Introduction: Starluxing Through A Zombie Apocalypse

Filed Under: Travel

I’m a sucker for flying new airlines. Whether it’s flying to Hong Kong with only two dozen other people on an Air Belgium flight (RIP Air Belgium’s huge Asia aspirations), or being served the finest Ghanaian cuisine on Global Ghana Airlines by low altitude flight attendants, I just love new airlines (okay, sadly that last flight never happened).

That brings me to my newest trip report, where I’m traveling to Asia to be able to fly Starlux Airlines between Taipei and Penang. This is the brand new airline founded by the former CEO of EVA Air, who also happens to be a pilot for the airline. The airline launched operations within the past week, so I can’t wait to see what the airline has to offer, given their focus on luxury.

Unlike so many other airline startups, though, this one had a smooth launch, and it seems that the experienced management team really wants to create something special… or at least that’s what they’ve convinced me of!

Can I please have Chairman & Captain Chang operating my flight?!

To get to & from Penang I’ll also be reviewing new airline products. Initially my plan was to fly through Beijing on Hainan Airlines to get to Taipei, though I decided to avoid mainland China for now due to the Wuhan coronavirus.

I’m already underway and haven’t yet revealed how I rebooked the outbound, so stay tuned for that. In the actual reviews of the flights & lounges I’ll talk about what I booked, and how many miles (or how much cash) I paid for each flight.

What gives with the reference to a “zombie apocalypse” in the title? Well, I’ve traveled millions of miles, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Asia, so people wearing face masks is totally normal to me.

However, I’ve never seen anything quite like what I’m seeing right now, and I’m not even in mainland China. On my flight to Asia, and upon landing in Asia, virtually every single person was wearing a face mask, from the crew to passengers.

I’m not trying to make light of the situation, but I just feel like “zombie apocalypse” is the most accurate image that comes to mind with seeing everyone wearing a face mask. I’ve never see this before anywhere in the world.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading… this should hopefully be an interesting trip!

Given the latest information on the coronavirus situation, my thinking changed, and I ultimately canceled my flight through Beijing. For more on the rapidly-developing situation, check out these posts:

  1. Excited to hear more about your trip and how you rerouted. I know your thoughts on mainland china, but what about HK? Would you avoid a 3-4 day trip to HK as well? I have a feeling that with both the protests and now this, the city’s vibe won’t be great…but at the same time I booked an incredible February deal with Singapore RT business class for a total 87k miles out of SFO. So conflicted…

  2. I’m still planning to go on my trip to Bangkok. I fly in via Tokyo (ANA), but my return is through HKG on Feb. 18.

  3. Yep, we are flying via HKG on Feb 6 enroute to Langkawi & Penang. Looking forward to reading your asian experiences on your coming trip.

  4. @trex and Craig-the HKG government has begun taking various “shut down” actions with regard to public health so you may want to watch for developments closely.

  5. @JetAway – yeah, that’s one of my biggest concerns!
    Thinking of booking an alternative route back and canceling (and incurring redeposit fees) if HKG stays open/operating.

  6. I wonder whether any other airlines apart from Cathay Pacific allow their crew to wear facemasks?! can’t wait for the reveal how you got to Taipei and the review of the starlit flight! Have you ever thought about a longer vacation in Taiwan with Ford as the island of Formosa offers so much different kinds of nature?!

  7. The chairman and captain Chang actually was the pilot flying the very first flight from Taipei to Macau on 23 January.

  8. I’m flying to HK for 4 days. Leaving tonight in 7 hours. Gonna bring some nunjucks in case any Wuhan zombies try to eat me when I land.

  9. Title feels pretty crass given the fact that people are actually dying. Not trying to be a killjoy or too sensitive.

  10. Ben/Tiffany, can you please post your thoughts on transiting via HK? Many of us booked the SQ flights to Singapore from SF which transits in HK… For early Feb. It’ll really help!

  11. This reminds me when I was living in Tokyo and visiting Hong Kong just before the SARS outbreak became very serious. I was on a united 747 in economy with I think 4 other passengers in that cabin. All the flight attendants were wearing masks, it was such an eerie feeling. I was surprised they flew with such an insanely light load factor. Looking forward to the Starlux review Ben.

  12. I am in Phuket, flew from SIN yesterday on Scoot. In SIN maybe max 20% of people wore masks. On the plane a bit more. All flight attendants on Scoot and all immigration officers at HKT wore masks.
    I am scheduled to fly back via KUL and HKG so I sure hope HKG stays open…..

  13. Pretty tone deaf title I agree… esp from Americans that are masters in overreacting… (as the previous post on this trip shows)

  14. This is an example of irresponsible travel.

    I hope you don’t get the virus or infect USA.

    And I don’t think face masks can be related to zombies. Like what? If you wore masks before you turn you can’t bite someone else? Or zombies cough is deadlier than the bite?


    A good tell if it’s zombies, ordinary people with no weapons training will score headshots all the time while military will unleash far more firepower but never stops a target.

    And blunt weapons suddenly makes head explode.

    That is zombie apocalypse.

  15. @buzz
    I flew on Philippine Airlines, HKG to MNL 2 days ago.
    All of the cabin crew were wearing masks for the duration.
    PR301 which was on a 777-300

  16. HKG will stay open. They are banning flights from Wuhan and started to ban visitors from that part of China. So far, all cases in HK are visitors from Wuhan or nearby area. I suggest you wear a mask and bring some hand sanitizer with you!

  17. I have a 2 week trip planned for chine in early March visiting Peking chengdu xian and Shanghai. So am watching the situation closely ( also making alternate plans to go elsewhere).

    All the cases so far anywhere have been people who visited wuhan. So far no actual human to human transmission from Wuhan visitors. Hope it stays that way.

  18. To those bringing a surprising level of concern trolling into the comments, don’t tout have better things to tsk-tsk about?

  19. Ignore the over sensitive readers. Wuhan is locked down just like a zombie apocalypse so there’s that.

  20. All the staff were wearing masks BNE-TPE last week on Eva, not too many people in business did and I didn’t see the economy passengers as I was one of the last to board. Thinking I might wear one on my short hops in Korea and Japan… but still think it’s pretty low risk as the Chinese government has stopped both Wuhan flights and all tour groups out of China.

  21. There are as many reported cases in the US than in Taiwan, i.e. five. There’s no panic about it in Taiwan. In fact, there are more reported cases in Thailand than in Taiwan.

  22. We lived thru SARS in Hong Kong.

    Wearing a face mask may be helpful. It should be changed every hour to a new one.

    Otherwise one is defeating the purpose of protection by continuing to breathe in the same mask for hours, especially on airplanes.

    We did find hand cleaner – “sanitizer” to be the best protection, because as people we tend to touch alot of things and we never think about it.

  23. Those surgical face masks mainly protect others from you not you from others. You would need to wear a respirator (those with filter cartridges) with N95 or above to protect yourself. Best protection is to wash hands regularly, avoid as much public contact as you can and stay fit and healty by exercising, getting enough sleep and above all, eating healthy.

    Looking forward to the Starlux reports!

  24. Ben, this illness infects 2.5-3.6 people per new infection. The situation in other countries: Japan, Thailand, Singapore (where I live), and elsewhere has the capacity to become just like Wuhan. The most recent transmission modeling I’ve seen (compiled by doctors and virologists) forecasts 200k cases in central china by Feb 4th.

    My assessment which is entirely my own is that it is very unlikely this thing sticks to mainland china. I would not for the love of g_d travel in Asia right now.

    Huge supporter of the blog. Love what you do. Public influencers like yourself have an important role to play stopping the spread of this virus, and I would urge you to show restraint.

  25. For those here accusing Americans of over reacting, The German Government just advised all citizens to avoid non essential travel to China. All China. Not just Wuhan.

    Two things are causing widespread panic among health organizations: the speed with which this is spreading (unprecedented) and the fact you can be symptom free and still be spreading the virus.

    This is the real deal and it’s only just started. The peak according to one infectious health expert should be between mid March and Mid April.

    I think anyone traveling to the region at this point is playing with fire in regards to their own health and their loved ones.

  26. Lucky, I love your website, but the title of the article is insentive. Comparing the situation of what millions are going through in Wuhan and throughout China to fictional monsters is wrong.

  27. I live in HK and as soon as I saw the headline of this article, I already knew what Lucky was referring to… Because I felt same way last Friday when I left my home for work and, over 50% of people I met on the way were wearing masks. It left me wondering if it’s a case of an overreaction or these people had experienced SARS and so, are extra-cautious. I was leaning towards an overreaction… However, given how it is spreading fast and we probably don’t have the real stats on the impact in China, I guess better safe than sorry. So, I plan to start wearing a mask from tomorrow even though I *hate* the inconvenience of such.

    For those “worrying” about travelling to HK, you probably want to travel within next 3 weeks. All schools shut down for 3 weeks… Roads were basically empty today (well, partly because we are still in the CNY holiday period. That said, in the past, you would have seen more people out and about… So, it would be pretty easier travelling around HK. Not to mention bargain details you can have with the hotels here… I’m now exploring staycation opportunities… Looking for any massive price drop that I can latch on to.

    In summary, you will be fine if you come to HK… Just join the “Zombie” fun…
    (I am in no way offended by the term… Com’on guys, cut Lucky some slack on this.)

  28. I think a good hint to know if someone is overreacting is the morbility rate, that seems to be around 4%… Much less that the MERS outbreak in ME. I think I might travel as I’m in good age, health but I wouldn’t allow elderly or with other conditions to travel….

  29. Even in JFK yesterday all staff and every passenger coming in on Air China was wearing a mask. I’ve also never seen lines at Passport Control at T1 than I did yesterday. For non-US citizens, the line was at least 2 hours. Luggage was piled on the carousels and staff put bags next to the carousel as well.

  30. Ignorant people like @Michael Radell is the problem.

    You failed to realize 2 things, the rate of infection and absence of vaccine. The flu is manageable but this virus is roaming wild. Big big concern.

    You are downplaying this just like dumb anti-vax are doing with other vaccines. All of you are probably too young to remember smallpox and take it for granted.

    You are downplaying this like mass shooting. Less than 600 people are killed in Mass shooting in 2019. Much less than the flu so we shouldn’t care?

    You are downplaying this like 9/11. Less than 3,000 people perished that morning. Much less than the flu. So we shouldn’t go hunt Bin Laden or Al Quada or ISIS.

    Michael Radell, you are an idiot. A person like you should get shot by terrorist and die from smallpox, while being grateful you didn’t have the deadly flu.
    Wait forget the flu, people die more in car accidents, you not dying in a car is already good.

    Just to keep things in perspective.

  31. Wow… Zombie apocalypse?
    I’m a huge fan of your blog and posts, but this title is definitely misleading.

    You know, those zombies you are referring to are actually all human beings, suffering from illness without cure. I believe this is a time for mourning rather than making a zombie reference.

    Yes, I agree that we should avoid making contacts with those “infected”, and stay away from China. It is true that as an American, this disease seems to be very distant and vague. But in China, there are millions of people who are being threatened by this disease on daily basis. So I’d like to politely ask you to change the title of this post. It is that simple!

  32. You mock the masks/the situation but now proudly post a picture of yourself wearing a mask.
    Tone deaf.

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