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Starlux Airlines tapping Taiwan’s desire for grand flying

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October 1st 2020

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When Starlux Airlines, Taiwan’s newest carrier, launched flights on January 23 this year and thereby establishing a third force in the skies of Taiwan, its first challenge was battling the hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic and not, as expected, wooing skeptical customers. Read More »

Of the three initial Starlux destinations out of Taipei, the carrier had to suspend its service to the Special Administrative Region of Macau less than two weeks after the inaugural cross straits flight. In quick succession, Taipei to Penang, Malaysia and Da Nang were put on indefinite hold in March.

By last month, the carrier’s website said routes to Penang and Macau were being operated but Taipei-Cebu was canceled until the end of March 2021.

In the first half of 2020, Starlux lost NT$1.31 billion (US$44.8 million), only NT$1 million or US$35,000 less than China Airlines. To June 30, the full-service carrier had accumulated losses of NT$2.81 billion.

Despite the adverse market conditions, Starlux remains positive about its outlook. In September it announced the leasing of eight A330-900neo, making it the first Taiwanese carrier to fly the type. Deliveries will start from the fourth quarter of next year.

Starlux’s order book is now 10 A350-900s, nine A350-1000s and a commitment to three additional A321neos over its previous order of 10 of the type. Following the recent signings, Starlux will have 39 aircraft by 2024.

Starlux said the A350 will join its fleet at the beginning of 2022, which will be slightly later than originally planned, and that the planes will be equipped with first class, a decision going against the trend at many Asia-Pacific carriers. Longer term, it has the U.S. in its sights for its long-haul fleet.

The increase in scale of its operations will put Starlux on par with funds hungry China Airlines and EVA Air. From early 2021, Starlux will continue with building on its current capital of NT$8.36 billion. Its target is NT$30 billion, said airline spokesman, Nieh Kuo-wei, who declined to offer more details about the airline’s strategy. The massage of the message is Starlux’s funding is solid.

Unlike its rivals in Taiwan, Starlux has not entered the domestic or cargo sectors. It is using the hiatus created by the pandemic to reinforce its brand, which has established very strong recognition in Taiwan.

When the airline decided to participate in pseudo trips abroad – flights to nowhere – one flight sold out in just 30 seconds, according to media reports.

Top of the class positioning convinced Samsung to partner with Starlux in the launch of its latest flagship smart phone in Taiwan.

“Why shouldn’t we be able to hold out?” asked Starlux Airlines chairman, Chang Kuo-wei, in a profile in the widely read CommonWealth magazine. The positive buzz around the brand seems to fuel his optimism.

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