To get home from Osaka, I’d be taking a rather unusual route.
Since Singapore Airlines had no award space on the KIX-SIN route, I instead purchased two one-way Business Class tickets: KIX-TPE on STARLUX, and TPE-SIN on China Airlines. This cost a total of S$1,580, and while I’m not a big fan of paying cash for air tickets, sometimes you just gotta bite the bullet.
My last experience with STARLUX came in November last year, and yet there’s just something about this airline that makes me excited enough to pen an updated take.
|✈️ tl;dr: STARLUX A330neo Business Class|
|STARLUX’s Business Class experience remains stellar even on short-haul regional flights, with all the frills you could need (and then some).|
|👍 The Good||👎 The Bad|
|🌸 Popping My Cherry Blossom|
STARLUX A330neo Business Class
STARLUX has a total of 297 seats on its Airbus A330neo, split into a 269-seat Economy Class cabin, and a 28-seat Business Class cabin.
Business Class seats are laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration with all-aisle access. They’re a modified version of the Safran Skylounge Core, for which STARLUX is the launch customer. Customisations were made by BMW Designworks, and the resulting product looks gorgeous- a “pure tea” colour scheme featuring natural tones, warm fabric and leather.
These aren’t necessarily the best Business Class seats out there, since they lack privacy doors and come in a rather high-density configuration. However, we need to keep in mind that this is intended to be a regional Business Class product. STARLUX’s long-haul Business Class seat on the A350-900 (coming to Singapore in June 2023) is the real litmus test of how good the airline can be, and the initial reports sound promising.
In terms of layout, A, C, H & K are the solo seats, with C/H closer to the aisle, and A/K closer to the window.
Naturally, this makes the A/K seats more popular, even if your window view is obstructed somewhat by the rather superfluous privacy wing on the window side.
If you have a C/H seat, not to worry, the privacy wing actually does a decent job of blocking out the aisle.
E/G and D/F seats are in the middle, with the D and G seats closer to the aisle, and the E and F seats partially shielded by the console.
Unlike my previous STARLUX flight where I flew solo, The MileLioness was with me this time round so we opted for these seats instead. It’s important to emphasise that even though these are ostensibly “couple seats”, the experience is anything but. Regardless of whether you choose an E/G or D/F pairing, you’re unlikely to see your seatmate throughout the flight.
That’s because of an immovable privacy divider between the seats, which is just as unforgiving in the E/G pairings…
…as it is the D/F pairings. I suppose it’s slightly smaller here, but you won’t be doing a lot of socialising on the flight, that’s for sure.
Here’s what that privacy divider looks for the E/G seats when you’re seated. Honeymoon seats these ain’t.
My seat was 6E, which was in tip-top condition. Seats are 20 inches wide with 44 inches of pitch, which is roughly the same dimensions as Singapore Airlines’ B787-10 Business Class. It could be a tighter fit for a passenger of size, however, since unlike Singapore Airlines the armrests cannot be lowered.
Each seat has a personal storage closet for loose items and headphones, which has a small vanity mirror installed on the inside. There’s a subtle Polaris texture built into the inner wall, a reminder that United Airlines doesn’t have a monopoly on the logo.
Below the closet is a 60W USB Type-C charger and a regular USB 3.0 Type-A port. There is no HDMI connectivity, unfortunately, so you can’t use that lovely 4K screen as a second monitor. The wireless charging pad kept my area tidy and free of wires, but the power transfer rate was very slow, and it was difficult to find the sweet spot where charging gets triggered.
This isn’t a criticism of STARLUX per se; wireless charging technology generally isn’t ready for prime time, and most pads you’ll find outside the home are stuck on 5W (versus the 23W I get on my Pixel 7 Pro with the Pixel Stand).
The inflight remote has no touchscreen, which doesn’t bother me really since I much prefer to refer to the big screen. It does have a touchpad, however, which can be used like a mouse to navigate the IFE system. A small LED display at the top right displayed the route and time remaining on the flight.
Seat controls are touch-sensitive, and include presets for full upright, full flat and lounging. You can adjust the lumbar support, and toggle the light around the footwell. What you can’t adjust are individual components of the seat, which might be annoying if you’re particular about that sort of thing.
Business Class passengers enjoy 17.3″ touch-sensitive inflight entertainment screens with 4K resolution. 4K on such a small screen might sound like a gimmick, but remember you’re on an airplane and seated much closer to the display compared to your living room. At this distance, there is a visible improvement.
You may encounter a bit of a “selfie effect” with these high gloss screens when seated at a window seat (due to sunlight), but it’s relatively muted for those in middle seats.
A button next to the IFE screen lowers the tray table, which can either be pulled towards you, or pushed away to allow easier egress during meal service.
A reading light can be found near your head, with three levels of adjustable brightness.
Even on this relatively-short 2.5 hour flight, Business Class passengers received a pillow and full-sized blanket. The blanket was made of a fleece-like material that was smooth to the touch.
No slippers were provided, though they should be available on request. As this is a short-haul daytime flight, amenities kits aren’t stocked either (passengers on transpacific flights receive BRIC’s kits with Huygens skincare amenities).
STARLUX’s inflight entertainment looks great on the 4K screens, especially in Business Class with 17.3″ of real estate.
Passengers receive a set of over-ear noise-cancelling headphones, which are comfortable even after prolonged periods of wear.
If you prefer to use your own, the system allows you to pair any Bluetooth headphones or headset. I could even pause the movie by pressing the button on my Beats.
When I last flew STARLUX, one of my complaints was the very limited IFE selection. I counted a mere 17 English language movies. It looks like they’ve sorted that out, because this time the movie selection had been buffed to more than 120 options. It won’t be challenging Emirates’ ICE anytime soon, but it’s a good start.
However, there were still hiccups. Throughout the flight, a large number of titles couldn’t play. I flagged this to the crew, who mentioned that other passengers were encountering it too. Despite repeated attempts to reset the system, the glitch couldn’t be fixed, so in the end I received US$150 in STARLUX duty-free vouchers as compensation.
STARLUX offers Wi-Fi across its fleet through its Galactic Wi-Fi service, with the following complimentary allowances:
- Business Class: Unlimited data
- Economy Class: Unlimited free texting
Additional packages can be purchased for the following prices:
|Purchase in advance||Purchase onboard|
It’s unfortunate that there’s no option for time-based packages, since most people will burn through 30/100MB in no time flat. But I suspect part of the reason is that STARLUX hasn’t worked out the kinks in its Wi-Fi just yet.
On my first-ever flight the system didn’t work for long periods of time, on my second flight the speeds were painfully slow, and this time round the speeds were merely average.
This continues to be a key area of improvement for STARLUX, especially when I read reports that the Wi-Fi failed on their inaugural A350 flight…
Food & Beverage
STARLUX serves pre-departure drinks in Business Class, but they don’t offer alcohol on the ground. You’ll need to wait until after take-off for your first tipple.
Instead, passengers were served a mix of cold-pressed pineapple and mango juice (a little too sweet for my taste buds), plus a hot towel infused with “Home in the Air”, STARLUX’s signature fragrance created by P.Seven.
STARLUX allows passengers (in all cabins) to pre-select their meals before the flight, including some special items that may not be offered onboard. Unfortunately, the Michelin-starred LONGTAIL menu I enjoyed so much on my previous flight is only available out of Taipei.
On this flight there was a choice of an Asian menu, or an International menu with two different mains. Unlike my previous flight, a physical menu was available (though it wasn’t proactively offered to all passengers; you have to request for one).
I went with the Asian option, which featured a starter of daikon senmaizuke, soymilk chawanmushi and yuzu lotus root pickles, accompanied by a main of baked halibut covered in edamame paste, shrimp tempura, shiitake mushroom teriyaki and burdock rice. Since this was a short flight, everything was served on a single tray.
This wasn’t one of the better STARLUX meals I’ve had; the rice was mushy, the protein had already broken apart when served, and the tempura batter was soggy. The best part was probably the soymilk chawanmushi.
The MileLioness had the international option, which featured a starter of tomato salad with ginger soy dressing, and a main of grilled rosemary chicken thigh. She thought this was much better, with the dark chocolate bread being the hero. It’s served with Isigny Saintre Mere butter, and if you know your butters that’s a heck of a lot better than Lurpak.
The Asian menu had a cherry blossom raindrop cake for dessert, while the international menu got a fig cheesecake. Fresh fruits were served with both, plus a small Amedei Porcelana chocolate. This is one of the more expensive chocolates out there, since Porcelana cocoa is extremely limited. Amedei only produces a limited amount of Porcelana chocolate each year!
The food may have been a bit of a miss (especially compared to what STARLUX is capable of doing out of Taiwan), but the drinks list is something special.
There’s a good selection of wines, including my very favourite Bollinger champagne. On my previous STARLUX flight they only stocked one bottle; this time there were no such shortages.
|🍷 STARLUX Wine List|
|Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee||Champagne||4.3/5|
|Selbach Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr (Grand Cru) Riesling Spatlese Trocken 2017||White||4.2/5|
|Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc 2018||White||4.1/5|
|Chateau Les Vieux Ormes 2015||Red||3.9/5|
|Nipozzano Vecchie Viti 2015||Red||4.0/5|
|Dow’s Fine Tawny Port||Port||3.8/5|
But even if wine is not your thing, STARLUX has you covered. I’m going to list out every single option, because you really need to appreciate how extensive this is.
|🍹 STARLUX Drinks List|
|Spirits & Liqueurs|
I of course had to have the signature Sci-fi Cosmos 2.0, which is disconcertingly neon blue and perhaps a tinge too sweet. It still makes for a great photo though.
Teetotallers aren’t forgotten either. In addition to cold pressed juices, mocktails, illy coffee and various teas (let’s not forget Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino water), there’s also Taiwanese milk tea with boba.
I’m delighted to see STARLUX continuing to offer such an extensive selection, and most passengers are bound to find something they like.
Business Class seats convert into full-flat beds just shy of 2-metres long. The seat padding is comfortable, and the hard shell around your head provides acoustic isolation.
More importantly, seats point directly forward, so you won’t need to sleep at an angle. The footwell is also generous enough that both side and back sleepers will be happy. I managed to nap for about 20 minutes on this short flight, and keep in mind this aircraft is intended for regional hops rather than transpacific voyages.
The 28 Business Class passengers have access to 2-3 lavatories. The actual number depends on the relative load of Business and Economy Class, since the crew will reassign the lavatories behind Row 8 as needed.
The lavatories have some nice touches, like dark-coloured countertops instead of the standard white ones. These hide stains better and add a touch of sophistication.
Bathrooms feature THANN Aromatic Wood hand lotion, face mist and eau de toilette. Incidentally, these are the same amenities that Economy Class gets too!
For a 2.5-hour flight, this was a very compelling Business Class experience. While the food might not have been to the standards that STARLUX is capable of, the comfortable seats, extensive drinks list and attentive service more than made up for it.
If STARLUX could only get their Wi-Fi system to run more dependably, and introduce time-based packages for those in Economy Class, then there’d be every reason to choose them over the competition.
Can’t wait to try their long-haul products- though only when it becomes redeemable with miles!