Taiwan’s Starlux Airlines will begin flying between Taipei and Singapore this week, but the self-described “boutique” carrier is already looking ahead to a promising future on the toughly-contested route.
Starlux’s September 23 inaugural will see its nimble Airbus A321neo making the five-hour trip twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with plans to add a Saturday service in October.
However, the startup – which launched only in January 2020 – aims to move to daily flights on a larger twin-aisle Airbus A330neo or A350 as post-pandemic demand builds up over the coming years.
“We will certainly deploy our A330neo and A350 aircraft on our Southeast Asian routes,” the airline’s Chief Communications Officer KW Nieh tells Executive Traveller.
“Singapore is a centre of economic and cultural events and also an important transportation hub in Asia, so we believe there will be quite a demand for travel between Taipei and Singapore when the pandemic eases.”
“As a result, it is possible we will deploy our A330neo or A350 aircraft on the route (and) will decide according to market demand at that time.”
Starlux’ eight A330neo jets and its 18 Airbus A350s – an order split between the A350-900 and A350-1000 – are expected to share the same business class seats which will tick the now-standard boxes of offering a fully flat bed and direct aisle access, while the A350-900 and -1000 series will also boast a compact first class cabin (although this could be more of a ‘business plus’ design).
Such an upgrade would help Starlux level up against its competition on the Taipei-Singapore route, with Singapore Airlines, China Airlines and EVA Air all flying larger twin-aisle jets including the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner between the two cities.
Flying into crowded skies
In 2019, according to aviation analytics company Cirium, each member of that incumbent trio ran twice-daily Taipei-Singapore services and together held a dominant 61% share of the market – although Singapore Airlines’ budget arm Scoot held 30% in its own right, with Jetstar Asia trailing at around 9%.
“Taipei-Singapore is a crowded sector, served by major airlines based at Taipei Taoyuan and Changi” explains Simin Ngai, aviation industry analyst at Cirium.
Based on currently-filed schedules for November-December, “each month Starlux would supply 8.8% of total seat capacity on the sector, ahead of Jetstar Asia's 8.5%. Singapore Airlines and EVA Air would dominate, with more than 31% market share each, and Scoot would account for about 18% of seat capacity.”
The Starlux difference
“After the pandemic, the goal is to fly between Taipei and Singapore every day” Starlux’s Nieh says.
“The subsequent decision on the increase of flights to more than once a day will be based on market demand evaluation to attain the most appropriate frequency for us.”
Nieh says Starlux’ position as a “boutique airline” will help differentiate the carrier from its established competitors and be crucial in bringing customers across.
“We believe flying should be part of the journey that people enjoy rather than just an unavoidable process to get to their destinations.”
"In order to achieve this, when designing the flight experience, we take all five senses – olfactory, gustatory, auditory, tactile and visual – into consideration, applying the up-to-date aviation technology to provide the ultimate comfort and convenience to our passengers.”
“On flights departing from Taipei Taoyuan, the business class meals are specially prepared by Michelin Taiwanese restaurant Longtail, while Economy Class features a menu created by renowned Japanese-style grilled meat restaurant Hutong in Taiwan.”
“We invited one of the most legendary Jazz artists Peter White to compose six exclusive pieces of smooth jazz inflight music for us. Taking the enclosed inflight environment and the engine noise into consideration, Mr. White carefully chose suitable instruments for us to create happy and uplifting music, which also convey a sense of travel, escape, and adventure.”
Also read: Could Starlux join the Oneworld alliance?