StarLux Airlines Co (星宇航空) plans to resume operations next month by offering three flights from Taiwan to Macau each week and one weekly flight to Penang, Malaysia, citing easing conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The start-up airline, which on Jan. 23 began operations by providing daily flights from Taiwan to Macau, Penang and Da Nang, Vietnam, canceled most of its flights in February and suspended operations completely in the middle of March as the novel coronavirus spread.
“As the pandemic has been gradually contained in Taiwan, we decided to reopen [services] phase by phase, starting with a few flights and likely increasing the scale based on the market situation,” StarLux general manager Glenn Chai (翟健華) told reporters in Taipei yesterday.
From June 1, Starlux is to offer three round-trip flights from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to Macau International Airport each on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, instead of its original schedule of three daily flights, Chai said.
It would also operate one round-trip flight from Taoyuan to Penang International Airport every Thursday, Chai said.
The airline expects businesspeople or officials attending public affairs conferences to be its first passengers, as they might still need to travel by air, Starlux spokesman Nieh Kuo-wei (聶國維) told the Taipei Times by telephone.
“Da Nang was not in the picture when we considered resumption, as most passengers to the city were tourists. We do not think that Taiwanese tourists are ready to travel overseas again, as the outbreak has not ended,” Nieh said.
Travelers to Macau and Penang would still need to undergo a 14-day quarantine after returning to Taiwan, as the Central Epidemic Command Center’s travel advisories for those two cities remains at a level 3 “warning,” he added.
The airline yesterday reopened its Web site to allow customers to buy tickets.
Starlux, which operates three narrow-body Airbus SE A321neo jets, said that it would cancel the middle seats in each row for the sake of social distancing, reducing the number of economy-class seats per aircraft from 188 to 127.
“The reduction in seats is unlikely to curb our revenue, as there would be a slim chance of full capacity based even on our most optimistic scenario,” Nieh said.
Starlux said that it is retaining its original plan of launching operations to new destinations — two second-tier cities in Southeast Asia and Japan — in the third and fourth quarters respectively.
Its goal of receiving another nine new A321neo aircraft next year remains unchanged, the airline said.
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