Taiwan’s airport identity crisis is older than previously realized

The real TPE/Tayoun Chiang Kai-shek Airport image
The real TPE/Tayoun Chiang Kai-shek Airport image

Turns out that last week’s passport snafu by the Taiwanese Bureau of Consular Affairs is not the first time someone got confused by stock photo images (not) of the local airport. The local periodical This Month in Taiwan made the same mistake. Many, many times going back at least a year.

Here’s a look inside the October 2016 issue:

Look down in the corner and you'll see an image of TPE airport that is most definitely Dulles
Look down in the corner and you’ll see an image of TPE airport that is most definitely Dulles

Down in the bottom corner is a photo captioned “Chiang Kai-shek Int’l Airport.” The photo is absolutely an image of Washington-Dulles.

Yeah...that's Dulles, not Chiang Kai-shek International Airport (TPE)
Yeah…that’s Dulles (IAD), not Chiang Kai-shek International Airport (TPE)

That same photo is also almost certainly the source used to create the drawing used in the now-recalled 200,000 passports the Taiwanese government is destroying. Fortunately for the magazine it also has a second stock photo image it uses in some issues, including most of the more recent printings. That image is of the correct airport.

The real TPE/Tayoun Chiang Kai-shek Airport image
The real TPE/Tayoun Chiang Kai-shek Airport image

I did a bit of digging on stock photo sites trying to find the original source that became the faux Chiang Kai-shek International Airport image but cannot find any pushing it as TPE rather than IAD. Still, the mistake has been around for a while now so maybe there’s a bit of blame to share beyond just the government or the designer of the new passport pages.

Thanks to eagle-eyed reader CW for taking time out of a Taiwan vacation to share some more details on this.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. The name isn’t current in either picture you show either! Because of the political sensitivity of having it named for Chiang Kai-Shek in an era when flights go directly between Taiwan and Mainland China, the Taipei government renamed it Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on September 6, 2006.

  2. Growing up I was always told that CKS (TPE) airport was designed by the same designer as Dulles, and the Taiwanese expats in Washing DC told me to pay particular attention to the similarities the first time I flew into IAD as a middle-schooler. It was much later when I found out that the similarities weren’t by the same designer, but likely a conscious effort to copy IAD during Taiwan’s industrial boom. (seeing how everything American was deemed entirely positive during that era)

    Prior to the redesign (added the slope down to the existing facade to give it a M shaped profile) it did look remarkably similar, like a slightly miniaturized IAD.

    1. Yup…it is a knock-off design and looks very similar. But those images are 100% Dulles. 😀

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