Earlier this week, we took a look at the reasons why commercial aircraft don’t overfly Tibet. As it happens, this autonomous region of China isn’t the only part of the country where certain airspace restrictions are in place. Indeed, Taiwanese carrier EVA Air’s routes to Europe aren’t as direct as it might like them to be, due to its inability to overfly much of the Chinese mainland.
EVA Air’s European network in a nutshell
Let’s start by establishing the nature of EVA Air’s European network, which it serves from its hub at Taipei Taoyuan International (TPE). Earlier this week, the carrier made its latest addition, by operating its first non-stop service to Milan Malpensa (MXP). Next week, EVA Air will also begin its services to Munich (MUC).
In terms of the airline’s more established European routes, it has been serving the likes of Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS), London Heathrow (LHR), Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Vienna (VIE) for somewhat longer.
Indeed, the additions of Milan and Munich to its portfolio of routes represented EVA Air’s first expansion of its European network in 25 years. You may be aware that some of its flights to the continent operate via Thailand’s Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), despite it being located south of the most direct route. However, there are reasons for this regarding the use of mainland Chinese airspace.
Photo: Getty Images
The long way round
These complications have arisen due to historical tensions between China and Taiwan. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, China still considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, despite Taiwan having been independent since 1949. As a result of these tensions, it has prohibited most airlines from overflying the country on routes between Europe and Taiwan.
EVA Air is one of these airlines, resulting in longer flight times. As seen in the map below, its direct flights to Europe have to fly to the south of the Chinese mainland, with this diversion causing them to have to spend as long as 15 hours in the air. Bangkok is almost en route by going this way, making the stopover there make more sense. Flying north over Russia in the current climate is also off the cards.
According to ch-aviation.com, being able to overfly mainland Chinese airspace could save EVA Air as much as two hours on its European routes. Indeed, the schedules for Air France, which is exempt from the restriction, show that its Taipei-Paris flights sometimes spend less than 13 hours in the air. The French flag carrier’s fellow SkyTeam member KLM is also allowed to overfly China.
China Airlines faces similar problems
It certainly isn’t for the want of trying on EVA Air’s part, with the carrier having applied for Chinese overflight rights back in 2019. At the time of reporting this, ch-aviation also noted that fellow Taiwanese carrier China Airlines has the same issues on its European routes. This concerns the airline’s flights to Amsterdam, Frankfurt (FRA), London Gatwick (LGW), Rome Fiumicino (FCO), and Vienna.
Did you know about these restrictions? Have you ever flown on a flight that has taken longer due to airspace restrictions? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
Sources: ch-aviation.com, Council on Foreign Relations
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Airline Type:
- Full Service Carrier
- Taoyuan International Airport
- Year Founded:
- Star Alliance
- Chen Hsien-Hung
- Republic of China