Review: Starlux Airbus A350 business class

Executive Traveller samples the new shape of premium travel from chic Taiwanese challenger Starlux.

Overall Rating

By Gordon Smith, February 17 2023
Starlux Airbus A350 business class
Route

TPE-BKK

Aircraft Type

Airbus A350

Airline

Starlux

Cabin Class

Business

Notes
The Good
  • Spacious private doored suite
  • Fast free WiFi
  • Sophisticated design
The Bad
  • Tray table can be unsteady for dining
  • More IFE video content would be welcome
X-Factor
  • A suitably stellar business class offering
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Taiwan’s Starlux Airlines is gearing up to launch long-range international flights on its all-new Airbus A350 jetliners, beginning with direct flights between Taipei and Los Angeles from April 26.

Other destinations on the US west coast will follow, with the airline also considering popular cities in Europe as its fleet grows over the coming years.

So what can travellers expect from the Starlux A350 business class experience? With the A350 currently darting to selected Asian cities as part of a crew familiarisation program before taking LAX under its wing, Executive Traveller joined a Starlux A350 flight to Bangkok for a taste of what trans-Pacific flyers can expect.

(Note that we chose to focus on the Starlux A350 business class seat and other core elements of the business class experience rather than more route-specific aspects such as meals, as those will obviously change once the A350 finishes these short regional hops in April and moves onto dedicated long-range services.)

The Starlux Airbus A350.
The Starlux Airbus A350.

The Starlux Airbus A350

The advanced A350 twin-jet will spearhead Starlux’s long-range expansion and potentially catapult Starlux from a boutique regional player into the big league, while also helping Starlux level up against local rivals China Airlines and EVA Air – as could Starlux’s possible entry into the Oneworld alliance (its competitors respectively belong to SkyTeam and Star Alliance).

Starlux A350 business class.
Starlux A350 business class.

And this is very much a Starlux A350, with a swathe of cabin enhancements including some genuine global firsts.

The windows can be dimmed at the touch of a button, similar to the Boeing 787 – but unlike the Dreamliner, the Starlux A350’s windows go fully black (not just the 787’s curious shade of deep Boeing blue), which was particularly welcome during our sunny afternoon flight.

And they’re fast, going all the way to black or back in just a few seconds.

Starlux A350 business class.
Starlux A350 business class.

Seldom one to shy away from a big-name collaboration, Starlux has once again partnered with BMW Designworks to help set a sophisticated tone for its A350 cabin with effortlessly clean lines and rich colour palettes of dark grey, warm brown and Champagne gold accents hitting a very premium residential note.

Starlux A350 business class.
Starlux A350 business class.

The cabin itself includes another world-first: the debut of embedded micro-LEDs in the bulkhead panels to create customisable and even gently animated lighting patterns.

Think of it as illuminated ‘smart wallpaper’ which complements the carefully-styled cabin and LED colour schemes and banishes those drab watercolours which typically adorn bulkhead walls.

Less obvious is that the Starlux A350’s cabin itself is slightly wider than the norm, with Airbus refining the latest A350s to add an extra four inches due to slightly straighter sculptured walls and higher-density insulation material behind them.

Starlux A350 business class

Rather than transferring its well-rated A330neo business class seat across to the A350, Starlux serves as launch customer for the new Elements product from Collins Aerospace (the firm also pioneered and supplied those micro-LED bulkhead walls).

Starlux A350 business class.
Starlux A350 business class.

A next-gen evolution of the popular Super Diamond seat, Elements – which will also be seen on Etihad’s forthcoming Boeing 787-9s – proves to be a very spacious and well-appointed business class suite.

Starlux A350 business class.
Starlux A350 business class.

There’s noticeably more room than its Super Diamond predecessor, including legroom under the 24-inch 4K monitor, with ample privacy even before you shut the now-ubiquitous sliding door.

Starlux A350 business class.
Starlux A350 business class.

The seat is framed by elegant curved 48.5cm (19”) walls topped by what Collins describes as a ‘halo’ lip angled inward to add to the suite’s cocoon-like cosiness.

Starlux A350 business class.
Starlux A350 business class.

For inflight relaxation without putting the seat into flatbed mode, we recommend the ‘Zero G’ function: this one-touch option on the control panel sets the seat into an elongated W-shape which we found perfect for reading or watching a movie.

Starlux A350 business class.
Starlux A350 business class.

Headlining the three storage areas is a cupboard with everything from USB-A, USB-C and AC power outlets to a wireless charging pad and a mirror.

Starlux A350 business class.
Starlux A350 business class.

If the Starlux A350 business class Elements suite has one shortcoming, it’s the bifold table.

Starlux A350 business class.
Starlux A350 business class.

Supported by a single joist, the table is prone to excessive shaking during even light turbulence, when during the meal service our soup made a valiant if ultimately unsuccessful attempt to escape the bowl.

Things were less challenging when using the table as a workspace, with a laptop providing sufficient counterweight to keep the table steady.

We also feel Starlux could beef up its IFE selection for long-range flights, especially when it comes to TV series: the video library is short on boxed sets (there was just a single episode from Stanley Tucci’s excellent Searching for Italy series) while entire content genres appeared to be missing.

Starlux A350 business class.
Starlux A350 business class.

As is becoming the new norm, you can leave the supplied noise-cancelling headphones in their cupboard and connect your own headphones or earbuds via Bluetooth.

The satellite WiFi connection – which is free in Starlux A350 business and first class – served up streaming video with minimal buffering, and was more than up to the task for everyday Web browsing, email and social media.

(In premium economy and economy there’s unlimited free texting using apps such as Facebook Messenger, Apple iMessage, WhatsApp and Line.)

Starlux A350 first class

If you’re wondering about the Starlux A350’s first class, this is an evolution of the already-impressive business class product.

Starlux A350 first class.
Starlux A350 first class.

The four first class suites take pride of place as Row 1 ahead of business class, although not in their own cabin.

Starlux A350 first class.
Starlux A350 first class.

The Starlux A350 first class suites occupy a larger footprint, raise the walls to 60” (1.5m) and upsize the personal video screen to 32”.

Starlux A350 first class.
Starlux A350 first class.

First class creature comforts range from a personal mini-bar to a coat closet and luggage stowage.

Starlux A350 first class.
Starlux A350 first class.

While more of a ‘business plus’ approach, Starlux’s decision to include first class on its A350s is another differentiation against China Airlines and Eva Air, both of which phased out first class in recent years.

Summary

There’s attention to detail everywhere you look onboard the Starlux A350, and we mean everywhere – right down to airline-branded toilet paper.

Starlux is working hard and smart to make its mark in these ultra-competitive skies, and the carrier’s A350 business class raises the bar for its rivals while setting new industry benchmarks.

The author travelled as a guest of Starlux Airlines

Really great to see a first-hand report on the Starlux A350 business class., well done ET! Starlux is up against it, competing against China Airline and EVA, both of whom already have very good long-haul business class and solid lounges plus the benefit of alliance membership. But I wish Starlux all the best success because competition shakes things up, everyone wins and especially travellers. And it's great to see a proper 'premium' approach here, the airline's really going all-in.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

01 Oct 2021

Total posts 14

Well this report might show how nice it is to fly with Starlux as I well know. I am a top tier Insighter member and last week I found out the horror stories I have been told about are true. Fly this airline at yuour own risk. See what happenens when they cancel your flight as they are flying mostly empty planes. See what happens if you need to change your flight. They have no customer service whatsoever.

They cancelled one of my flights in early April and ask you to call their customer service desk. 2 days of constant calling and no one answers the phone. They have an office in Taipei and the only way you can get help is to physically go to the office, take a ticket and wait, and wait,andwait. Eventually they will try to help youj while making you feel the cancellation is your fault.

I am currently in the Philippines and needed to change my flight back to Taiwan next week and I tried calling the ticket office in Manila and hey ho all the lines are disconnected..Called my friends at Cathay Pacific in MNL and they told me they have closed everything down at their outstations and you have to contact Taipei. Eventually I got through to someone who was actually was very nice to deal with. The problem is I was on hold for 57 minutes trying to talk to someone.

Another thing about this airline, is the fact their home base has a tiny lounge with no showers and a very limited choice of food and drinks. Also as a top tier member if you are not in business class you have to pay to select yoor seat in advance. I have tried messaging them over the lastr 4 months and they never reply anyting.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 318

Looking forward to their A350 launch and hoping they also expand into Australia soon! Will be great when they start flying and get their actual First class offering reviews !

29 Jan 2020

Total posts 33

Looks impressive…..did your Author actually fly on the Aircraft, as there was no report re inflight service?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2559

Gordon most definitely flew on the Starlux A350, as you'll see from his first-hand observations as well as that some of the photos are not the glossy PR shots. We chose not to make this a conventional 'flight review' covering food & service because the A350 flight will be disappearing from these regional routes once TPE-LAX launches, so our focus was purely on the business class seat and related aspects which will remain relevant once the Starlux A350 is flying to the USA.

31 May 2018

Total posts 16

No food or service?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2559

As this was just a short-range flight and the A350 will be disappearing from these regional routes once TPE-LAX launches, our focus was on the business class seat and related aspects rather than being a conventional 'flight review' with photos of meals etc. That way the Starlux A350 business class review has greater relevance beyond April.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

20 Nov 2017

Total posts 115

Very much like China Airlines J class, except the table is very stable on CI.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 318

Hi David, i know this is a Business class review and you weren't covering Catering or Services.  But as you had a First Class Section, you may like to mention some of the differential offerings they are providing when flying First Class.  As advertised on their website: Exclusive First Class Service Agents, Chauffeur service to/from Airport in Taiwan, and use of the Seperate Private Terminal - PS Private Lounge, at LAX.

Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

01 Oct 2021

Total posts 14

Flew again today. MNL TPE. Plane made 25 % full.

Super rushed lunch with no offer of any drinks whatsoever. CRew spent most of the flight at the back of the plane talking. Now they are trying to raise another 5 billion TWD to stay alive. https://focustaiwan.tw/business/202302220006


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