“Asia” Airlines: A History

The Facts

“Asia Airlines”, typically subsidiaries of European, Asian, or Australian airlines, were formed from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. These operators were created to allow their parent airlines to operate flights to China and Taiwan simultaneously.

In January 1912, the Republic of China, or Taiwan, was formed. It is a disputed state, having been claimed by the People’s Republic of China and with the republic having asserted independence. Therefore, China did not allow national airlines of countries it has diplomatic relations with to fly to Taiwan, a rogue territory in their view.

Consequently, many airlines were required to create an airline apart from themselves. It would not be the same operator as the parent company, as indicated by the “Asia” title. These subsidiaries used the same basic livery as the owning airline. However, they had to be void of national symbols, such as KLM’s logo, a Dutch Crown, or flags of the airline’s home country. Instead, they sported specialized logos, which were applied to aircraft re-assigned from the primary airline. “Asia” subsidiary planes do not fly specifically to Taiwan, but are regularly operated on flights to other destinations.

Most of these specialized airlines do not exist today, as either the parent airline acquired rights to operate flights to both states, went out of business, was privatized, or have ended operations to Taiwan.

The Airlines

KLM Asia 🇳🇱

KLM Asia was formed in 1995 and is a KLM-owned company. It operates a route from Amsterdam-Taipei-Manila (AMS-TPE-MNL) with Boeing 777-200ER and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which replaced an Amsterdam-Bangkok-Taipei (AMS-BKK-TPE) route, flown by a Boeing 747-400 or a Boeing 747-400M. These planes feature a revised KLM livery. They sport a specialized KLM Asia logo, in which the word “Asia” replaces KLM’s Dutch Crown emblem, and do not bear the Dutch flag.

The airline is still operating today.

British Asia Airways 🇬🇧

British Asia Airways, a subsidiary of British Airways, was established in 1993. It serviced a route from London-Hong Kong-Taipei (LHR-HKG-TPE) with a Boeing 747-400. As KLM Asia had done, British Asia Airways used the British Airways livery as a base and did not display any national symbols on their planes. Instead, they used the Chinese characters for British Asia (英亞) in place of the Union Jack and did not feature a British flag on their aircraft.

British Asia Airways ended operations in December 2001 when British Airways terminated Taiwanese flights.

Swissair Asia 🇨🇭

Founded in 1995, Swissair Asia provided flights from Zurich to Taipei via Bangkok (ZRH-BKK-TPE) with McDonnel-Douglas MD-11 aircraft. As done by British Asia Airways, Swissair Asia replaced the Swiss cross on the tails of their aircraft with the shortened Chinese character for Switzerland, ruì (瑞) and did not display the Swiss flag on their planes.

Although there is no information on the ending of this airline, it is assumed that it ceased operations with the collapse of Swissair in 2002.

Air France Asie 🇫🇷

Beginning in 1993 and continuing until it ceased operations in 1998, Air Charter, an Air France subsidiary, operated a route from Paris-Hong Kong-Taipei (CDG-HKG-TPE). After this route ended, Air France established Air France Asie to service Taiwan. This subsidiary utilized Airbus A340-200 and Boeing 747-400 Combi aircraft, while its cargo counterpart, Air France Cargo Asie, operated Boeing 747-200 and Boeing 747-200 Combi aircraft. These airplanes featured a revised Air France livery, with blue and white stripes on the tail instead of the French Tricolor of red, blue, and white.

Air France Asie ended operations in 2004. However, Air France Cargo Asie terminated functions in 2007.

Japan Asia Airways 🇯🇵

In 1975, Japan Airlines established a subsidiary to operate flights to Taiwan - Japan Asia Airways. Previously, Japan Airlines themselves operated flights to Taiwan, but were forced to end those links in April 1975. Four months later, JAA was created following negotiations between the Interchange Association, Taiwan’s Association of East Asian Relations, and Japan. By doing this, it set the base for other “Asia” airlines.

JAA operated a fleet of Boeing 767-300s, a Boeing 747-200, Boeing 747-300s, Boeing 747-400s, and, previously, Douglas DC-8s, Boeing 747-100s, and Douglas DC-10 aircraft. At the time of JAA’s closure, these airplanes flew from Taipei-Tokyo Narita (TPE-NRT), Taipei-Osaka Kansai (TPE-KIX), Taipei-Nagoya (TPE-NGO), and Kaohsiung-Tokyo Narita (KHH-NRT).

In 2008, JAA ended operations as a result of new negotiations between Japan and Taiwan, cost-cutting, JAL’s privatization, and normalizing flights from Japan to Taiwan. JAL took over their functions and operated their first flight to Taiwan in decades in 2008.

Australia Asia Airlines 🇦🇺

In 1990, Australia Asia Airlines was founded with the intention of operating flights from Australia to Taiwan. It operated three aircraft: two Boeing 747SPs and one Boeing 767-300 which operated flights from Sydney to Taipei. These airplanes featured revised Qantas liveries. Changes included the removal of Australian flags and the replacement of the Qantas kangaroo logo with a ribbon.

Australia Asia Airlines ceased operations after Qantas was privatized in 1996 and therefore able to operate flights to Taiwan themselves.

The Aftermath

The only operating “Asia” airline is KLM Asia. However, many other subsidiaries used to skirt the Taiwan air transport regulations, such as Lufthansa’s Condor, still fly today.

Most subsidiaries were dismantled as a result of privatization, effectively making the airline a non-national carrier and allowing them to bypass China’s blockades. Others ended operations because their parent airline collapsed, decided to end flights to Taiwan, or shifted Taiwan operations to themselves.


Foreign Relations of Taiwan - Air Links


KLM Asia

British Asia Airways

Swissair Asia

Air France Asie

Japan Asia Airways

Australia Asia Airlines

China/Taiwan Flags Picture Credit
University of Colorado Boulder)

KLM Asia 747-400 Picture Credit
Donal Morrissey (Birrlad))

KLM Asia 777-300ER Picture Credit

British Asia Airways 747-400 Picture Credit

Swissair Asia MD-11 Picture 1 Credit
John Richard)

Swissair Asia MD-11 Picture 2 Credit

Air France Asie A340-200 Picture Credit
Remi Dallot)

Air France Asie 747-400 Picture Credit

Japan Asia Airways 747-200 Picture Credit
Tony Kao)

Japan Asia Airways DC-10-40 Picture Credit

Australia Asia Airlines 747SP Picture Credit
Frank C. Duarte Jr.)

Australia Asia Airlines 767-300ER Picture Credit
(© R.N. Smith Collection)

Thanks to wikipedia.org for the information and flickr.com and jetphotos.com for most of the pictures!


Please notify me if I made any mistakes or if there is any misinformation in this post.


Very nice post!


Thank you 🙂


Yeah, super awesome! Great to see, and read such informative posts such as these. Great work!

1 Like

Also Jetstar Asia

1 Like

Although they have a similar name to these airlines, Jetstar Asia is based in Singapore and has no relation to the carriers mentioned in the post.

Great post with some interesting history! Thanks for making it - good read.

1 Like

no one tops @anon57683537 when it comes to these kinds of posts

1 Like

Wow, I never knew any of this liveries existed. These all actually look really cool some of them I even like better then the actually livery in my opinion. I love these kinds of posts on the forums.

1 Like

Hmm is this still the case today?
I spotted some weird flight routes on flightaware. China Eastern’s flight from Shanghai to Manila routes around Taiwan, resulting in a route 30% (!!!) longer than direct.

1 Like

Interesting. I believe the rules have been relaxed a little, since there are flights between Taiwan and China, so I don’t know why this is.

@MonkeyManofLife @Bravo59 @Rock77 @Captain_Merka @Scandanavian54super thanks for your kind words!


Apparently non-Chinese aircraft are not allowed to enter PRC and Taiwan airspace in the same flight (so usually that means a stopover in Hong Kong). Not sure why that restriction applies to MU though.

1 Like

Interesting. I thought Asia on KLM denotes the plane name when I saw it here in Manila.

1 Like

If so, they would be on every KLM plane (imagine that 😍)

1 Like

Nice topic! As someone from China, I have something I want to add to this topic.
Air China, China’s flag-carrier, operates a special fleet of aircrafts that does not have the Chinese flag on them to Taiwan. They are usually bearing the Star Alliance livery, but there are some normal livery planes without a flag.

Air China Star Alliance A330-200 (B-6076), note the flag in front of door R4

Air China Star Alliance A330-200 (B-6091), note that this aircraft does not sport a Chinese Flag.

Air China A330-200 (B-6113), note the flag in front of Air China’s logo near door R1

Air China A330-200 (B-6071), note that this aircraft does not sport a Chinese Flag.


Interesting. Do you know why most of the planes are in the Star Alliance Livery?

It’s just really easy to notice the missing flag on the normal livery, but it’s harder to notice on Star Alliance planes

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 90 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.