Starlux Airlines: The Most Poorly Timed Startup Ever?

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Update: Starlux Airlines has now suspended operations through April 30, 2020, due to reduced demand.

It’s possible I’m missing something, but I think Starlux Airlines may have just been the most poorly timed airline startup ever, through no fault of their own…

What is Starlux Airlines?

Starlux Airlines is an exciting new Taiwanese airline that launched operations in late January, and which I had the chance to review on a flight between Taipei and Penang.

Starlux Airlines A321neo cabin

It’s run by the former CEO of EVA Air, and is a “detail oriented luxury airline” that’s hoping to become “the Emirates of Taiwan.”

Personally I was extremely impressed by my flight on the airline, and I’m rooting for them 100%.

Starlux has big expansion plans — the airline has 10 A321neos on order, plus 17 A350s, split between the -900 and -1000 model.

Starlux Airlines A350s

Starlux launched with six flights to three destinations

Starlux Airlines launched operations on January 23, 2020, which is the same week that the coronavirus situation became a global news story.

When the airline launched, they operated:

  • 3x daily flights from Taipei to Macau
  • 2x daily flights from Taipei to Da Nang
  • 1x daily flights from Taipei to Penang

On top of that, the airline was supposed to launch Taipei to Cebu flights as of April 6, 2020.

Starlux Airlines is down to one daily flight

We’ve seen all kinds of airlines cut capacity due to coronavirus, though Starlux Airlines has been hit especially hard. At this point their planned seven daily flights are down to a single daily flight:

  • The three daily flights to Macau are suspended — one daily flights is scheduled to resume on May 1 and a second daily flight is scheduled to resume on June 1, 2020
  • One of the two daily flights to Da Nang is suspended through May 1, 2020
  • The one daily flight to Penang is suspended between March 8 and May 1, 2020
  • The one daily Cebu flight launch is delayed from April 6 through July 1, 2020

Even their single daily flight between Taipei and Da Nang looks depressingly empty, as you’d expect. They haven’t sold a single business class seat for flights in the next five days, for example.

Starlux Airlines A321neo

Bottom line

All airlines are being negatively impacted by coronavirus, but I don’t think there’s a single airline hit as hard as Starlux Airlines. They were a promising startup airline that launched operations the same week that coronavirus became a major issue.

They’ve gone from having plans to operating seven daily flights, to operating a single daily flight.

Hopefully the airline is well funded and can weather the storm, though really it’s anyone’s guess how long all of this will last. I feel badly for the employees, who were absolutely amazing in my experience. I’m not sure if they’re being forced to take leave just weeks into their new jobs, or what…

Can anyone think of an airline startup that was more poorly timed than Starlux Airlines?

  1. I’m more curious why they even bother to operate 1x daily, as opposed to take a break from the situation….

  2. You’ll never know… 2 months in during tony fernandes reign in airasia, 9/11 happened, now they are the biggest airline in asia!

  3. You have to wonder why they don’t just shut down for a couple of months until all of the coronavirus hype has died down, which will inevitably happen as summer approaches. I understand that they don’t want to do this, but operating 1 empty flight a day seems like burning money to me.

    Agreed about feeling bad for Starlux and their employees. None of this is their fault.

  4. Unfortunate or unlucky, rather than poorly timed.

    @Stogieguy7 – There are fixed costs which cannot be mitigated by ceasing flights for a while, and some income is better than none. I have no knowledge of their financial situation, but I can easily see where a shutdown could very likely lead to never starting back up again.

  5. The new Virgin cruise-line has bad timing as well.

    And a single cruise ship is like $2bn and cant exactly be parked or leased away for awhile

  6. Very unfortunate, but I do feel if anyone could weather through this storm, it would be their CEO.

  7. Skybus (2007-08, great recession) also comes to mind. Also well established airlines are going under (late last year and this year) as well.

  8. In a recent interview, the CEO remarked (in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner): “at least we only have 3 planes.”

  9. I’m rooting for them. Don’t know if any timing that could be less fortunate – but let’s root for them for being one of the few to work to build a good product.

    I’d like to give them a try, but may be some time before i am in the region for work.

  10. From a positive point of view, it was fortunate they only have 3 planes. Assuming they fully own those planes, the loss won’t be too great. In fact, due to Airbus reducing capacity, they will have delays in delivering A350 which Starlux doesnt need at the moment.

    Both CI and BR are hit hard too. CX has to park 75% of their fleet. So just 3 narrow body plane won’t affect them to much. At least, their reputation is still good.

  11. Crazy. I just heard Flybe went bust (thought Virgin Atlantic investment will save them). Hopefully Starlux isn’t going down the same path.

  12. A little known Canadian lo-cost startup, ‘Greyhound Air, about 1997….tons of money into branding and operations (leased aircraft), Winnipeg (!) as a hub…shortly after launch the parent transportation company was acquired and new owners shut the operation almost overnight. Much to then-fellow infant WestJet’s advantage fa ing an Air Canada/Canadian Airlines duopoly.

  13. They need the one daily flight to continue ironing out wrinkles in their operation in anticipation of the big comeback.

  14. They are in startup, the reduced capacity to one flight still allows them time to get all their systems working and talking to each other properly (not an easy feat). One could even see it as a benefit that there is more time to run-up and test operations with minimal loading.

    Also, Chang Kuo-wei has very deep pockets, and does have a sizable grudge against the family who took Evergreen from him after Chang Yung-fa’s passing.

    No, I don’t think this unfortunate event makes it a bad launch, Chang Kuo-wei has built an airline from scratch, which is no mean feat, he will be in an excellent position to continue it’s growth when this is over.

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