Taiwan, China airspace dispute

Airlines cancel almost 200 flights amid Taiwan, China airspace dispute

Airlines cancel almost 200 flights amid Taiwan, China airspace dispute

The Civil Aviation Administration of China condemned authorities in Taiwan for refusing to approve 176 flights to be operated by China Eastern and Xiamen Air using the newly opened airway M503, saying the decision disregarded the welfare of people on both sides of the strait, according to a CAAC statement published January 19.

The drill takes place annually before the Lunar New Year holiday - which is in mid-February this year - as a way to boost public confidence in Taiwan's defences. Officials from the Taiwan government have said that the flight routes pose a risk as they pass through island airports that are under their control but are geographically positioned near mainland China.

Two Chinese airlines have scrapped flights between China and Taiwan, amid a row between Beijing and Taipei over access to air routes.

Tensions have been growing this month since Beijing started new flight routes in the strait without consulting Taiwan.

Among the disputed routes China opened to Taiwan this month is M503, a northbound route up the Taiwan Strait, which skirts air space used for Taiwanese military exercises, Singapore's Straits Times reports. Earlier this month, a statement was released by the Civil Aviation Administration of China indicating that it was opening four new routes to reduce pressure on the current air traffic over the Taiwan airspace. Xiamen Airlines said it will fully refund or help with ticket changes for the more than 10,000 passengers affected by the cancellation of the 70 extra flights.

China's move has been viewed in Taiwan as a show of disrespect, one that could heighten the risk of a unsafe incident and potentially provoke a crisis in the increasingly tense cross-strait relationship. "All along, we said we hope that the situation can meet the needs of travellers and that we can all discuss an appropriate arrangement for the added flights", he said. As a result, the Taiwanese government withheld approval of route applications from the Chinese airlines. "It's not at all that we said we didn't agree for them to apply", Ho continued.

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