On Friday, shares in Taiwan’s newest international carrier, Starlux Airlines, started trading on the local stock exchange. Starlux Airlines (Starlux) is now listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange’s Emerging Stock Board, with its sights set on profits in 2023 and international expansion.
According to the English news channel Focus Taiwan, Starlux has some ground to make up after reporting a net loss of NT$2.66 billion ($83.59 million) in the first half of this year. In 2021 the airline lost NT$3.2 billion ($100 million) and, since starting in 2018, has accumulated losses of NT$9.6 billion ($300 million). Starlux CEO Glenn Chai is upbeat about the airline’s prospects, telling a news conference it had reached 70% of pre-COVID-19 levels in June. Looking ahead, Chai said that going into the fourth quarter, the number of Starlux flights will increase by almost 100%, and “the airline’s passenger capacity is expected to double by the end of the year, as it continues to expand its fleet.”
The first A350 is on its way
The first Starlux Airlines A350 is set to be delivered in October, with all 17 by the end of 2027. Photo: Eurospot
Chai said that Starlux would expand its all-Airbus fleet from 12 to 19 by the end of 2022 and to 23 by the end of next year. By the end of this year, the fleet will comprise 13 Airbus A321-200neos, four A330-900neos and two A350 aircraft. According to ch-aviation.com, Starlux currently has three A321neos, four A330neos, one A350-1000 and 17 A350-900s on order.
The first A350-900 is scheduled to arrive this month, followed by the second before the end of the year, two more in 2023, four in 2024 and the balance by the end of 2027. Chai told the gathering that the A350s would be used on Starlux’s flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco, which will be launched in April next year and the second half of 2023, respectively. He added that the airline “is eyeing the transit market in North America and Southeast Asia,” targeting the one billion transit passengers who transfer from North America to Southeast Asia.
New destinations and an eye on ATRs
Starlux has three Airbus A330neos and plans using them to Asian destinations to match demand, depending on which markets are growing. Photo: Starlux Airlines
Closer to home, Starlux is launching new flights to Okinawa and Sapporo in Japan and resuming flights to Da Nang in Vietnam. These will start at the end of October and serve increased demand in the fourth quarter, which Chai said was a peak travel time. Those extra services will bring Starlux’s total destinations to thirteen, some of which will operate with widebodies. He added that Starlux aims to triple its capacity from a year earlier and double the number of flights in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter this year.
In a somewhat surprising twist, Chai said Starlux plans to acquire small freight aircraft to “meet soaring demand for that service.” With Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport set to exceed 4.02 million metric tons of cargo by 2024, he sees an opportunity to grab a slice of that attractive market. While Starlux will maintain its primary focus on international services, the Taipei Times said the CEO was open to bringing ATR Turboprops into the fleet for freight and domestic passenger services. He said that:
“Domestic flights would come later, and they could cushion the impact from unknown factors, such as a pandemic.”
With ATR aircraft not immediately available and the shortage of trained people to operate turboprop services, Chai said it would be the end of 2023 at the earliest when domestic routes could start.