Starlux Airlines is an ambitious Taiwan-based carrier. While the current crisis has impacted its operations, the airline is looking beyond that and seeking to grow its international operations tremendously. With Airbus A350s on order, the airline is eyeing 15 routes to the United States.
Eyeing routes to the United States
Focus Taiwan reports that Starlux Airlines has applied to Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration for 15 flights to the United States. This comes after the airline outlined plans to fly to new destinations in Thailand and Japan. The destinations on the airline’s mind are the following:
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Guam (GUM)
- Honolulu (HNL)
- Seattle (SEA)
- San Jose (SJC)
- Ontario (ONT)
- New York (JFK)
- Newark (EWR)
- Washington D.C. (IAD)
- Houston (IAH)
- Chicago (ORD)
- Dallas (DFW)
- Miami (MIA)
- Boston (BOS)
The only way Starlux would launch these routes would be if the market improves, and it gets the Airbus A350s on time, which are expected to arrive at the end of 2021. The soonest the airline is anticipating launching these routes is 2022.
The strange list of airports
Like Los Angeles and New York, some airports make sense for an airline from East Asia to fly to. Los Angeles and New York are big population centers and financial centers, so there will likely be a fair bit of leisure, visiting family and relatives (VFR), and business travel by 2022. Starlux is planning to have a proper first class cabin onboard the planes. Some others, however, are a little strange.
For example, take the idea to fly to both San Francisco and San Jose or to fly from both JFK and Newark. San Jose is a better airport for catching tech-center demand in Silicon Valley, but it is unclear if there is that much demand. Already, between San Francisco and Taipei, the market is quite heavily contested with China Airlines, EVA Air, and United Airlines flying widebodies on the route.
Most of these destinations are already served by other airlines:
- Los Angeles: China Airlines, EVA Air
- San Francisco: China Airlines, EVA Air, United Airlines
- Guam: China Airlines
- Honolulu: China Airlines
- Seattle: Eva Air
- San Jose: None
- Ontario: China Airlines
- New York: China Airlines, EVA Air
- Newark: None
- Washington D.C.: None
- Houston: EVA Air
- Chicago: EVA Air
- Dallas: None
- Miami: None
- Boston: None
Essentially, only on six routes will Starlux have a monopoly.
One of the most interesting of these routes, however, is Miami. From Miami to Taipei, a flight has to fly over 7,500 nautical miles (nearly 14,000 kilometers). This flight would be longer than United’s Houston to Sydney route and be under Singapore’s Los Angeles to Singapore route.
Miami has been wanting a nonstop route to Asia for years. So, perhaps Starlux sees room to get some subsidies to make this route work.
Is Starlux hoping for partnerships?
EVA has a partnership with United Airlines, and China Airlines works with Delta Air Lines. Of major US airlines, Starlux could target American Airlines, which would provide feed out of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Miami. It could turn to both Alaska Airlines and American, which would further add San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle as connecting opportunities. Going even further, JetBlue would offer additional connections out of Los Angeles, New York, and Boston with a few limited options out of Newark.
Making all of these routes work without a fully developed connecting network out of Taipei and no partnerships, however, is a bit of a moonshot and could deal a massive blow to the airline financially early on.
Will Starlux fly all of these routes?
The answer is likely a resounding no. It makes limited sense to fly to both San Francisco and San Jose and both Newark and New York if there is no connecting opportunity on one or both ends. However, given how full JFK is, Starlux might be keeping its options open to add flights to Newark just in case.
Applying for a route is very different from actually launching it. Starlux will need to get approval from the United States, which is more of a formality since Taiwan and the United States have had an open skies agreement for over 20 years.
Depending on how the market shapes out, Starlux will likely only start with a few destinations in the United States. Given how it only has 18 Airbus A350s on order and flying the A330neos on some of these routes would be a bit of a stretch, the airline is probably hedging its bets by trying to get approval to all 15 destinations so that, when the time comes to launch them, it can do so with little regulatory hurdles.
Some of the routes, such as Guam, could be served with a smaller Airbus A321neo, freeing up an A350 for more flights to the United States. Still, with over a year to go before Starlux officially launches US flights and an uncertain recovery on the horizon, there could be many changes to this list.
Are you rooting for Starlux to launch any of these routes in particular? Let us know in the comments!