Starlux sets June debut for new A330neo business class

The Taiwanese startup is ready to spread its wings with the first of eight Airbus A330neo jets.

Starlux Airlines’ A330neo is ready to take wing, with the Taipei-based carrier circling June 1 for the start of flights to Bangkok, Manila and Ho Chi Minh City as launch routes.

There will be two Starlux A330neo inaugural flights on June 1, to Bangkok and Manila, with Ho Chi Minh City commencing on June 18.

Other cities tipped to see the A330neos, which in some cases will depend on the easing of current travel restrictions, include Singapore, Macau and Tokyo, the airline says, with Starlux also not ruling out flights to Australia as part of the A330neo’s focus on “major cities within the Asia-Pacific region.”

The Starlux A330neo is crowned by 28 of what Starlux terms 'high privacy pods' in the business class cabin, with ample personal space plus conveniences such as wireless charging and Bluetooth audio beamed from the 4K 17.3-inch screen direct to the traveller's own headphones.

And as you'd expect from any modern business class seat, they convert into a fully lie-flat bed and are arranged in a 1-2-1 layout so that every passenger has easy access to the aisle.

Starlux enlisted BMW Designworks to shape its A330neo interiors, which evoke a “home in the air” ambience through a palette of natural colours, warm fabric and leather, in keeping with the airline's desire to be a design-led boutique carrier.

Four Starlux A330neo jets will be parked in the airline’s hangers by the end of this year, with a further four to follow from 2023.

Also due for delivery is the Airbus A350, which will become the Starlux flagship for flights to North America, with nominated cities including Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, New York and Washington DC.

Starlux says it expects to pick up the key for its first of 18 A350s – in an order split between the A350-900 and A350-1000 models – “in the third quarter this year.”

In addition to a fresh take on business class, the Starlux A350s will sport a compact first class cabin with what's expected to be as few as four suites.

This could see StarLux take a ‘business plus’ or ‘business/first’ approach, similar to the Airbus A350s of China Eastern and Malaysia Airlines, as well as the forthcoming Business Premier Luxe suites of Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787s.

StarLux will also need to raise the business class bar above the high standards set by competitors Eva Air and China Airlines, which already boast some of Asia’s best seats.

Indeed, given StarLux’s upscale push, sliding privacy doors can’t be ruled out for either its Airbus A350 first or business class cabins.

Starlux considers its premium approach to travel is paramount to unlocking the duopoly of China Airlines and EVA Air in the highly competitive Asian market.

The startup is lead by longterm Taiwanese aviation executive and former EVA Air chairman Chang Kuo-wei, scion of one of the island-nation’s richest families with an estimated net worth of US$1.45 billion.

Starlux describes itself as a “detail-oriented luxury airline” with an eye on the premium business and leisure market, while Chang sees the airline being positioned as the “Emirates of Taiwan.”

“I want to bring Taiwanese airline brands to the world stage, breaking the stereotypes that we don't have quality carriers,” Chang has previously remarked.

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