Starlux Airlines’ Steep Transpacific Pricing

Starlux Airlines’ Steep Transpacific Pricing

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I’m a huge fan of Taiwan’s Starlux Airlines, as it’s one of my favorite airline brands. The company launched operations right before the pandemic (I had the chance to fly Starlux’s A321neo business class at the time), and it’s simply such an awesome, premium airline.

Starlux Airlines will shortly be launching transpacific flights, and I can’t help but note just how steep fares are. I’m trying to figure out the best strategy for flying with the airline across the Pacific, and I’m curious if any OMAAT readers have ideas.

Basics of Starlux’s TPE to LAX flights

Starlux Airlines recently took delivery of Airbus A350s, which feature all new first & business class cabins. The airline will be using these planes for long haul service, with the first route being between Taipei (TPE) and Los Angeles (LAX). Starlux will launch these flights as of April 26, 2023, initially operating 5x weekly, before ramping up operations to daily as of June 4, 2023.

Starlux will be facing a lot of competition in this market, as Taiwan is an incredibly competitive aviation market. Both SkyTeam’s China Airlines and Star Alliance’s EVA Air also operate this route, with higher frequencies as well.

Starlux has interesting premium products on its A350s. These planes have a single row of first class, consisting of four seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. The seats look spacious, but not revolutionary. Oddly there’s not a partition between first and business class, taking away from the exclusivity of the product.

Starlux Airlines A350 first class

Meanwhile business class looks excellent, with 26 reverse herringbone seats that have doors, plus all kinds of amazing tech. When you add in Starlux Airlines’ exceptional service, this should be a very nice premium experience.

Starlux Airlines A350 business class

Where are Starlux’s decent premium fares?

For savvy travelers, there’s usually a way to get a deal on a flight by simply positioning yourself to a market that has lower fares. For example, if you were to travel between Los Angeles and Bangkok, the fare would generally be a lot cheaper if originating in Bangkok rather than originating in Los Angeles. That’s just how airline pricing works.

Heck, differential pricing based on the market you’re originating in is one of the important strategies airline revenue management use. Pricing is based on competition in a market, the willingness of people in a market to pay, etc.

I’ve had great luck positioning myself strategically to take advantage of great fares. Heck, several years back I flew the incredible Etihad A380 Residence for a fraction of the normal cost by originating in Cairo.

And that brings me to Starlux Airlines, where I’m seeing almost no opportunities when it comes to value. While there are some pricing differences based on where you originate, Starlux’s LAX pricing ranges from high to very high.

As you’d expect, fares are highest if traveling just between Taipei and Los Angeles — a one-way business class ticket costs ~$3,200, while a one-way first class ticket costs ~$9,400.

Starlux Airlines first & business class pricing

Pricing is even higher in the other direction — a one-way business class ticket costs ~$5,180, while a one-way first class ticket costs ~$11,700.

Starlux Airlines first & business class pricing

Often tickets are significantly cheaper if originating in Bangkok, but not on Starlux Airlines. From Bangkok to Los Angeles, a one-way business class ticket will cost you ~$2,150, while a one-way first class ticket will cost you ~$9,760.

Starlux Airlines first & business class pricing

As normal, pricing is even higher in the other direction — a one-way business class ticket costs ~$3,930, while a one-way first class ticket costs ~$10,200.

Starlux Airlines first & business class pricing

I’m not finding a single transpacific fare on Starlux Airlines that I’d consider to be attractive. That applies regardless of whether traveling one-way or roundtrip, and regardless of where you originate. The business class pricing isn’t that outrageous, it’s the first class pricing that seems really steep, as I’m not even seeing any one-way first class fares under $5,000.

Am I missing something?

What about redeeming miles for Starlux Airlines?

I have top-tier elite status with Starlux Airlines thanks to a status match a while back, but go figure that actually earning miles with Starlux isn’t easy. The program has very reasonable redemption rates. One-way across the Pacific, first class costs 120,000 miles, while business class costs 90,000 miles.

Starlux Airlines award chart

The issue is, living in the US, I can’t figure out any reasonable ways to earn miles in the Starlux COSMILE frequent flyer program. It looks like the program doesn’t even sell miles directly? I don’t think there are any opportunities here that I’m missing, but please let me know if I am!

I guess our only hope may be that Air Canada Aeroplan tries to launch a partnership with Starlux. That’s probably unlikely given EVA Air’s Star Alliance membership, but Aeroplan has more airline partners than any other program, so who knows…

What is Starlux Airlines’ pricing strategy?

I have to say that I don’t really get Starlux Airlines’ pricing strategy. The airline is a new entrant to a market, doesn’t have much name recognition in the United States, and continues to have a fairly limited network compared to China Airlines and EVA Air.

I wondered if I might be missing something. Admittedly Starlux has generated quite a bit of buzz in Taiwan, so I wondered if maybe there was a lot of demand for this service ex-Asia?

I did some digging, looking at the fare buckets for the service between Taipei and Los Angeles for the month of May (the first full month of service).

Since there are only four first class seats, it’s easy to figure out how many seats have been sold (since inventory will show as “F4” if four seats are for sale, “F3” if three seats are for sale, etc.). Of the 21 flights operating between Taipei and Los Angeles in the month of May:

  • A total of three of the 84 first class seats have been sold from Taipei to Los Angeles
  • A total of four of the 84 first class seats have been sold from Los Angeles to Taipei

So of 168 first class seats available for sale, seven have been sold, meaning first class currently has a load factor of ~4%.

What about in business class? Well, since there are 26 seats in the cabin, you can’t as easily tell just how full the cabins are. What I can say is that inventory can only be as high as “J9C9” (meaning there are at least nine seats in the “J” and “C” fare buckets), and on every single flight all of those are available.

My point is simply to say that all signs point toward Starlux not selling all that many premium tickets on these flights yet, and I can’t say I’m surprised given the pricing.

Bottom line

Starlux Airlines will shortly launch transpacific flights, with a new service between Taipei and Los Angeles. I absolutely love this airline, and desperately want to fly this route. In almost all cases I’m able to find a decent deal by routing creatively or starting in a cheaper market.

However, Starlux seems to have consistently high fares on these routes. In particular, I find the first class pricing to be ridiculously steep, given that it’s not even a separate cabin. It seems I’m not alone in thinking the pricing is aggressive, given how few people seem to be buying this product.

What do you make of Starlux Airlines’ transpacific pricing? Are there any opportunities to get a deal that I’m missing?

Conversations (52)
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  1. Konrad Guest

    Went back to this post as I am looking to book a Starlux ticket in J. Best deal I could find was KUL-LAX/SFO for 2300$ OW. Isn’t the end of the world but still a bit steep; RT 3500$

  2. GS in PDX Guest

    Ben, you start off by saying that Starlux is an "awesome, premium airline." But, you give no real basis for that opinion, other than you had a great flight on one of their A320s. Then, you go through how their premium pricing is incredibly expensive. Are you still thinking that Starlux is an "awesome, premium airline"???

    Sounds like just another new, very small competitor in an already crowded Asia - US market. How do you...

    Ben, you start off by saying that Starlux is an "awesome, premium airline." But, you give no real basis for that opinion, other than you had a great flight on one of their A320s. Then, you go through how their premium pricing is incredibly expensive. Are you still thinking that Starlux is an "awesome, premium airline"???

    Sounds like just another new, very small competitor in an already crowded Asia - US market. How do you tell them apart from the rest of the pack? What do they offer that stands out above the crowd? (certainly, their attempt at 1st class does not...)

  3. Michael Guest

    Looking forward to exploring Starlux Inauguration flight LAX-TPE on 27April
    had experience their TPE-MFM short haul few week ago it's was abousulty beautiful with AB350-900 to MFM
    1st class in my humble opinion is totally waste money. prices do match Many other airlines, unfortunately due to AB350 interior space there is simply no difference as business class seat.
    TPE JX VIP lounge are very small under circumstances of TPE airport terminal 1

    Looking forward to exploring Starlux Inauguration flight LAX-TPE on 27April
    had experience their TPE-MFM short haul few week ago it's was abousulty beautiful with AB350-900 to MFM
    1st class in my humble opinion is totally waste money. prices do match Many other airlines, unfortunately due to AB350 interior space there is simply no difference as business class seat.
    TPE JX VIP lounge are very small under circumstances of TPE airport terminal 1
    space situation. however Staff's provide excellent exceptional service.
    purchased two businesses class round trip LAX-TPE-LAX for 27April last months total
    USD$11,414.50.

  4. Toys Samurai Guest

    I think that the founder's pride is a factor in this decision. If you know the history of the airline, you may know that he may not want to position it as being less upscale than EVA. In fact, I believe that he wants people to see his airline as even more upscale than EVA.

    As you may know, EVA does not offer first class, but Starlux has included a single row of first...

    I think that the founder's pride is a factor in this decision. If you know the history of the airline, you may know that he may not want to position it as being less upscale than EVA. In fact, I believe that he wants people to see his airline as even more upscale than EVA.

    As you may know, EVA does not offer first class, but Starlux has included a single row of first class seats in the same cabin as business class. While there doesn't seem to be a strategic reason for this decision, it may be due to the founder's desire to position the airline as a more upscale option than EVA. If this is the case, then it would make sense to include first class seats as a way to enhance the airline's image of luxury and exclusivity.

    1. Michael Guest

      Agreed your point of view

    2. James C Guest

      Dont know if Lucky read comments on a post this old.

      The chairman just went on a travel/food TV program (to promote his route to Penang Malaysia with support from the Penang tourism department). Surely not often you see the boss of an airline do this!

      He can't help but explained why they have to go with these rather underwhelming first class product.

      Basically first class is here not because they wanted to sell first...

      Dont know if Lucky read comments on a post this old.

      The chairman just went on a travel/food TV program (to promote his route to Penang Malaysia with support from the Penang tourism department). Surely not often you see the boss of an airline do this!

      He can't help but explained why they have to go with these rather underwhelming first class product.

      Basically first class is here not because they wanted to sell first class tickets, but because of how they were trying to position themselve as a premium airline, so they got to have a first class cabin. Also some of the premium food/drinks suppliers he wanted to work with will only supply their products to first class. They wont work with business plus or premium business, first class only.

      He admitted they are actually not that serious in actually selling those 4 first class seats, but hey, at least they got it should anyone wanted to fly it.

  5. LEo Diamond

    China Southern had a revenue first-class rate of lower than 20% for more than a decade and only got rid of it due to the new head, Mr Ma Accountant.

  6. Weymar Osborne Gold

    $2150 for biz from BKK to LAX seems pretty good to me actually.

  7. gstork Guest

    I’ve got an upcoming trip from LAX to SE Asia later this month and the business class fares they are quoting are inline with most of the competitors for business class across the dates and weeks I have searched (Philippines Airlines being the main exception).

    I think that demand to Asia is very high now after the lengthy lockdowns, and the flight schedules still haven’t fully recovered. There still is not the glut of...

    I’ve got an upcoming trip from LAX to SE Asia later this month and the business class fares they are quoting are inline with most of the competitors for business class across the dates and weeks I have searched (Philippines Airlines being the main exception).

    I think that demand to Asia is very high now after the lengthy lockdowns, and the flight schedules still haven’t fully recovered. There still is not the glut of seats from mainland China carriers flooding the markets and depressing fares that we commonly saw pre-pandemic.

    For shock value, check out business fares to Vietnam on Cathay or Singapore on most dates over the next couple months.

  8. Matrix.RX1 Guest

    normal APAC pricing. I heard of a family being quoted 18'000 AUD for each Business Class seat from MEL to the US with Qantas. Also, ex-SIN Business Class above 10'000 USD is still often a thing.

  9. DC Guest

    I give it a year before their First Class gets rebranded to Business Plus. Just like Malaysia’s A350.

  10. Lazar Guest

    You can fly a private jet with three people using the first class fare from Starlux I know we have a jet card and we’ve done it - Flew from Monterey Ca to Taipei and back

    1. Eskimo Guest

      For 30k? What company you're using?
      Anything with that range couldn't even do Hawaii for that price.

    2. Henry Guest

      My family flew a private jet on a similar route during COVID, which cost over $200K. I find $30K hard to believe.

    3. Mick Guest

      What a waste of $200k. No judgment but sheesh.

    4. Eskimo Guest

      Waste of $200k depends on how much you have. Someone with a few billion that's nothing.
      Go ask Elon.
      But dare saying no judgement? sheesh.

    5. Michael Guest

      Base on current Starlux 1st class seats price for 3 passengers approximately USD19,000.00 LAX-TPE-LAX
      Please let us know which private jet company could fly from Montery California to Taipei and back with $19,000.00
      I can conclude it's not possible.

  11. Ric Fermi Guest

    It's simple, some can afford effortlessly others don't. The End.

  12. T- Guest

    Starlux, the odd airline, is still a mystery to me. Their premium pricing seems extravagant. I don’t think Starlux is worth a good down- payment on a car etc…

    1. Ryan Guest

      I must be missing something, since when was a one way transpacific business class flight for $2000 extravagant.

      I don't do much business travel anymore but did in the 2000's and even then discounted business class was at least 4k round trip on the "discount" carriers like EVA, Delta, Philippines... nevermind Singapore and Cathay were charging double.

  13. dstorms101 New Member

    I saw an add for a starlux credit card on the Taiwan high speed rail the other day. It's definitely not an American style rewards structure but not too bad by local standards. If you were running up a lot of overseas business spending this might get you enough points for a redemption eventually.

    https://www.esunbank.com.tw/event/credit/starlux_card/index.html

    1. PPSS Guest

      They are constantly 20-30% more expensive than BR/CI on the intra Asia flights so I guess this is just continuing that trend. Time will tell if this is a cash burning exercise or if they will attract enough travelers to keep this going. I'm just happy there is another competitor to LAX as the LAX-TPE route is always super expensive.

  14. Ethan Guest

    Was looking forward to trying JX but turned off by high pricing too.
    intra-Asia their price is not competitive either.

  15. MB Guest

    I was pricing myself a flight via starlux...originally it was RT CEB to TPE... But that was ridiculous at 700 ish in economy. It's also a new route. Looking at pricing aggregate sites it would show lower than that what starlux was asking. However when I did CEB to LAX I saw 3000 ish for J... Haven't bought it yet as my plans to Philippines is now on hold.

  16. SB Guest

    Ben,
    The pricing from LA in F is steep because you get PS access. Salon is 995/person without a membership. An actual suite is 4700ish for up to 4 people.

    1. Motion to Dismiss Gold

      Do you get access to the Salon or do you get a Suite? Or is it one suite that the 4 F passengers can share?

    2. SB Guest

      Solo traveler you get salon access. Two or more you get a suite

  17. Jan Guest

    Talked to a sales staff of JX here in Manila. They have yet to include a connecting/transit pricing within their network. So at the moment, if I understand correctly, they combine fares for example a BKKTPE + TPELAX flight instead of a connecting price of BKKLAX via TPE

    1. hypertext Member

      If you read the article (or check the fares) you can see this isn't true. BKK-TPE-LAX biz fares are $1000 less than TPE-LAX... evidence that the pricing isn't additive like you suggest.

  18. john Guest

    how about flying this airline coach overseas? what a novel concept, and i do not think you will be worse for the wear after doing it

    1. Super Diamond

      This is a blog about aspirational travel via points. What is aspirational about economy? Go take your idiocy somewhere else.

    2. john Guest

      Well what points are you gonna use? Ben made it clear there are no ways to really get Starlux points (besides flying them, good luck with that).

      Go learn how to read before calling people idiots.

  19. Andy 11235 Guest

    With only 4 seats, I don't think they care if they haven't sold F ahead of time. The typical market for F is not a traveler looking to make reservations weeks ahead of time, while shopping around for the best fare. In general, with full ramp-up only happening in June, this is sufficiently far away that there may simply not be active revenue management yet. As others have said, C doesn't look that extraordinary given...

    With only 4 seats, I don't think they care if they haven't sold F ahead of time. The typical market for F is not a traveler looking to make reservations weeks ahead of time, while shopping around for the best fare. In general, with full ramp-up only happening in June, this is sufficiently far away that there may simply not be active revenue management yet. As others have said, C doesn't look that extraordinary given the market, and I can understand if the airline is unwilling to damage the brand by deeply discounting simply to get butts in seats during the ramp-up.

    1. Jimmy’s Travel Report Diamond

      I was thinking this exact thought as well. It’s still early enough that active price management hasn’t taken place. The group running Starlux has a lot of balls in the air as the airline ramps up frequencies and destinations.

  20. RA Guest

    Marketing trick. Make it unaffordable to purchase then a few days before the flight you get an email if you want to upgrade your seat for 1-2k more and then they fill it up that way making the extra margin and you believe your getting a bargain cause the retail seat is advertised for so much more

  21. Kacee Guest

    That's normal TPAC pricing, in line with what you'll pay on any decent carrier. Why should they discount just so bloggers can spend their readers' money to fly cheap?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Kacee -- Maybe they should "discount" so that they sell more than 4% of their first class seats...?

    2. Trey Guest

      They need to get their name out/fill their seats - I understand why bloggers/vloggers need to test out new airlines but why should the average J-class customer pay same price compared to an established airline like NH or SQ for the route? SQ has one-way J-fares from BKK-JFK/EWR for around $1800.

    3. STEFFL Diamond

      . . . :-) nicely said!

  22. Maryland Guest

    Perhaps this is a marketing strategy? Create a buzz on the Whoa prices and then introduce a Wow price? Hang in there for a bit longer and see

  23. R B Guest

    Just do it Ben! Bite the bullet lol

  24. Tony Guest

    Are Starlux's products better than EVA's? If not, what are its competitive advantages and why should I consider flying Starlux?

  25. Ivan Guest

    Have you considered comparing Starlux’s a350 premium economy and business class product? That way you can save some money while also giving us a more in-depth look of their inflight product.

  26. eponymous coward Guest

    “ Often tickets are significantly cheaper if originating in Bangkok, but not on Starlux Airlines. ”

    Who are they interlining BKK-TPE with? TG? Do they do any US destinations in an interline with anyone, or is it just LAX?

    1. OCTinPHL Diamond

      “Who are they interlining BKK-TPE with? TG? Do they do any US destinations in an interline with anyone, or is it just LAX?”

      I believe Starlux flies TPE-BKK, so no need to interline or codeshare.

  27. Stuart Guest

    The J fares seem pretty much on target with others at different times. I occasionally though can find $2400 one way originating out of the U.S. to SE Asia...but it's sporadic. When traveling from BKK it's usually around $2800 one way other than during peak periods. I never outright pay for F, usually looking for bid upgrades, mileage options, or cheap upsells at departure but this seems about what I often notice on most as...

    The J fares seem pretty much on target with others at different times. I occasionally though can find $2400 one way originating out of the U.S. to SE Asia...but it's sporadic. When traveling from BKK it's usually around $2800 one way other than during peak periods. I never outright pay for F, usually looking for bid upgrades, mileage options, or cheap upsells at departure but this seems about what I often notice on most as to the standard fares...it's outrageous.

    With that said, it would seem they want to start attracting a following, and pricing things a bit more competitively would be a good start.

  28. Willem Guest

    I was fortunate enough to catch the Starlux A350 during “training” flights to and from Bangkok in February, let me know if you’d like any details about that flight or the product! The food & drinks are still fantastic, the seat is comfortable & well designed, and if price agnostic would certainly leap at the chance to fly it across the Pacific!

    (I paid $880 USD, Bangkok to Taipei roundtrip. The return was their...

    I was fortunate enough to catch the Starlux A350 during “training” flights to and from Bangkok in February, let me know if you’d like any details about that flight or the product! The food & drinks are still fantastic, the seat is comfortable & well designed, and if price agnostic would certainly leap at the chance to fly it across the Pacific!

    (I paid $880 USD, Bangkok to Taipei roundtrip. The return was their A330-900neo which is still nice but the A350 was significantly more comfortable!)

  29. lasdiner Guest

    Lucky,
    I think you are writing this in the hope
    someone from starlux PR
    reaches out to you and offers you a freebie
    I thought from the title that 'aggressive' would equate to competitively low-maybe you're trying not to to ruffle their feathers with the title

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ lasdiner -- I'm definitely not looking for a freebie from Starlux. I think my record of paying for my own review flights speaks for itself. Of course I'm still looking for the best value possible, hence this post, as OMAAT readers often notice things that I don't.

      And "aggressive" was a poor word choice on my part. I went ahead and updated the title to instead say "steep," which is more in line with what I intended.

    2. Eskimo Guest

      @lasdiner

      This is a Greta How dare you? moment.
      The trust and believe in OMAAT's review integrity and that is what makes this site unique.
      His experience should be just like you and I.

      Freebies are will never be coming from airlines or hotels, but maybe 'almost' once from fellow readers when he's looking for an apartment ;)

  30. TravelinWilly Diamond

    “For example, if you were to fly a premium cabin roundtrip from Los Angeles to Bangkok (via a connecting city in Asia), odds are that the ticket would only cost a fraction as much if you were originating in Bangkok instead…”

    I would have thought tix originating in BKK would cost less than ex-LAX, no?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ TravelinWilly -- Sorry, I phrased that poorly. Let me update that.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Kacee Guest

That's normal TPAC pricing, in line with what you'll pay on any decent carrier. Why should they discount just so bloggers can spend their readers' money to fly cheap?

4
Tony Guest

Are Starlux's products better than EVA's? If not, what are its competitive advantages and why should I consider flying Starlux?

2
Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ lasdiner -- I'm definitely not looking for a freebie from Starlux. I think my record of paying for my own review flights speaks for itself. Of course I'm still looking for the best value possible, hence this post, as OMAAT readers often notice things that I don't. And "aggressive" was a poor word choice on my part. I went ahead and updated the title to instead say "steep," which is more in line with what I intended.

2
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