Airlines scrap, reroute flights as China conducts drills near Taiwan

The intense exercises are set to run until noon local time on Sunday



Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

By Reuters

Published: Fri 5 Aug 2022, 11:46 AM

Airlines have cancelled flights to Taipei and rerouted others to avoid airspace nearby that has been closed to civilian traffic.

China deployed scores of planes and fired live missiles near Taiwan on Thursday, in its biggest-ever drills in the Taiwan Strait, set to run until noon local time on Sunday, in six zones encircling much of the island.

The airspace involved is comparatively small, but the disruption is hampering travel between Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia. This would lead to re-routings that could take longer and burn extra fuel, according to OPSGROUP, an aviation industry cooperative that shares information on flight risks.

Temporary airspace closures and route changes during major military exercises occur regularly around the world.

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Korean Air Lines Co Ltd and Singapore Airlines Ltd said that they had cancelled flights to and from Taipei on Friday due to the exercises, with the Korean carrier also cancelling its Saturday flights and delaying its Sunday flights.

Japan's ANA Holdings Inc and Japan Airlines Co Ltd are still operating flights to Taipei as normal, spokespeople for the airlines said, but are avoiding the affected airspace on those flights, as well as on routes to Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd and Philippines Airlines said that their flights were avoiding designated airspace zones around Taiwan, in a move that could lead to more flying time for some flights, while Vietnam's aviation regulator warned its airlines to avoid the area.

Flight tracking service FlightRadar24 showed Taiwanese carriers China Airlines Ltd and EVA Airways Corp were still flying to and from the island as of Friday morning, as were cargo carriers FedEx Corp and United Parcel Service Inc, though they avoided the areas affected by the military drills.

Emirates, United Airlines Holdings Inc, and Turkish Airlines had flights en route to Taipei on Friday morning local time, Flightradar24 showed.

Taiwan, along with mainland China and Hong Kong, is one of the few places in the world that still requires quarantine for arrivals because of Covid-19, meaning there are far fewer flights here than before the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Taiwan said that it was negotiating with neighbouring countries like Japan and the Philippines to find alternative aviation routes, the official Central News Agency (CNA) reported.

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