Starlux Receives DOT Permission To Launch US Flights

Taiwanese airline Starlux has received the green light from United States authorities to begin flights between Taiwan and the USA. The Department of Transportation gave the go-ahead on Tuesday. Starlux was eyeing flights to Los Angeles, but with international travel demand still in the doldrums and restrictions in place, flights may still be a while away.

Starlux has received permission to fly to the USA from the US Department of Transportation. Photo: Starlux

Department of Transportation permit granted earlier this week

The foreign carrier permit issued allows Starlux to fly “scheduled foreign air transportation of persons, property, and mail from points behind Taiwan, via Taiwan and intermediate points, to a point or points in the United States and beyond.”

Starlux will also be allowed to operate charter services in and out of the United States as long as there is no change of aircraft and the primary purpose of the charter is to transport traffic between Taiwan and the USA.

This follows Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation November 2020 decision also allowing the planned USA flights. Interestingly, that permit matched cities to particular aircraft types. Taiwanese authorities will allow Stalux to operate A350-900 flights between Taipei and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Guam, Seattle, and San Jose. Stalux’s A350-1000 planes can fly between Taipei and Boston, New York (JFK and Newark), Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Washington Dulles.

Starlux already operates a small fleet of Airbus A321neos. Photo: Starlux Airlines

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Starlux orders Airbus A350s to satisfy its long-haul plans

Bucking the low-cost carrier trend, Starlux positioned itself as a Taipei-based premium airline and launched some services around the region. However, services were promptly suspended as the global travel downturn impacted. Some limited services using their fleet of leased Airbus A321neos have since resumed.

Two years ago, when Starlux was still on the drawing boards, the airline signed a deal with Airbus to buy 17 widebody planes. The order was for 12 A350-1000s and five A350-900s. These planes would support Starlux’s long-haul ambitions, including flights to the USA.

Seating up to 440 passengers (although Starlux’s premium seat heavy business model will see substantially fewer passengers on their widebody Airbus planes), the A350-1000 can range up to 16,100 kilometers before refueling. The A350-900 can fly 15,000 kilometers. In the first instance, Taiwanese authorities are keeping the slightly shorter range A350-900 to Pacific rim cities.

Starlux had ordered 12 Airbus A350s. Photo: Airbus

Starlux eyes flights to Los Angeles

In their application to the Department of Transport late last year, Starlux Airlines indicated it wanted to operate daily flights between Taipei and Los Angeles from 2023. Using one of their new Airbus A350s, the flights would add 223,380 seats annually to the route. Starlux flagged expected passenger load factors of 75.3%. Starlux anticipates generating annual revenues in excess of US$121 million on the route.

In addition to United States-based carriers such as United Airlines, Starlux will be going up against local competitors China Airlines and EVA Air on the Taiwan-USA corridor. Department of Transportation data reveals 1,362,160 passengers flew between the USA and Taiwan (or vice versa) in 2019. In contrast, just 307,036 passengers flew the sector in 2020.

With border closures, travel restrictions, vaccination rollouts, experts predict it may be several years before international travels get back to 2019 levels. Starlux Airlines may be counting its blessings its planned flight to the United States won’t happen before 2023.

What do you think? What are the prospects of Starlux Airlines making it to the USA in 2023? Post a comment and let us know.