Why Taiwan’s Taichi Air has a Latin focus

Image copyright EPA Image caption Taipei-based Taichi Air has set its sights on the affluent overseas market The tropical humid air in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei smells like the sea, having left behind…

Why Taiwan's Taichi Air has a Latin focus

Image copyright EPA Image caption Taipei-based Taichi Air has set its sights on the affluent overseas market

The tropical humid air in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei smells like the sea, having left behind a wake of smoked fish and rice.

Amid the cool breeze the smouldering ashes of flares are sizzling in canisters and filling the air as the planes of Singapore Airlines land into the morning sky.

Tucked away within the terminal are the gates of Taichi Air, Taiwan’s newest airline.

In the spotlight are brightly coloured seats with branding from fans in Japan, ice-cold beers, and peanuts for sale. There are automatic lighting too, and the cabins are piled with cash.

Scroll down for the dramatic video

During its brief test flight, the service had journalists hanging from their seats “playing the magic game” with pink hankies in each hand.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption A plane with service available in 19 languages is ready to depart for Singapore

The airline has just flown from Taipei to Singapore and is testing services in 19 languages.

A new website brags: “The jet flies with wings literally beyond your imagination.”

Taichi Air is owned by transatlantic carrier Virgin America, a company known for its glitzy destinations and favourable terms.

Its founder, Ron Allen, brings his talents to Taiwan to transform the island’s flag carrier China Airlines into a premium operator and one of the top three in the country.

Image copyright Mark Chiu Image caption Ron Allen and executive Kwan Kien-ho in a packed flight, proudly showing their ownership to journalists and customers

He believes you need to look for the niches of the market before you develop them.

For Taiwan, that can take place in markets like the overseas Chinese community in which the company has a stake – now about half the population.

“I don’t know if there will be more growth in Taiwan, but there is huge potential in the overseas market,” he says.

“The cost of flying is also a big advantage.

“Of course, price depends on how well you service the people and whether or not you have the right routes in the right market at the right price.”

Image copyright Kwee Kae Seng Image caption Kwee says Taichi Air has plans to expand its services to service more Chinese communities

Many think that if there are no Chinese minorities in a country, it’s probably for a good reason.

But in this island where many speak Chinese and Mandarin, that’s starting to change.

Take Deliveries.com, a e-commerce business based in Taipei that lists clients from all over the world.

One of its largest are Chinese people who speak Mandarin Chinese and some do Taiwanese dialect.

Business development director Kwee Kae Seng says that in the last five years there has been an increasing interest in Taiwanese-speaking customers.

“We have many clients who are from the Chinese diaspora in Taiwan,” he says.

“For example, we have just posted a job ad for a customer service manager who speaks Mandarin Chinese.”

Others, like Taiwanese real estate agents, travel agents, also include many Chinese in their databases.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Taichi Air chief executive Kwan Kien-ho pictured in 2013, with his first one of his replica Golden Gate Bridge planes

Rounding out the line, Taichi Air will soon run from Taipei to Bangkok and its transpacific routes in Asia will be its last.

Ron Allen sees few Asian business opportunities.

And he is well aware that Taiwan is not Hong Kong, where about 300 million citizens have strong links with mainland China.

“Hong Kong, China and Taiwan have different populations,” he says.

“Taiwan has a strong business and cultural relationship with Hong Kong.”

“Taiwan is a long way from the mainland. Hong Kong has not put forward much business in terms of culture.”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The use of colourful seats is in sync with the company’s marketing campaign

So, what’s next for Taichi Air?

This month is the 50th anniversary of China Airlines and Ron Allen is also thinking about expanding to places like San Francisco and Hawaii.

He is also thinking about developing routes that go beyond south-east Asia too, and increasing the service to Europe, the Middle East and Australia.

Read more: Why Taiwan Airlines is shifting focus from overseas carriers

…and read more from Ma Maizhe about New Zealand:

Leave a Comment