China Eastern, Xiamen Airlines cancel Taiwan flights amid routes row

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Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration said it was "denying the airlines permission for the flights because they were flying sensitive new routes in the Taiwan Strait that China began using without consulting Taiwan's government", according to (paywall) the New York Times.

China rebuffed Taiwan's objections in a deepening row over the opening of new flight paths in the Taiwan Strait, saying on Wednesday that the space separating routes over the waterway was more than is mandated by worldwide standards.

Both airlines are in the process of reimbursing or rescheduling flights for those who booked tickets with them.

China Eastern Airlines and XiamenAir have cancelled 176 Taiwan flights scheduled for the Lunar New Year Spring Festival holiday period.

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.

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Taiwan, though, has objected to a new route known as M503, which it says passes dangerously close to existing airports on the Tiaoyutai Islands.

The government slammed the move as reckless and politically motivated, adding it could threaten Taiwan's security and endanger flight safety.

China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that will eventually be part of the country again, but many Taiwanese want a separate nation.

Two Chinese airlines were forced to cancel hundreds of flights Tuesday, as tensions over air navigation between China and Taiwan rise. "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.

Kinmen and Matsu have both been under Taiwan's control since defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Mr Chen Kuang-chung, a Taiwanese entrepreneur in the Chinese city of Xiamen, said: "Unable to buy an air ticket, I would have to travel by ship from Xiamen to Kinmen before taking a local airline to return to Taipei".

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