China Airlines joins SkyTeam Alliance

Making regular trips to the Far East? You might want to reconsider your loyalty carrier. China Airlines has become the most recent airline to join the SkyTeam Alliance, which includes Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, TAROM and Vietnam Airlines.

Headquartered in Taipei, China Airlines is the largest airline of Taiwan. The China Airlines network will complement those of Guangzhou-based China Southern and Shanghai-based China Eastern, both current SkyTeam members.

“Delta is delighted and honoured to welcome China Airlines into the SkyTeam alliance,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s president. “The addition of this well respected airline complements Delta’s existing service to Taiwan and with China Airline’s strong hub in Taipei our customers will benefit from improved access to one of the world’s fastest-growing regions.”

[Flickr via davidreid]

China Airlines fined for price fixing

China Airlines is the latest carrier to get fined for price-fixing air cargo rates. The Taiwan-based airline plead guilty and now faces a $40 million fine. Northwest Airlines has also plead guilty.

A total of 18 airlines have been snared by the Department of Justice in an ongoing investigation. Eight airline executives have also been charged. The Department of Justice has imposed a total of $1.6 billion in fines and given four executives jail time for a conspiracy that reaches back to early 2000. China Airlines was conspiring with other airlines to fix cargo rates to and from the United States, a violation of antitrust laws. Rates are supposed to be subject to the free market, but the airlines secretly agreed to set a rate in order to maximize profits.

For a complete list of the airlines and executives involved, click here.

Direct flights between China and Taiwan resume

The miles between Taiwan and mainland China are not many. But, in history the distance across the Taiwan Strait has been huge.

When I lived in Taiwan in the late 1990s, travel to cities in mainland China from Taiwan meant heading to another country or through Hong Kong first. There weren’t any direct flights otherwise. This meant a vacation that might have been an inexpensive and easy trip involved more time and money. As a result, we traveled in Taiwan or headed to Thailand instead.

Today the tides have changed. According to this article, the first direct passenger plane between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China (China) happened early this morning. The last such flight was in 1949 after China’s civil war when Chiang Kai-shek headed to Taiwan to set up another government. Along with this first flight will be 16 others over the course of today and several more throughout the week. Recently, there have been special tourist charter flights, but today air traffic has been normalized for the regular traveler who is not part of a special group.

This is big news indeed. It does indicate a more normalized relationship between Taiwan and the mainland, for one thing, and points to the power of the tourist dollar. Tourism between these two countries will economically benefit both. It’s estimated that by 2010 the number of Chinese tourists to Taiwan could triple, according to the president of Taiwan’s China Airlines.

I’m wondering where they will all fit on a weekend? Seriously, there are some places in Taiwan that are already absolutely packed on a holiday.

Stop in Taipei, Save $100

Good deals abound for the traveler willing to take a Taipei pit stop. Not only will the usual $100 landing fee surcharge be lifted, but if you stay two nights you can get a $79/night deal at participating hotels. The “I Land Paradise” promotion (which applies to any Asia-bound China Airlines or EVA Airways flight departing from a U.S. airport) starts Oct. 1 and runs until June 30.

The main problem with the promotion is that there are no direct flights from Taipei to China’s mainland except during the Lunar New Year. So if you’re on your way to China and want to take advantage of the deal, you’ll need to go through Hong Kong and then catch a flight to the mainland. I’ve stopped in Taipei several times en route to Southeast Asia, but I’ve never left the airport. The lifted surcharge could certainly convince me to lengthen my stay.

Attractions include the Shilin Night Market (see The Kozy Shack’s photo) and the National Palace Museum. For more stuff to see and do, check out AOL’s Taipei site.

China Airlines Paints Over Burnt Logo

I’m sure that by now you’ve heard about the China Airlines plane that went in up in flames last week. Luckily, passengers were able to slip-n-slide out literally seconds before the plane’s burning fuselage exploded. (Check out the video after the jump.)

What you might not have heard is that as soon as the fire was out, officials from China Airlines covered their logo with a thick coat of white paint.

“Before painting over the name and logo, the airline sought permission from the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry’s Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission,” according to the Mainichi Daily News. “Officials granted the request, judging that it would not hinder the investigation into the accident, and the airline painted over the markings following inspections carried out on Tuesday.”

I can’t say I blame them. When your airline averages over six times as many fatality incidents per one-million flights than the world-wide average, you need to do whatever it takes to save the few remaining customers who were in a cave this past week and didn’t hear about the exploding plane. If they were really smart, they would have painted a rival airline’s logo on the side instead. [via]