Taiwan's ambitious StarLux Airlines plans to offer first class on its new Airbus A350 jets in an effort to eclipse local rivals Eva Air and China Airlines, both of which have phased out first class in recent years.
Starlux, which took to the skies only in January 2020 and markets itself as a boutique luxury airline, has 17 A350s on order – nine of the medium-sized A350-900 and eight of the larger longer-range A350-1000 – with the first due for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2021.
And for the airline which until now has flown only single-aisle Airbus A321neo jets, this means the advent of all-new business class and first class seats.
More details are "to be determined by the end of the year" according to Taiwan's national news agency Focus Taiwan, with StarLux chief communications officer Nieh Kuo-wei suggesting the A350s will spearhead the airline's expansion to the US by mid-2022.
Both the A350-900s and A350-1000s will sport what's expected to be a compact first class cabin of as little as four suites, but with plenty to differentiate those premium pews from whatever business class StarLux settles upon.
StarLux could opt for a 'business/first' cabin similar to the Vantage First evolution designed by Thompson Aero and FactoryDesign to crown the Vantage XL business class on the Airbus A350s of China Eastern and Malaysia Airlines, although Eva's use of Thompson Vantage business class seating would likely rule that specific platform out of contention.
Indeed, given StarLux's upscale push, sliding privacy doors can't be ruled out for either its Airbus A350 first or business class cabins.
Starlux considers its premium approach to travel is paramount to unlocking the duopoly of China Airlines and EVA Air in the highly competitive Asian market.
The startup is lead by longterm Taiwanese aviation executive and former EVA Air chairman Chang Kuo-wei, scion of one of the island-nation's richest families with an estimated net worth of US$1.45 billion.
Starlux describes itself as a “detail-oriented luxury airline" with an eye on the premium business travel market, while Chang's sees the upmarket airline being positioned as the "Emirates of Taiwan."
"I want to bring Taiwanese airline brands to the world stage, breaking the stereotypes that we don't have quality carriers, and that Taiwan is notorious for its (poor) aviation safety record," Chang has previously remarked.
Airline PR exec Nieh echoes the StarLux-as-Emirates model, saying "the development of StarLux doesn’t solely rely on the Taiwan market. Taipei has a superior geographical location – you can reach major Asian cities within five hours."
"Located in a central position connecting North America, North Asia, and Southeast Asia, Taiwan has the best foundation to develop as an aviation hub."