Beijing has given Taiwan's China Airlines (CAL) and EVA Air permission to overfly China enroute to Europe in the wake of Taipei's more flexible approach to its relations with China.

There was never much doubt that Beijing would allow the flights. What is surprising is that Taipei even allowed its two international airlines to ask. When the same issue arose in 2001, the Taiwan government rebuffed suggestions from CAL and EVA that they seek first freedoms from China to skirt the war in Afghanistan. For 50 years Taiwan's airlines had not used Chinese airspace for scheduled flights and Taipei was not ready in 2001 to seek any change in that policy. Now it obviously is.

At least for the duration of the Iraqi war, CAL and EVA had clearance from China's civil aviation administration to overfly western China. CAL has been using its new authority, but so far EVA has not. So long as the Middle East conflict was confined to Iraq, EVA's flights already skirted the war zone. Permission to overfly China gave the carrier other options if the conflict widened, EVA says.

Taipei has not explained its policy change in allowing Taiwanese airlines to seek Chinese overflights. The ministry of transport simply says it was concerned about passenger safety. The shift fits a pattern started within the past year, however, where Taipei has relaxed bans by approving Taiwanese charters to Shanghai over the Chinese New Year holiday, and by allowing and then extending the period for charters with South Korea. In all these cases Taipei has retreated without explanation from prior positions involving its relations with China in favour of a more flexible approach.

Source: Airline Business