UPDATE – Over 3.5 years since confirming the order, Taiwan’s Starlux Airlines has taken delivery of the first of seventeen Airbus A350s. The type will help to expand the airline that was formed only four years ago and aims to offer a high-quality product to its customers. Starlux finally gets its first Airbus A350.
The first A350 is a -900, which was delivered in Toulouse on October 28 and arrived at Taipei’s Taoyuan a day later. At least eight more -900s are on order, of which four are in or about to join final assembly. The orginal order included twelve A350-1000s. It was signed as a Memorandum of Understanding at the 2018 Farnborough Airshow and was confirmed in March 2019. But in November 2019, Starlux reduced the number of -1000s to eight and converted them to -900s. In March 2022, it did the same with the remaining -1000s. Airbus said on October 31 that the airline will take delivery of eighteen A350-900s, although its own order list shows seventeen on direct order from the manufacturer.
Starlux was formed in May 2018 by K.W. Chang, who established Starlux Investment Ltd. A year earlier, with the intention of creating a high-end and luxurious airline to rival the country’s other carrier, Eva Air and China Airlines. After receiving its Air Operator Certificate in late 2019, Starlux launched services in January 2020 with three Airbus A321neo’s on lease from GECAS (now AerCap). The first service on January 23 went to Macau, Da Nang, and Penang. But then Covid struck.
The Covid crisis disrupted and slowed down the carrier’s expansion plan, which came to a standstill just two months after it has started. Starlux operated at only minimal levels during 2020 but was confident enough to expand the network with three more routes in December, to Bangkok, Osaka, and Tokyo Narita. Kuala Lumpur followed in January 2021, Ho Chi Minh City in May 2021, and to Manila in July 2021. In September 2021, Singapore was added to the network, followed by Fukuoka in February this year. But with most Asian markets still in lockdown or operating under travel restrictions – including Taiwan itself – operations remained limited.
Starlux received its first Airbus A330-900 in February 2022. (Starlux Airlines)
Starlux A321neo fleet has grown to eleven aircraft, with most leased from AerCap but a few from Aviation Capital Group (ACG). Two more aircraft are on order. The narrowbodies have got company from widebodies between February and September, when the carrier took delivery of four Airbus A330-900s on lease from Air Lease Corporation (ALC). Another four will join the airline.
Featuring 297 seats (including 28 Business Class), the A330s entered service to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City in June to increase seating capacity as demand recovered. The carrier launched new services to Okinawa and Sapporo with A321neo’s last week.
First A350 one year late
Due to the pandemic, deliveries of the A350s have slipped. The original plan was for the first -900 to join Starlux in 2021 and the first -1000s in 2022, but this has been delayed by one year. The aircraft was flown from Toulouse to Taipei by the airline’s chairman and founder, K.W. Chang himself, where it was welcomed by the staff.
The A350 will do route-proving flights first before entering service in Asia in January and to LA in April. (Starlux Airlines)
The A350 will first start route-proving flights before entering commercial service in Asia in January 2023. In April, they will start operations to Los Angeles. The airline shared an air-to-air video of its three Airbus types on the occasion of the first A350 delivery. The Starlux A350 comes with the new production standard and is the first to feature electro-dimmable windows. The cabin features four First Class suites, 26 Business Class suites, 36 Premium Economy seats, and 240 Economy seats.
Starlux Airlines reported an HY1 2022 pre-tax loss of N$-3.4 billion compared to N$-1.4 billion in the same period of 2021.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.