Wed, Mar 20, 2019 - Page 12 News List

StarLux aiming for 50-plane fleet by 2029

By Kao Shih-ching  /  Staff reporter

From left, Airbus executive vice president of sales Asia Jean-Francois Laval, Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer and StarLux Airlines chairman Chang Kuo-wei hold a model of an Airbus A350 XWB at a news conference in Taipei yesterday as StarLux president Glenn Chai, right, looks on.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

Start-up StarLux Airlines (星宇航空) is to expand its fleet size to 50 airplanes in the next decade, chairman Chang Kuo-wei (張國煒) said yesterday at a news conference in Taipei after signing a purchase agreement with Airbus SE and jet engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC.

Chang inked a deal for the purchase of 17 A350 aircraft, with an option to add another 10 planes for the airline, which aims to begin flights by the end of this year.

In line with the company’s plan to expand routes to North America by 2022, the carrier would begin taking delivery of five A350-900s in late 2021 and start receiving 12 A350-1000s in the third quarter of 2022, Chang said.

The A350-900 has a seating capacity of 306, slightly less than the A350-1000’s capacity of 350, but both planes would have first, business, luxury economy and economy classes, he said.

Chang rejected Chinese-language media reports that the firm is to spend US$6 billion on the procurement, saying that it is an “insanely high” figure, as airlines usually receive discounts.

As StarLux has already finalized lease agreements for 10 Airbus A321neos for use in short-haul flights, which it is to begin receiving in October, the firm’s fleet would have 27 aircraft by the end of 2024, it said.

StarLux expects to gain an air operator’s certificate from the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) in November or mid-December, which would allow it to begin operations and sell tickets, Chang said.

StarLux plans to use three A321neos for its first route at the end of December or in January next year, he added.

The first flights would be less than three hours, as the use of the A321neo, which is to be used in Taiwan for the first time, would be strictly monitored by the CAA, Chang said.

However, Chang said he is evaluating whether to lease five or six more Airbus A330s to increase the carrier’s fleet size to 50 planes in next 10 years, as he wants to quickly build up its transportation network.

Network establishment is important for StarLux, as it is facing intense competition from two other domestic airlines, he said.

If StarLux can fly more routes with the same fleet, its unit cost could also be reduced, he said.

Any popular destination would be considered, but StarLux would not consider Europe at first, as the cost is high and it could hardly compete with major players such as Emirates Airline, Chang said.

Its registered capital totals NT$30 billion (US$972.83 million), but StarLux plans to raise more funds from private foreign funds or domestic investors when the time is right, Chang said.

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