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December, 4, 2016

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TransAsia aftermath a failed attempt at gov't coordination

The abrupt dissolution of TransAsia Airways last week revealed two things about the government.

First, it showed that the government had a loose grasp on the real condition of one of Taiwan's major airlines. Second, it showed that the government struggles when forced to respond to crises.

Contradictory statements from the Executive Yuan and the Minister of Transportation and Communications on Nov. 23 concerning the handover of TransAsia routes further muddled the situation.

Shortly after the Executive Yuan announced China Airlines (CAL) would take over all of TransAsia's routes except the one between Magong and Kinmen, Transportation Minister Ho Chen Tan contradicted his superiors by saying CAL would actually only handle TransAsia's two exclusive routes (Taipei-Hualien and Taichung-Hualien).

Amid the confusion, the Executive Yuan issued a response telling the media to take the government's statement as the final word.

The conflicting assertions were made despite the fact that the transportation minister was himself present at a cross-ministry meeting handling the closure of TransAsia. The confusion illustrated the lack of coordination between government agencies.

The event also revealed conflicts between the Executive Yuan and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC). The Executive Yuan's sweeping decision on the handover of flight routes was intended to stymy political fallout. The MOTC, on the other hand, was more concerned about due process in the transfer of cross-strait and international routes, as well as the lack of fairness in handing almost all of TransAsia routes to one airline without adequate discussion.

Apple Daily quoted an unnamed senior source from the Presidential Office, who criticized the MOTC for its lack of political shrewdness and for exhibiting a "sectionalist" mentality and not realizing the urgency of the situation at hand.

The Executive Yuan was right to strive for a quick response, and the MOTC should not have added confusion by publicly contradicting the Executive Yuan's announcement. However, the transportation minister should not be regarded simply as a clueless government official. His concern for due process and fairness should be taken seriously. As he pointed out, vacated international and cross-strait flight routes belong to the "open sky" and are available for application to all interested airlines. Unilaterally announcing the handover of all relevant routes to one airline, even for a short duration, violates the rules and smacks of favoritism.

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