Taiwan’s self-professed “detail-oriented luxury airline” Starlux didn’t have the luckiest of launches in aviation history, with its inaugural flights between Taipei and Macau taking wing on 23rd January 2020, just as the global COVID-19 outbreak began to take hold.
Despite that significant setback over the subsequent two years, that hasn’t stopped the airline from progressively expanding its services in Asia, and this week the carrier has started the latest chapter in its growth by taking delivery of its first Airbus A350, the future long-haul flagship of the fleet.
Starlux will use its A350s on long-haul flights linking Taipei to Los Angeles from April 2023, but before that there will be opportunities to experience the latest four-class cabin on intra-Asia routes in the first quarter of next year, with Singapore a potential destination on the list.
The Starlux Airbus A350
This is the first of 18 Airbus A350-900s due to join Starlux, and will complement the carrier’s Airbus A330neo and Airbus A321neo jets, which are already in service on routes including Singapore – Taipei.
The aircraft can accommodate 306 passengers, with the following four-class layout:
- 4 First Class Suites
- 26 Business Class seats
- 36 Premium Economy Class seats
- 240 Economy Class seats
Despite quietly dropping its order for eight Airbus A350-1000 aircraft earlier this year, in favour of taking more of the smaller A350-900 variant, Starlux has ambitious plans for its A350 fleet in the years ahead.
The airline has already gained approval from Taiwanese regulators to operate flights to 15 destinations in the USA alone, including New York, Boston, San Francisco and Honolulu, though there are no firm launches announced yet beyond the carrier’s intention to launch Taipei – Los Angeles flights in April 2023.
The airline also plans to fly the A350s to Europe in due course.
Starlux A350 First Class
A single-row four-seat First Class cabin takes pride of place right at the front of the Starlux Airbus A350-900, in a new concept by BMW Designworks the airline calls “Glisten”.
These individual Suites boast 60-inch-high closing doors for privacy, plus a wardrobe to store your belongings.
A huge 32-inch 4K in-flight entertainment screen also features at each suite, the same size as those installed in the latest Singapore Airlines A380 Suites cabin.
Unfortunately for the time being Starlux has only provided these images of the mock-up cabin, currently on show at the Taipei International Travel Fair from today until 8th November 2022, if you’re in town and want to go and take a look yourself.
“For the exclusive service of First Class, please stay tuned, as we will soon disclose more detailed information”, says Starlux.
With the launch of its A350s, Starlux will be the only Taiwanese carrier offering a First Class cabin.
Starlux A350 Business Class
Business Class on the Starlux Airbus A350-900 also gets the ‘Suite treatment’, with 48-inch-high closing privacy doors.
This looks to be a customised version of the Safran Versa product, in a herringbone arrangement with window seats angled away from the aisle.
Starlux opted for the Safran Skylounge Core Business Class seats for its A330neo jets.
Each seat in this cabin boasts a 24-inch 4K in-flight entertainment screen, bigger than any SIA offers in Business Class, and unsurprisingly also converts to a fully-flat bed.
One thing that jumps out to us initially is that the First Class and Business Class seats don’t look an awful lot different to one another.
In all likelihood, they are effectively the same product with the First Class ‘row’ featuring more space, higher walls and a larger IFE system, in a similar concept seen on the Malaysia Airlines A350 (the carrier now markets this former First Class row as ‘Business Suite’).
It will be interesting to see more photos of the actual seats installed in the A350 cabin to see how exclusive this Starlux First Class section looks, and of course analyse the price differential between First and Business Class, once the aircraft starts flying long-haul routes.
Starlux A350 Premium Economy Class
Premium Economy on the Starlux A350 features 36 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration.
The A350s are the only aircraft in the Starlux fleet that include a Premium Economy cabin, with the airline’s A321neos and A330neos favouring a two-class layout (Business and Economy), for use on short to medium-haul routes.
Starlux A350 Economy Class
The largest cabin on the Starlux A350s is the 240-seat Economy Class section, which has a 3-3-3 layout – not so friendly for couples, unlike the carrier’s 2-4-2 layout in Economy on the A330neo.
These are the same Recaro CL3710 seats fitted to the airline’s A330neo aircraft, including a 13.3-inch 4K Ultra-HD IFE screen.
Electrically dimmable windows launch on the A350
One of the nifty new features on the Starlux Airbus A350s is one many of us are already familiar with when flying on the Boeing 787 – electro-dimmable passenger windows.
Starlux is the launch customer to add this option to its A350s, which Airbus claims will transition twice as fast between light and dark, plus block out more light, compared to the original versions on the market.
Will the Starlux A350 fly to Singapore?
While the Starlux A350s are primarily intended to launch long-haul flights to and from the USA, starting with Taipei – Los Angeles in April 2023, the type will initially ply intra-Asia routes in the coming months, while crew get up to speed on the new type.
There’s no confirmation at this stage that Singapore will make it onto that regional roster, but there’s a good chance it will, which would then provide our readers a great opportunity to try out these fantastic-looking products on 4.5 hour flights between Changi and Taipei, prior to the launch of those long-haul services.
Currently Starlux uses its Airbus A330-900neo on daily flights between Changi and Taipei, which have a brand new Safran Skylounge Core Business Class cabin, boasting flat beds and direct aisle access.
Previously, the carrier was using its Airbus A321neo jets to serve the route, which have a 2-2 configuration in Business Class, including flat-bed functionality.
Will Starlux join Oneworld?
With only 15 aircraft in its fleet, including this new A350 which hasn’t actually started flying passengers yet, Starlux is too small to join one of the three major global airline alliances right now, but that certainly doesn’t mean alliance membership isn’t in the carrier’s sights.
Back in August 2021, the Starlux Chief Communications Officer told Executive Traveller that “once we have reached a certain level of growth, we will certainly become a member of an alliance to provide more convenience to our passengers”.
Competing Taiwanese carriers EVA Air and China Airlines are members of the Star Alliance and SkyTeam partnerships respectively, leaving Oneworld as the only logical alliance for Starlux to tie-up with.
While that’s still a hypothetical scenario, it would be great news for many of our Singapore-based readers, since it would open up awards such as Singapore – Taipei for 22,000 Avios in Business Class, or Singapore – Taipei – Los Angeles for 90,000 Asia Miles in Business Class, at current redemption rates.
Travel to Taiwan
Taiwan finally relaxed many of its entry requirements for tourists and returning residents in mid-October 2022, with a new “0 + 7” scheme, under which travellers will no longer need to quarantine and instead will only be subject seven days of self-health monitoring.
This includes taking up to four self-administered COVID-19 rapid antigen (ART) tests, with kits provided free of charge when you arrive. Reporting of the results is not required.
Travel to Taiwan
since 13th October 2022
|Eligibility & Vaccination|
|COVID-19 Tests (travellers aged 2+)|
Like many countries in the region, including Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea, Taiwan does not require arriving travellers from overseas to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter quarantine-free.
There are no additional quarantine or testing requirements for passengers who are not fully vaccinated.
Hopefully Taiwan’s restrictions, including this testing regime, will be gradually relaxed in the months ahead.
According to its CEO, Starlux has a ten-year goal to establish a true ‘hub-and-spoke’ operation, with 30-40% of its passengers in transit through its Taipei hub, an impressive objective which would hit levels similar to those achieved by Singapore Airlines through Changi.
This first look at the carrier’s long-haul cabin products certainly fills us with some optimism that the carrier can live up to its goals in the years ahead.
In the meantime we are keeping our fingers crossed that the A350s will be used on Singapore – Taipei runs in the months ahead, before embarking on their USA schedule from April 2023.
Of course we’ll keep you up to date on that as soon as there’s any news to report.
(Cover Photo: Starlux Airlines)