On 28 October, luxury airline startup STARLUX received B-58501, the first of 18 A350-900 aircraft. These will enable the airline to commence long-haul operations, starting with Taipei to Los Angeles in April 2023.
While this isn’t STARLUX’s first wide-body aircraft — that would be the A330neo, first delivered in February 2022 — it will see the debut of a new First and Business Class product, making STARLUX the first Taiwanese airline to offer a First Class cabin.
Indeed, it will also be the first airline to offer a First Class cabin on an A350 (Malaysia Airlines has a pseudo First Class product called Business Suite which doesn’t really count), ahead of Air France and Lufthansa.
The seats were revealed yesterday at the Taipei International Travel Fair, where they’ll be on display till 8 November 2022. Just my luck that I already left town by then!
STARLUX A350-900 overview
STARLUX has ordered a total of 18 A350-900s, which will join its existing A330neo and A321neo aircraft, giving it an all-Airbus fleet.
STARLUX’s A350-900s will carry a total of 306 passengers in a four-class layout:
- 4 First Class
- 26 Business Class
- 36 Premium Economy Class
- 240 Economy Class
The A350-900s will operate between Taipei and the USA, with the airline already receiving approval for 15 US routes including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and New York (both JFK and EWR). Flights to Europe are also in the pipeline.
The USA routes are expected to commence in April 2023, although we’ll see the A350-900 deployed earlier on intra-Asia routes for crew familiarisation. Executive Traveller has confirmed that South East Asian destinations will be first to see the type, with Singapore, Bangkok, and Ho Chi Minh possible candidates.
Because of certification issues, however, we may only see STARLUX’s A350-900 flying from early 2023.
STARLUX will have a four-seat First Class cabin, configured in a 1-2-1 layout. Each suite will have a 60-inch (1.5m) tall door and privacy partitions, as well as zero-gravity seat settings (first introduced with Emirates on their new B77W First Class). A zero gravity position removes pressure from the elbows, back and neck, ensuring maximum comfort.
Passengers will enjoy 32-inch screens with 4K resolution and Bluetooth audio connectivity, as well as personal wardrobes for luggage storage.
At the moment, we do not have any further details on what service will look like in First Class, including the all-important champagne (hopefully they’ll stock more than the one bottle I had on my Business Class flight from Taipei!), amenities kits, sleeper suits and bedding.
STARLUX’s 26 Business Class seats will be configured in a 1-2-1 layout, each with 48-inch (1.2m) privacy doors, 24-inch screens with 4K resolution and Bluetooth audio connectivity, and a “cozy lamp to provide warmth” (this must be important if they saw fit to specifically highlight it in the press release).
Seats will have zero-gravity settings, and convert into full-flat beds.
A close up of the seat shows the high-quality finishes, such as the textured backrest and a stitched orange leather accent on the padded headrest. We can also see a three-point seatbelt.
However, I’m not seeing a whole lot of difference between the First and Business Class seats, apart from the bigger screen and taller door. It makes me wonder if STARLUX is taking a First-lite approach, where the same basic Business Class product is used but customised differently.
The extent of the differences will determine how much of a premium STARLUX can charge for First Class, although the small size of the cabin suggests it’s there more for a halo effect than a serious revenue generator.
Premium Economy Class
The A350-900 will also see the debut of STARLUX’s Premium Economy product, with all 36 seats featuring leg rests and footrest bars, as well as 15.6-inch screens with 4K resolution and Bluetooth audio.
Seats are configured in a 2-4-2 configuration, similar to Singapore Airlines.
STARLUX’s 240 Economy Class seats will be in a 3-3-3 configuration, adding an additional seat over the 2-4-2 configuration of its A330neo.
All seats will have 13.3-inch screens with 4K resolution and Bluetooth connectivity. In fact, they’re more or less the same as the ones you’ll find on the A330neo.
Dimmable windows and a wider cabin
Cabin products aside, STARLUX will be the first carrier to introduce dimmable windows on the A350. You may already be familiar with these from your travels on the B787 Dreamliner- an electric current is passed through a gel-like substance to control opacity, allowing for shadeless operation.
Airbus claims these will block 99.999% of light (100X darker than the previous generation), darken twice as fast, and reduce the strain on the cabin’s air conditioning equipment.
Also noteworthy is the fact that STARLUX will be the first to receive a slightly larger A350 cabin, which is 4-inches wider and 35-inches longer than the current generation. It’s good to see that STARLUX has not taken the opportunity to introduce 10-abreast seating, though I imagine the temptation will be too great for some other airlines.
STARLUX has unveiled its highly-anticipated A350-900 cabin products, which will take to the skies on regional routes in early 2023 before being deployed for long-haul service in Q2.
I recently flew on STARLUX Business and Economy Class on their A330neo between Singapore and Taipei, and came away thoroughly impressed (reviews are in the works). Perhaps that caused me to have unrealistic expectations of their long-haul premium cabin products; I don’t see anything here that’s truly revolutionary, nor a big difference between First and Business Class.
However, as Singapore Airlines has shown time and again, you don’t need to introduce revolutionary features if you have a solid product backed by top-notch service. STARLUX certainly has the latter, and we’ll need to wait and see how the cabin products themselves perform in real-world conditions.
There’s currently no feasible way of redeeming airline miles for STARLUX (short of acquiring their own rewards currency), but it’s been rumoured that STARLUX is looking to join oneworld, so hopefully that changes in the near future!
What do you make of STARLUX’s A350 cabin products?