Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr on Friday lashed out at China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 中華航空), saying it has “poisoned” the market by neglecting its air route to the Pacific archipelago and that he plans to initiate talks with Taipei over the matter.
Whipps made the remark at a routine news conference at the Presidential Office in Ngerulmud, after being asked to comment on frequent flight cancelations by China Airlines.
“I think China Airlines is playing with [the] Palau market. They need to change their behavior, need to be invested and think long-term about the Palau market,” a report by the Palau-based newspaper Island Times cited Whipps as saying.
Photo: Ann Wang, Reuters
“What they are doing is poisoning Palau’s market and it is irresponsible. For example, a person books a ticket to come to Palau as a tourist, and what happens, they [CAL] cancel the flight. The flights are no longer reliable,” he was cited as saying.
US-based United Airlines, which operates direct flights from Honolulu to Palau, has offered consistent service every week and is opening a second weekly flight starting on Dec. 18, he said.
“Seems like China Airlines is poorly run,” Whipps said, adding that Palau would talk to Taipei about solutions — including finding another carrier to step in if China Airlines is unable to consistently provide one flight per week.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) yesterday said that a Taiwan-Palau “travel bubble” has served more than 2,300 tourists and 124 patients since it was established on April 1.
The government has affirmed China Airlines’ contributions to the growth of Taiwan-Palau tourism ties, she said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic, fluctuations in demand and concerns over profitability have had an unavoidable effect on flights within the travel bubble.
The ministry is committed to working with government agencies and the carrier to improve the quality of flight services and ensure the sustainability of the Taiwan-Palau air route, she said.
The governments of Taiwan and Palau are in talks to relax border controls, and facilitate tourism and movement without jeopardizing safety during the pandemic, she said, adding that Palau on Oct. 7 recognized the COVID-19 vaccine made by Taiwan’s Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp (高端疫苗), making it easier for Taiwanese to visit Palau.
Taiwan treasures its relationship with Palau and both sides want to maintain stable flights between the two countries, she said, adding that the ministry would take the necessary steps to improve the consistency of CAL flights.
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