Scoot joins SIA in cancelling Taipei flights amid China military drills around Taiwan

A group of Taiwanese travellers checking their flight statuses at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Aug 5, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Budget airline Scoot has cancelled all its flights to Taipei scheduled to leave Singapore on Friday (Aug 5) and Saturday due to airspace restrictions around Taiwan amid China's military drills in the area.

Scoot’s move came hot on the heels of Singapore Airlines (SIA) cancelling two of its flights scheduled on Friday - SQ878 from Singapore to Taipei, and SQ879 for the returning leg.

The cancellations came after China sent an official notice on Tuesday to airlines operating in Asia to avoid flying in areas around Taiwan. The notice said flights will be restricted from Thursday noon to Sunday noon, and designated six “danger zones” in the airspace around Taiwan.

On Friday, Scoot said two of its flights to Taipei were cancelled. Flight TR996 was scheduled to leave Singapore at 9.55am on Friday, and TR898 was scheduled to depart at 1am on Saturday for its stopover at Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport before continuing to Narita Airport in Toyko.

The returning legs of the two flights – TR997 and TR899 – were also cancelled, Scoot said on Friday. 

TR997 was meant to leave Taipei at 5.10pm on Friday, while TR899 was scheduled to depart from Japan’s Narita Airport on Saturday at 12.05pm for its stopover in Taipei before arriving in Singapore at 8.30pm.

But on Thursday, the route of flight TR899 was amended to bypass its stopover in Taipei and head straight to Singapore, said a spokesman for Scoot.

Following the flight cancellations, Scoot said it would be rendering assistance to affected passengers, offering them a 100 per cent voucher refund.

“For bookings made through travel agents or partner airlines, customers are advised to contact their travel agent or purchasing airline for assistance,” said the spokesman. 

“The safety of our customers and staff is our top priority. We apologise for the inconvenience caused and will continue to monitor the situation closely and adjust plans, as necessary,” she added.

Scoot operates daily flights from Singapore to Taipei.

SIA, which operates three flights to Taipei a week – on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday – told The Straits Times that no other SIA flights to Taipei have been cancelled.

“SIA will continue to monitor the situation closely and make any adjustments, as necessary,” its spokesman said.

There were two other Singapore-Taipei flights on Friday, operated by Taiwan’s EVA Air and China Airlines.

EVA Air’s BR226 took off at 1.10pm, while China Airlines’ CI754 departed at 1.25pm.

SIA flight SQ878 from Singapore to Taipei indicated as cancelled in the departure hall of Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Aug 5, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

China is conducting live-fire military exercises from Thursday to Sunday, following United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mrs Pelosi was the highest-ranking US politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years, prompting China to condemn the visit and retaliate with economic and military responses.

When The Straits Times visited Changi Airport Terminal 3 at 11am on Friday, a steady stream of passengers were lining up to check in for their flights at the counters of EVA Air and China Airlines. 

Taiwanese passengers said they were used to tensions between the island and China. 

Madam Wang Chengmei, 65, a restaurant owner booked on BR226, said that although she was slightly worried about flying, she had to go home to take care of her business.

She was in Singapore for a week-long holiday with her family of eight.

Madam Wang Chengmei (right) and her family proceeding to take their EVA Air BR226 flight at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Aug 5, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

“We can’t control the situation, but if the airlines are still operating, it should be okay to fly,” said Madam Wang in Mandarin. 

A Taiwanese businessman booked on CI754, who wanted to be known only as Mr Yu, 42, concurred. “I grew up under this kind of political tension and I’m numb. I think (China) won’t dare to do anything,” he said. 

But others were more cautious about flying. A regional sales director of a cyber-security firm, who wanted to be known only as Mr Ong, 45, said he was taking the BR226 flight to Taipei to transit to San Francisco for a business trip. 

The Singaporean booked his flight last week and said it was too late for him to make changes when he heard about the military exercises on Thursday. 

“I’m hoping for the best. I was joking with my colleagues, hopefully I don’t see any flying objects, if not I’ll take photos and send those to them,” he said.

“I’m going to subscribe to the in-flight Wi-Fi and remain in constant contact with my company and family,” added the father of three. 

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