Today, China launched live-fire military drills near Taiwan a day after U.S House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed on the self-ruled island. 

The Asian aviation industry has had to react. Asian carriers across South Korea, Vietnam and China are enacting preventative measures in light of the growing political tensions around Taiwan by cancelling or rerouting their services. 

Further details 

China’s military confirmed that it will be conducting its biggest-ever drills in the Taiwan Strait on Thursday. The planned exercises are set to continue until 12 pm on Sunday. 

The military drills are in response to the discontent amongst China’s government regarding Nancy’s unannounced visit to Taiwan in support of the island, which Beijing regards as its sovereign territory.

Some airlines have since had to react to the military exercises in the best possible manner to protect airline crews and passengers. 

South Korea’s Korean Air and Asiana Airlines are cancelling flights to Taiwan for a maximum of two days because of the Chinese military exercises in the area, according to local media. 

Korean Air A380 in Seoul
Korean Air is the largest airline in South Korea. | © Ben Suskind

Korean Air has cancelled its Incheon – Taiwan service on Friday and Saturday while Asiana Airlines has cancelled Friday’s direct flight to Taiwan and will be monitoring the situation before making any further cancellations. 

Vietnam Airlines has also opted to avoid all airspace near the Taiwan Strait. Vietnamese authorities have ordered all carriers to avoid the carrier following an advisory message from China to all airlines in Asia on Wednesday. This message likely encouraged South Korea’s national carrier and Asiana Airlines to avoid the area in the meantime. 

Vietnam Airlines
Vietnam Airlines has hubs at Noi Bai International Airport and Tan Son Nhat International Airport. | © Benson Truong

Vietnam’s national carrier has temporarily rerouted flights bound from or through northeast Asia (including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and any U.S traffic that would usually fly over the region) in response to the military drills. The rerouted flights came into effect today and will remain that way until the military operations conclude, according to The Times of India. 

36 routes will be affected by the changes made by Vietnam Airlines. 

Changes in China 

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific has also shared today that its flights are no longer flying through particularly airspace zones around Taiwan as a precaution. In a statement, Hong Kong’s national carrier added that “this may potentially lead to more flying time for some flights and we appreciate our customers’ understanding.”

They too are monitoring the situation closely. 

Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific is a oneworld airline based in Hong Kong. | ©Roy Liu

Singapore Airlines, via a spokesperson, told CNA (Channel News Asia) that its passenger and cargo flights “currently do not traverse Taiwanese airspace” with the exception of “flights SQ878 and SQ879.” Both flights connect Singapore to Taipei. 

Low-cost carrier Scoot, a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, is following suit with Singapore. The carrier is also continuing to run connections to Taipei but also connections to Tokyo that stop in Taipei. 

Singapore Airlines aircraft taxiing
Singapore Airlines is a Star Alliance airline based in Singapore Changi Airport. | © Andrea Ongaro / Travel Radar

More changes to come? 

It is likely, especially following the advisory message from China, that more Asian airlines will follow suit and avoid the Taiwan strait until Sunday at the latest. 

Pelosi is the highest-ranking U.S politician to visit the island of Taiwan in 25 years and there’s no doubt her trip has caused quite a stir and heightened political tensions between the U.S and China. 

Affected by this disruption in Taiwan? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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