Taiwan’s Starlux Airlines could be looking to delay the launch of its US services. The full-service airline planned to start services in mid-2022 but has pushed that date towards the end of the year instead. The carrier started operations in January 2020 but has struggled due to border closures and negligible demand.
According to Taipei Times, a Starlux spokesman confirmed that the airline is considering moving its first US flight from the middle of 2022 to the end of the year. The reason for the move is that border controls may remain in place until the end of 2022, impacting any potential demand. With no clarity on when COVID-19 will be controlled globally, flight plans are difficult to confirm.
Starlux had previously planned to take delivery of its new A350s in 2021 and start flights shortly after. However, production delays have meant the carrier won’t see its first A350 until 2022. Instead, Starlux plans to lease a fleet of eight A330neos for its longer flights, with the first delivery scheduled for late this year.
Taiwan is notable as one of the very few countries that has controlled the spread of COVID-19. The country has seen only 946 cases and seven deaths since last year, allowing life to return to normalcy. However, this has come with the cost of full border closure, impacting flight traffic heavily.
Until vaccines are rolled out to large parts of the population and infection levels fall drastically, it is unlikely countries like Taiwan will reopen their borders. This means that Starlux will struggle to launch international flights to popular destinations like the US and UK for at least the next year.
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Starlux currently operates a modest fleet of four A321neos, laid out in a two-class configuration of eight business class and 180 economy seats. The luxurious cabin design and lie-flat business seats have made the airline popular on its recent “flights to nowhere.”
However, the Taiwanese carrier has long-held ambitions of becoming a major full-service airline in the region. It started operation in January 2020 but was forced to ground flights just months later as the pandemic’s effects became clear. Despite this, the airline has not substantially changed its strategy, just delaying it for now.
In October, the airline revealed plans to add three new routes to Tokyo, Osaka, and Bangkok. These destinations were more business-oriented than its previous network, signaling a slight recovery in the market. However, more routes are coming soon.
Starlux has said that it plans to add three to four routes in 2022, followed by another five to six in 2023. However, all of this depends on whether travel restrictions are eased and infection levels fall. For now, Starlux remains a niche carrier hoping to make its mark in a competitive market once a recovery begins.
What do you think about Starlux’s future? Could it become a major international carrier? Let us know in the comments!