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Starlux Airlines Targets Japan And Thailand With International Expansion

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Taiwanese airline Starlux has revealed plans to fly to three new destinations over the winter this year. IN a move away from its leisure-focused services, the airline will begin flying to Osaka and Tokyo in Japan, as well as to Bangkok in Thailand from December.

Starlux A321neo
Starlux is taking its A321neos to three new destinations. Photo: Starlux

Starlux adds three new destinations

In an announcement on its social media feed, the airline revealed it would be beginning service to a number of new destinations in Japan and Thailand, starting in December 2020. Starlux will be adding Bangkok, Tokyo, and Osaka to its network with twice-weekly flights, but will adjust schedules based on demand monthly going forward.

The airline said (translated),

“After evaluating the recovery of the overall air transportation market after the epidemic, Starlux has adjusted its schedule. We chose commercial hubs from countries with strong demand to provide travel services, and steadily welcome the gradual recovery of the market to meet the needs and expectations of passengers.

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“Initially, we will provide two flights per week, and use “months” as a unit to adjust flights flexibly, according to market demand. At the same time, it also provides passengers returning home, visiting business, and studying, with extra peace of mind.”

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The airline will serve each destination twice weekly to begin with. Photo: Starlux

According to the schedules, Starlux will begin flying to Bangkok from December 1st. Flights will depart at 14:00 on Tuesdays and Fridays, arriving into BKK at 17:00. The return to Taipei will leave at 18:05, landing back in TPE at 22:40.

For Osaka, the airline will fly from December 15th to the incredible Kansai International Airport (KIX) on Tuesdays and Fridays also. Fights depart at 08:30, arriving into Osaka at 11:50, and then returning at 12:50 for a 15:00 landing.

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Finally, while still subject to final approval, flights to Tokyo Narita are slated to take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays beginning on December 16th. These services will depart at 08:25 for a 12:30 arrival into Tokyo, returning at 14:00 for a 17:05 arrival.

The timetable. Image: Starlux

Bookings for Bangkok and Osaka will open from November 2nd, while Tokyo may take a little longer. Starlux says it hopes to open bookings from mid-November.

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Focusing on business routes

The move to serve these commercial hubs is a step away from the previously apparent strategy of Starlux. When the airline first announced its initial destinations, they were highly leisure orientated services, flying into Macau, Penang and Da Nang. These routes were to be run daily, giving passengers the flexibility to fly when they wanted.

However, the COVID crisis has poked a wedge in the plans of the luxury airline startup. It began flights in January as planned, catching the boost from the Chinese New Year traffic that was still around back then. But in February, the launch of flights to Cebu were delayed, and by March, the airline was operating just one flight per day.

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Starlux Airlines has eight business class seats in its A321neos. Photo: Designworks

Possibly the unluckiest airline startup in history, Starlux suspended operations altogether in mid-March, only starting again in June with its core Macau, Penang, Da Nang and Cebu services. Although all destinations were flown, the capacity was much reduced, leaving many of its planes parked up idle.

Undeterred by the challenging conditions, Starlux began sightseeing flights to nowhere in August, allowing land-locked Taiwanese travelers to try out its luxury planes. These were so successful, it undertook a further six similar flights over the autumn period.

The move to commercial hubs for the winter is interesting, as it’s not what the airline was originally positioned to be. However, with appetites to fly away for leisure purposes severely restricted in the Far East, the move to serve business routes is probably beneficial.

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