In what could be perceived as an unusual move during a global pandemic, Taiwan’s Starlux Airlines has just launched a new route and expressed ambitions to grow its flight network at a time when flight restrictions and suspensions are rife.
The premium boutique carrier — founded in May 2018 — has commenced twice-weekly flights to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) from Taipei on 5 January.
According to Malaysia Airports, there are currently three airlines serving the Taipei-Kuala Lumpur route: AirAsia, China Airlines and Eva Air.
At the moment, Starlux is catering to business and student travellers as well as the cargo market on this route, which is operated with an Airbus A321neo aircraft offering 188 seats with eight flat-bed convertible options in business class.
Starlux's Malaysia branch manager Hsu Chien-Wen told Travel Weekly Asia that the airline — which calls Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport home — plans to expand its network despite the pandemic.
“When evaluating new destinations under the effect of the pandemic, we took the large cargo demand at this moment into consideration and therefore chose major business destinations like Kuala Lumpur."
He added, "On the other hand, these destinations will be able to cater to the business travel demand that is expected to grow fast when the pandemic is well-controlled."
Kuala Lumpur is the Taiwanese carrier's second destination in Malaysia after Penang, which started on 23 January 2020 although daily flights were reduced to two flights weekly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hsu added that the airline hopes to eventually resume daily flights to Penang and would adjust frequencies to the other destinations depending on market demand.
Elsewhere in the region, Starlux also flies to Macau, Bangkok, Osaka and Tokyo.
For the future, Hsu said the airline is looking at expanding services to cities in Southeast Asia with great business traffic and cargo potential, as well as trans-oceanic routes to North America in 2022.
Starlux is introducing all 13 of a new generation of passenger aircraft — the A321neo — and four are already in place. It plans to introduce another eight A330-900, ten A350-900s and eight A350-1000s.