Luxury airline Starlux starts Jan 25, can it survive?

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In a world of low-cost air travel – especially in Asia where it’s the dominant format, an all premium, indeed luxury airline is about to start up in Taiwan.

Starlux was founded by a former chairman of Taiwan’s EVA Air, and its just received its frst route authorities. It’s due to receive its first aircraft, an A321neo, in October.

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The first few months will be spent training and on familiarisation, while the airline gears up for launch.

The initial routes will operate from Taiwan Tayouan to:

  • Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
  • Chiang Mai
  • Phuket
  • Okinawa Naha
  • Osaka Kansai
  • Fukuoka
  • Sendai
  • Sapporo Chitose
  • Hakodate
  • Nagoya Chubu
  • Tokyo Narita

There are also plans to operate to Vietnam but approvals are pending.

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From 2021 the airline takes delivery of the first of 17 A350’s, 12 of them -1000, 5 -900’s, and intends on operating those log haul to the US – almost certainly LAX and SFO will be high on the agenda, with JFK.

What http://www.starlux-airlines.com website shows you is a load of heavy duty marketing and glowing double speak, about the premium experience and their colour choices being a connection to the earth and sky….Meanwhile in the real world, what does it mean?

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Well one quote on the website is from Steve Jobs no less, “great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people”.  All that says is they’re a group of people trying to invent a new airline.

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What I really want to see is what the aircraft will have in terms of layout, what will they do with such large aircraft? Is there really a market for such up-market economy travel? Business travellers will and do have plenty of choice. Right at home in Taiwan they’re up against EVA and China Airlines, who both have significant experience and good products on new aircraft. They’re also up against Thai, JAL, ANA and others on many of those routes. What will they bring to the party that’s going to make everyone drop their favourite airlines?

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Undoubtedly they will get initial bookings because of curiosity and introductory pricing, but will it be enough to entice people away from reward schemes they may have been tied in with for years? Can they fill aircraft on return flights from all of these cities without massive marketing spends? What about feeder routes and who will they partner with in the US?

They have some serious money behind them. Pilot training has already begun in Phoenix Arizona, cabin crew recruitment is already underway and their flight operations centre is a brand new facility close to completion.

What they really seem to be aiming for initially, is the Asian Transit market going through Taipei.

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Yet there is something fundamentally personal about this airline and its very existence is based on a feud with EVA Air and its parent Evergreen Group. The owner and creator of Starlux, Cheng Chuan-yi, was ousted from EVA Air following the death of his father, who was the chairman of Evergreen Group and its founder, Chang Jung-Fa.

This guy has a point to make – he’ll serve as Vice Chairman of the new company. That can be a huge driving force, so let’s just hope that sense and sensibility rather than the need to prove a point beyond reason, are allowed to run their course. Loosing face as he must have done, in Chinese culture, is considered the worst of all things. It’s a powerful motivation to succeed and make those who made it happen eat their words.

This airline is going to be interesting.

 

 

 

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