Ops to Taiwan? You’ll have to avoid China

By David Mumford

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  • Can I fly between China and Taiwan?
  • If I make a stop in Hong Kong, is that ok?
  • What about overflights?
  • Can I overfly China to get to Taiwan?

There’s a boring answer to these questions, and there’s a fun answer.

The Fun Answer

OPSGROUP members have all the fun – you guys get to play the game. We tested it out and managed to find the ‘cheat mode’, so we left the screen open for you. You can download this (along with all the other Opsicles we’ve made) via your Dashboard here.

OPSGROUP members: Click to download PDF.

The Boring Answer

You can’t fly between China and Taiwan in a foreign-registered aircraft.

The Chinese authorities are reluctant to provide any kind of official document stating any of this – we haven’t been able to find any precise wording anywhere in their AIP which states these restrictions.

To test the theory, we applied to the Chinese authorities for a landing permit for a direct flight from Taiwan to China. After we applied, we received an immediate call from CAAC emphasising that they will not deal with such applications for foreign registered aircraft. They advised they will not process this application and verbally rejected it.

The Chinese authorities circulate an official document to Chinese handling agents about this issue, which sets out the rules quite clearly. For some reason, they don’t like these to be distributed outside of China… so naturally, we got our hands on a translated copy:

So, to summarize:

  • Foreign-registered aircraft are prohibited from operating direct between China and Taiwan.
  • You’ve got to make a tech stop somewhere between the two countries – most choose to do so in either VHHH/Hong Kong or VMMC/Macau.
  • Importantly, the same rules apply for China overflights – if you’re flying to Taiwan from any third country, you can’t overfly China. China allow some airline flights to Taiwan to overfly China, then the Hong Kong FIR. But they don’t allow non-sched and private flights to do this. 
  • Only Chinese and Taiwanese registered aircraft are able to operate direct between China and Taiwan.

There’s one more scenario that is apparently also not allowed:

You can’t overfly both China and Taiwan and then land in a third country. For example: you’re departing from RPLL/Manilla in the Philippines, then overflying Taiwan (RCAA FIR), then overflying China (ZSHA FIR), and then landing in a third country like RKSI/Seoul in South Korea – according to the Chinese authorities, this is not allowed, and they won’t issue an overflight permit!

Further reading:

  • For some general top tips on ops to China, check here.
  • Make sure you know about the hidden permit costs of operating to China here.
  • Read about the latest goings on in the South China Sea here.
  • OPSGROUP members can download a Himalayan Routing Guide here.
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More on the topic:

More reading:

David Mumford

David Mumford

OPSGROUP Helmsman of the B's: Blog, Bulletin, and Briefs. Question for us? Write to blog.team@ops.group.

4 Comments

  • Doug says:

    What about an airline using TPE as an alternate for a Chinese airport? I assume from this that clearance to divert to TPE would be at best difficult and it would be better to use HKG.

    • Dermot Bell says:

      China is difficult for TPE and Japanese destinations. You can use TPE as ALTN for China Dest as long as you are fuel and go only. They will not process passengers in immigration who hold a Chinese passport.

  • Thomas says:

    I believe there is another exception, if you overfly Hong Kong FIR after crossing mainland China you are allowed to fly to Taiwan FIR. KLM used to fly direct to TPE pre covid/pre ukrainian war flying a route to Hong Kong, and then making a left turn towards Taiwan! Same applies for Turkish Airlines, crossing the chinese border in Kunning FIR, then overflying Hong Kong towards Taiwan. Both turkish and KLM did not make a stop in Taiwan but just overflew them!

    • David Mumford says:

      Hi Thomas! You’re right – they allow the airlines to do that, but not GA/BA flights! Thanks for pointing it out though, I’ll update the article to include a note on this.

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