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Outrage as Emirates tells cabin crew to remove Taiwan flag pins

Emirates plane Image copyright Emirates Group/Ed Turner

Emirates is under fire after instructing Taiwanese cabin crew to remove pin badges showing the island's flag from their uniforms.

A leaked email says the airline was "instructed by the Chinese government" to "follow the One China policy".

Crew were told to wear China's flag instead, but this directive was later withdrawn. Flag pins show passengers the nationality and languages of crew.

The airline told the BBC there had been a "communication error".

A spokesperson said that now no crew needed to wear any flag pin, whatever their nationality. But the airline did not explain why, if this was an airline-wide change in uniform policy, such a specific demand had been made to Taiwanese crew.

The BBC also asked whether Chinese authorities had indeed complained about staff wearing the Taiwan flag - but the airline is yet to respond.

China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province and insists that the self-ruled island is an inalienable part of one China to be reunified one day.

'Incorrect and inappropriate'

The email, quoted by the South China Morning post and other media in Asia, said cabin crew were "to follow the One China policy" - a hugely sensitive diplomatic tightrope.

"This means you must remove the Taiwanese flag from your service waistcoat and replace it with the Chinese flag," wrote Nicola Parker, the airline's uniform standards and development manager.

She added fresh stocks of China badges were being ordered.

However, hours later, Ms Parker wrote a second email saying that the previous message was "incorrect and inappropriate", apologising for "any upset I may have caused".

She added: "Please refrain from wearing your Taiwanese flags on flights until further notice. Therefore no flag is required on your uniform."

But in a statement to the BBC, the airline apologised for what it said was a communication error.

"An internal email was sent to cabin crew instructing them to remove a flag pin from their uniform and replace it with another flag pin. This email was sent in error and has since been retracted.

"Our intent is to recall the flag pins worn by all our cabin crew as part of our uniform update. This is based on ongoing feedback and review from our teams. All cabin crew are no longer required to wear a flag pin as part of their uniform. "

Image copyright Emirates

Flying high

On social media, users have responded by repeatedly posting pictures of the Taiwanese flag on the airline's Facebook account, with some also vowing to boycott the airline.

China is a major growth area for several airlines, with industry body Iata predicting the country will replace the US as the world's largest aviation market in terms of number of flights by 2029.

Emirates already flies dozens of flights a week between Dubai and the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Yinchuan and Zhengzhou.

And the airline says it carried more than 1.3 million passengers and 106,000 tons of cargo on its China services in 2015.

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