Starlux – Aspirational flying in a low cost world

Starlux, a Taiwanese startup based in Taipei at Taouyan International, took delivery of its first aircraft yesterday, an A321neo.

The aircraft is the first to offer true business class seating, with bed conversion seats on a single aisle.

The interiors – including the seats were designed with the help of BMW in Munich and have a touch of automotive flair.

The ambience of the interior is far from the all economy basic LCC or ULCC model.

Even economy seats have free WiFi, slim line ergonomics that maximise leg room without sacrificing comfort, and a bright spacious look that enhances the flying experience.

The gold trim of the livery – considered a symbol of wealth and prestige in the Far East, wasn’t chosen lightly.

Cabin crew wear uniforms that hark back to a golden age of flying – more akin to the 1950’s. Starlux even chose baseball caps for their flight crews to be different from the rest of the worlds more formal peaked captain style cap.

This is not a low cost airline and it makes no pretence about trying to be. This is an airline that wants you to feel every moment on board is something to enjoy and savour, not to be one of the crowd who just puts up with cramped seats and bad service because it’s cheap.

This is for people who travel, can afford and want that extra, the quality food, the polite faultless service, a comfortable stress-free flight. And of course you won’t mind if the ticket price is 40-50% more because with a reserved seat, of your choosing, generous baggage allowances and free WiFi it’s full service like it always used to be.

So with flights starting in January to destinations in the Far East and with orders for A350-900 and -1000 due to arrive in 2022 for long haul flights to the US and beyond Starlux has some serious ambitions.

And it also has two of Asia’s top airlines competing out of the same airport. China Airlines and EVA Air. Neither of them are going to give ground easily and they’re deeply established airlines with good reputations.

And there’s bad blood – Starlux founder had deep ties to EVA and the Evergreen Group that own it, being a former senior director.

So this is personal. Even so it’s tall order to take on these two giants, never mind the incumbent airlines at the destinations.

Is Asia capable of sustaining a high end, boutique airline? Is Taiwan? Are their enough wealthy people who will switch to it and stay with it as it grows? How will it cope when the inevitable recessionary cycle kicks in again?

Either way it’s an exciting concept. If it works it shows us the social and economic divide is as big as ever, and that there is a group of people who will pay for the privilege of flying this way.

Yet you have to ask, have they become so conditioned to the mediocrity of flight on low cost airlines they’ll embrace it and pay the premium?

Only time will tell.