TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan based-StarLux Airlines Co. said on Sunday that its new fleet of wide-body A350 aircraft will have first class cabins, even though the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the aviation industry.
The airline, which flew its first commercial flight on Jan. 23, has ordered 17 wide-body A350 aircraft (nine A350-900s and eight A350-1000s) from Airbus, the first of which is scheduled to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to the airline’s spokesperson Nieh Kuo-wei (聶國維).
Since StarLux positions itself as a luxury airline, all of the aircraft will offer first class seats, with the exact seating arrangement to be determined by the end of the year, Nieh said.
The fleet will first be used to fly routes to Northeast and Southeast Asia, and then to the United States in the second quarter of 2022, when the airline plans to begin services to the U.S. west coast, Nieh said.
With the purchase, StarLux stands to become the second of Taiwan’s carriers, after China Airlines (CAL), to operate A350-900s and the first to operate A350-1000s.
Taiwan’s two main international carriers, EVA Airways and CAL, began phasing out first class after they took delivery of Boeing B777-300ERs in 2005 and 2014, respectively, following a growing trend in the global industry.
As for StarLux’s 10 A321neo planes, which it has leased from Airbus, Nieh said that the fourth aircraft will be delivered in October, with the remaining six scheduled to be delivered next year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, StarLux had to suspend its operations two months into its first commercial flight, but has since resumed some of its services to Macau and to Penang in Malaysia.
As it is impossible to predict when the pandemic will end, Nieh said that they are still waiting to launch new services to Cebu, the second-largest city in the Philippines, and to Okinawa, which were originally planned to begin earlier this year.
The airline is also planning on launching more routes to Northeast and Southeast Asia in the second half of 2021, Nieh said.