Why Starlux changed mind about domestic charter flights?

圖/取自星宇航空官方臉書 | Photo courtesy of Starlux Airlines’ Facebook Page

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Taiwan’s luxury international carrier, Starlux Airlines, recently reversed its decision to not operate domestic flights. In a statement to local media, the airline indicated that it now plans to launch charter flights to Kinmen, Penghu and Taitung, pending government approval.

This announcement is particularly surprising considering that Starlux decided against such plans a few weeks ago for many reasons. So, why was such a decision made back then?

Given that the aviation industry is dynamic in nature, particularly during uncertain times, airlines have to be quick and flexible in their decision making. Here is one crucial reason why Starlux may have changed its plans for the short-term future: the pilots’ limited flight hours.

Given that most international passenger flights have been canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of the world’s pilots have had limited flights to operate.

However, in order for an airlines’ cockpit crew to retain their pilot licenses, they must meet international regulatory requirements such as regularly making takeoffs and landings.

To avoid having to “re-train” their pilots if their licenses are suspended due to inactivity, airlines strive to ensure that the minimum requirements for flight operations are met.

Such efforts can be costly; for example, South Korea’s Asiana Airlines has been flying empty A380s in order for the aircraft type’s cockpit crew to retain their licenses.

Furthermore, contrary to previous expectations, there appears to be no predictable end to the current crisis, with the current coronavirus ravaging countries across the globe. As such, it is wise for Starlux to adopt a short-term solution to address the issue of maintaining pilot certification.

Since it is in Starlux Airlines’ interest to maintain certified licenses for their cockpit crew, the company might as well earn revenue while Starlux’s pilots operate the necessary flights.

At the same time, while domestic flights may not be extremely profitable, passengers who experience Starlux’s well-appointed planes may be more inclined to choose the luxury airline over its competitors, when more profitable international flights return to normal.