Back in late October 2019 we first wrote about luxury start-up carrier Starlux, a Taiwanese venture with some solid credentials, headed up by former EVA Air Chairman Chang Kuo-wei, and promising a full-service business model.
One of the most interesting things about the new airline was its flat-bed seats in Business Class on an initial tranche of 10 brand new Airbus A321neo aircraft, designed for intra-Asia regional hops.
The airline’s launch service was between Taipei and Macau on 23rd January 2020, which might just have been the worst timing imaginable, as the COVID-19 outbreak was starting.
By March 2020 Starlux had been forced to suspend all its operations, but it’s back in the air and growing again, with the latest announcement that Taipei – Singapore flights will be joining the roster next month.
Starlux will initially operate three times per week on the route, which will put it in competition with:
- China Airlines (1/wk)
- EVA Air (daily)
- Singapore Airlines (daily)
From 23rd September 2021
Note: Saturday service effective from 2nd October 2021 (no flight on Sat 25th September 2021)
Fares have been loaded starting at around S$320 one-way from Singapore to Taipei in Economy Class and S$1,500 in Business Class, which sports an intimate cabin with just eight flat-bed seats.
Just yesterday we were reporting how Singapore Airlines’ Taipei route is getting a 2013 Business Class flat-bed seat option from late August 2021, with three out of seven weekly flights upgrading to an Airbus A350 Long Haul version, which will continue from Taipei to Los Angeles.
Travel between Singapore and Taiwan
At the time of writing entry into Taiwan is restricted to Taiwanese residents and those on official business, though Singapore is not restricting entry from Taiwan and it is therefore possible for those based there to take a trip in the other direction (though quarantine applies when they get home).
Those arriving in Singapore from Taiwan do not need to quarantine, instead taking an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test, with the ability to roam freely once a negative result comes through.
With very low COVID-19 case totals in Taiwan, hopefully some two-way border relaxation with Singapore will be in the pipeline once the vaccination rate there increases.
Business Class seats
StarLux selected the Collins Aerospace (formerly B/E Aerospace) Diamond Seat for its Business Class cabin, with a slightly staggered 2-2 configuration that converts into a fully flat bed.
Customisation is by BMW DesignWorks, the same firm responsible for the finish on Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER First Class seats.
You may recall our review of KLM’s Boeing 777-300ER Business Class in 2019 – this is effectively the same seat but installed on a narrow body aircraft, with Starlux’s own colour scheme and customer options.
No trendsetter on long-haul routes, however these seats are an impressive choice for narrow body intra-Asia services.
Even Cathay Pacific has snubbed the flat-bed idea in Business Class on its new A321neos, favouring a ‘recliner-plus’ seat, also by Collins Aerospace.
Starlux is the first Taiwanese airline to offer flat-bed seats on narrow body planes. Seats convert to 82″ long beds and are equipped with 15.6″ High Definition 1080p IFE screens.
Wi-Fi is also available, however Starlux says the system will not be activated until 2022.
USB and multi-socket charging is available for your personal devices, alongside a storage nook near the headrest.
When it comes to dining, Starlux promises “an exclusive menu created by Michelin chefs with a rich selection of wines” in its A321neo Business Class.
Another airline using the Collins Diamond seat is Business Class airline La Compagnie, with 76 of these seats installed in an all-Business Class configuration on its A321neo aircraft flying between Paris and New York.
The main disadvantage of these seats is the need for window passengers to climb over their seat neighbour to reach the aisle, especially problematic with the seat in bed mode.
This is an irritation, but not totally unexpected in a regional Business Class product.
Starlux Business Class passengers and elite COSMILE status holders also get to enjoy the fantastic looking Galactic Lounge in Taipei before their flight.
Fine dining is on the agenda here, with “carefully prepared dishes served by professional chefs”.
Economy Class seats
In Economy Class Starlux offers 10.6″ Standard Definition (720p) IFE screens and free basic Wi-Fi, for text messages only.
A more comprehensive Wi-Fi package is chargeable, but as with Business Class the system unfortunately won’t be enabled until next year. USB charging ports are also available.
Economy Class seats are equipped with an adjustable leather headrest, a feature more typically seen only on long-haul aircraft in this cabin.
Starlux has also been offering a generous status match into its COSMILE programme for elite members of other airline schemes, initially for four years but since reduced to two years.
Unfortunately the requirement to have taken a flight in the last 12 months will make it difficult for many of our readers in Asia to be able to take advantage.
Starlux is not a member of any of the major alliances yet, not has the airline struck up any partnerships with other carriers, so only its COSMILE programme can be used to redeem award seats for the time being.
We were really excited about the launch of Starlux back in 2020, with the airline becoming a new full-service option including long-haul ambitions with flights to the USA from its Taipei hub.
Indeed we had planned to review the carrier’s new Business Class product on a Penang – Taipei flight early last year, but COVID-19 restrictions put pay to that!
The pandemic has certainly put a dampener on the airline’s initial launch, but Starlux is slowly building up its network regardless, and plans to introduce wide-body Airbus A330neo aircraft later this year and A350s in 2022, with a different flat-bed product at the ‘pointy end’ for longer flights.
The airline’s Singapore services were originally planned to start much earlier, but at least they have now announced these and the three times weekly flights will hopefully build to a fuller schedule in time, providing great competition against incumbent full-service carriers like China Airlines and EVA Air.
Hopefully we can jump on board a Starlux flight in the not too distant future once travel restrictions begin to ease, to write a full review of the experience.
(Cover Photo: BMW Designworks)