Qantas says it plans to change its website to refer to Taiwan as a Chinese territory, not an independent nation — bowing to pressure from Beijing.
- The move to change the website means Qantas will echo Australia’s official position on Taiwan
- Last week, DFAT Secretary Frances Adamson said the Government was “strongly opposed” to Beijing’s tactics
- Qantas’s international head says the extra time is needed to work through “complexity” on the program
In April, China’s aviation regulator gave three dozen airlines a May 25 deadline to remove references on their websites or in other material that suggest Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are part of countries independent from China, a move described by the White House as “Orwellian nonsense”.
At the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual meeting on Monday, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said his company planned to comply with the request, although they needed extra time.
“Our intention is to meet the requirements. It is just taking time to get there,” Mr Joyce told journalists on the sidelines of the meeting.
Beijing considers self-ruling Taiwan to be part of its territory and the move to change the website means Qantas will echo Australia’s official position on Taiwan.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, “the Australian Government does not recognise the ROC as a sovereign state and does not regard the authorities in Taiwan as having the status of a national government.”
Qantas passengers could select Taiwan as their country of origin on the airline’s Frequent Flyer website. (Supplied)
Despite this, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has been strongly against Beijing’s attempts to pressure Qantas into changing their website, issuing a statement to the effect last month.
“The terms that private companies choose to list destinations are a matter for them,” Ms Bishop said in a statement responding to reports of Beijing’s requests to Qantas.
“There should be no pressure from governments, whether ours or others, that threatens the ordinary operations of business.”
Last week, Senators asked DFAT secretary Frances Adamson about China’s attempts to heap pressure on the airlines.
Ms Adamson told a Senate committee that the Federal Government was “strongly opposed” to Beijing’s tactics.
“I just want to be clear that while we may express views in a variety of ways — sometimes very publicly, sometimes behind the scenes — the Government cannot be in a position to tolerate the exercise of economic coercion,” Ms Adamson said.
The chief executive of Qantas’s international unit, Alison Webster, said the decision was not influenced by Qantas’s partnership with China Eastern Airlines Corp.
“I don’t think the relationship makes any difference to how we review our response,” Ms Webster said.
She said Qantas only needed extra time to make the change because “we have some complexity to work through”.
“This is not just Qantas Airways, this is the Qantas group that has to be adjusted,” Ms Webster said.
Due to the technology behind Qantas’s websites, “it takes some time for us to get to grips with changes that need to be put into the program,” she said.