Starlux Airlines’ Surprisingly Tight A350 Configuration

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Starlux Airlines is the Taipei-based, detail-oriented, luxury airline that launched operations earlier this year. The airline has huge growth plans, as it has a total of 39 planes on order, including A321neos, A330-900neos, A350-900s, and A350-1000s.

While we’ve known that Starlux Airlines plans to fly to up to 15 destinations in North America, the airline has now made its first filing with the US Department of Transportation (DOT). The most interesting detail of this filing has nothing to do with the carrier’s new flight to Los Angeles, however.

Starlux Airlines’ Taipei to Los Angeles plans

Per a filing with the DOT, Starlux Airlines intends to fly from Taipei to Los Angeles as of 2022. This doesn’t really come as much of a surprise:

  • The Los Angeles area is the biggest US market out of Taiwan; it’s already served by both China Airlines and EVA Air
  • We knew that Starlux Airlines was planning to start US service in 2022, so it’s not surprising that Los Angeles would be the first market

It’s another detail contained in the finding that’s much more surprising to me.

Starlux Airlines will soon start flying A350s

Starlux Airlines’ A350-900s will have 306 seats

We know that Starlux Airlines has a total of 19 A350s on order, including nine A350-900s and 10 A350-1000s. We haven’t actually known any details of the onboard product, except:

Anyway, Starlux Airlines intends to fly the A350-900 between Taipei and Los Angeles, and in the filing the airline states that the A350-900 will feature 306 seats. To me that sounds like a lot of seats, given all that Starlux Airlines intends to offer.

We believe the airline will offer first class, and I would also assume the airline will offer business class, premium economy, and economy. I suppose Starlux might not offer premium economy, but that sure would counter the trend nowadays, especially among airlines in Taiwan.

Starlux Airlines’ current A321neo business class

How does that capacity compare to other A350-900 operators?

Starlux Airlines is very much about offering a premium experience, so how does the planned capacity of Starlux Airlines’ A350-900s compare to other operators? Just to compare some extremes among full service airlines:

Malaysia Airlines’ mini-A350 first class cabin (now known as “Business Suites”)

What should we make of this?

Before we got this information, I would have guessed that Starlux Airlines’ A350-900s would feature somewhere around 260-280 seats. I didn’t necessarily think the airline would choose the least dense configuration, but I figured it would be among them.

In order for Starlux to get 306 seats on A350-900s, one (or more) of the following would have to be true:

  • Starlux won’t have first class and/or premium economy on A350-900s (I think business class and economy are a given)
  • Starlux will have small premium cabins
  • Starlux will have very tight legroom in economy

If I had to guess:

  • Starlux Airlines will fit both first and business class between doors one and two; first class will be like a premium business class, and the business class cabin will be fairly intimate
  • There will be a sizable premium economy cabin, which is common on airlines in Taiwan, given the market; both China Airlines and EVA Air 777 premium economy cabins feature 60+ seats
  • Economy will be in a pretty standard 31″ configuration

I could be wrong, but that’s my guess.

Bottom line

Starlux Airlines’ A350-900s will feature a total of 306 seats. Given the carrier’s plans to offer first class, as well as the focus on being a “luxury” airline, it’ll be very interesting to see how the seats are distributed between cabins.

For that matter, I’m generally excited to see Starlux Airlines’ onboard product, as we know nothing so far about the A350 cabins.

What do you make of Starlux’s 306-seat A350-900 cabins? What premium cabin seating options are you expecting the airline to install?

  1. It doesn’t seem consistent with their brand positioning, but it’s possible they could do lavish premium cabins and follow a handful of airlines in putting 10-abreast seating in economy…

  2. Sounds like the front of the plane will live up to the “Lux” name, and economy will have a lot of confused passengers living a nightmare.

  3. I don’t know anything about how these filings & regulations work, but is it possible they “over-applied” on their capacity to leave some wiggle room, assuming it’ll be easier to adjust downward on their capacity later on than it would be to adjust upward?

  4. S Korea couldn’t maintain demand for 2 International carriers, I very much doubt Taiwan can hold 3 for long.

    Anyways, DL has 306 seats in a 4-class configuration, and I wouldn’t exactly call DL’s configuration -tight- so we’ll see

  5. It might be that they were inaccuare with the seat number / aircraft type…

    (Not even lavatory on the lower deck would allow that many seats, not to mention to reduce belly cargo capacity…)

  6. Purely for environmental reasons, I’d love to see a trend of higher capacity airplanes and more people paying for the class in which they sit.

  7. What trend? EVA Air opted not to install Premium Economy on their newest planes, e.g. all the 787-9s and 787-10s

  8. Probably filed application with maximum capacity of aircraft as final configuration still being determined. Wait till aircraft is delivered

  9. It just sounds weird for such a new airline planning for US service in this climate. Not to say the competitive landscape it has to deal with…

  10. I agree that they have overstated the proposed capacity to allow some wiggle room in arriving at the final product. There may be similar arcane issues to do with the initial filing also; who knows?

  11. “Starlux will have small premium cabins.”

    Many airlines have already said they will drastically reduce the size of business-class cabins in the wake of Covid, including in the US, Asia and the Gulf. Combine that new reality with the fact that the remaining business traffic is more likely to go to EVA and China Airlines given their membership in global alliances, and there you go.

  12. Actually, I think you’re too highly critical of them.

    Asiana Airlines has the same ezact number, and considering the timing, I’d say that Star Alliiance is really rebuilding lost capacity from Asiana except in Taiwan. I expect Starlux to go more luxurious on the A350 business class product a la Aeroflot busines class.

    I think Singapore AIrlines A350 are on the low side tho.

  13. I dont think that they have finalised the configuration
    The 306 seat is exactly same as China Airline configuration and they use it for applications

  14. Starlux might be opting for the optimised A350 space interior which allows for a 4” wider cabin enabling PEY and YC to have more pax per row.. offering a 10 abreast Y cabin with a narrower seat but what they will do is add an extra 1-2” pitch to give the same overall feeling of space but more PAX ultimately.

  15. I’d rather hop in $2k r/t hainan or xiamen or juneyao (if they ever do trans pacific). Hard product is similar enough in J and service and amenity is also comparable. Asian food offerings are also very comparable.
    They also have better connection to SEA and mainland china.

  16. @Jan “S Korea couldn’t maintain demand for 2 International carriers, I very much doubt Taiwan can hold 3 for long.”

    Before COVID-19 struck, on a daily basis out of SFO alone, there used to be 3 EVA non-stop flights to Taiwan using 777-300ERs, 1 United non-stop flight using a 777-300ER, and at least 1 or 2 China Airlines non-stop(s) using 350-9s. So from only one west coast gateway airport (SFO) to Taiwan, there were 5-6 daily 777-300ER/350-9 flights. And this is not yet including other daily non-stop flights from LAX/ONT, SEA, IAH, JFK/EWR, etc.

    I don’t know what’s up with South Korea (perhaps Korean/Asiana aren’t as strong financially to individually weather COVID-19?) and Japan (potential JAL/ANA consolidation also for financial reasons?), but Taiwan definitely has had a prior track record of filling up lots of daily flights to/from USA, so I don’t think that Starlux will be hurting for passengers after COVID-19 is fully under control worldwide and countries open back up sufficiently to restore prior traffic levels (after a few years).

  17. Richard Branson cleverly invented “Upper Class.” And succeeded in challenging BA’s biz and 1st across the pond. At the time somewhere between biz and 1st, but offered chauffeur cars to airports.

    Why is the Starlux config so interesting? Delta have 306, the same, and Air France 18 more with 324. All have business class.

    Lucky your whole premise is that Starlux with have 1st class as we know it. And if that is not so and it’s MH business suite, or Virgin’s upper class, then the configs are the same as DL and AF.

  18. Who says that the first Starlux A350 will be A350-900?

    The 306 seats configuration could very likely be that of A350-1000, which has lots more belly cargo capacity.

    As a reference, with the current global pandemic, between TPE & LAX:

    — EVA is flying BR016/015 daily (B77W) + BR012/011 daily (B77W) + BR006/005 daily (B77W) + BR002/001 3 times weekly (B77W).

    — Only BR012/011 4 times weekly are carring passangers; all others are cargo-only.

    — CAL is flying CI006/005 daily (B77W) + CI008/007 daily (B77W) + CI010/009 daily (B77W) + CI020/019 daily (B77W) + CI2006/2005 daily (A359) + CI2008/2007 daily (A359).

    — Only CI008/007 3 times weekly are carrying passangers; all others are cargo-only.

    — Additionally, both EVA & CAL are flying multiple B77L + B744 cargo flights.

  19. Furthermore, Starlux founder & CEO KW Chang has cargo in his DNA, as he is the 4th son of YF Chang, founder of both EVA & Evergreen Marine.

    Interestingly, after forcing KW Chang out of EVA, YF Chang’s frst 3 sons are now fighting among themselves for the control of EVA.

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