La compagnie qui obtient la meilleure moyenne est Starlux Airlines avec 9.0/10.
La durée moyenne des vols est de 4 heures et 10 minutes.More information
After a busy school semester in Singapore, It is homebound time for me. Knowing that Starlux, a luxury oriented start up airline based in Taiwan very recently (23rd September, 2021) launched their Taipei Singapore service, It was impossible for me to pass up this very opportunity to try this airline. As some people in the industry might know, this airline was founded by the ousted ex-CEO of Eva Air and his loyal followers. With such a strong background and the vision of being the “Emirates of Asia”, I had very high expectations for this airline. Furthermore, we should be reminded that on this sector, long time players are the venerable Singapore Airlines, Eva Air, Cathay Pacific and China Airlines, the competition truly is red hot, only tougher considering covid restrictions in Taiwan has no sign of slacking off.
The question I put forward is, will this new start up stand out among the already outstanding competitors?
Booking the ticket was nothing unusual. Starlux website was easy to navigate. I paid US$253 for this one-way ticket from Singapore to Taipei. Sticking with the luxury theme, the airline does not offer basic economy fare, this was their cheapest offering. Seat selection was free and check in was available 48 hours before departure. I selected window seat 8A to get a good view of the wing and engines.
Getting to Changi Airport was never a difficult thing. Access through the airport is done by MRT, Taxis or private vehicles. However, Terminal 1 passenger will have to take another short hop of sky train from Terminal 3 to reach it.
Since we are amidst of the pandemic , it was not surprising to see the once bustling Terminal 1 operating at a slashed capacity. The recently introduced vaccination travel lane did made the airport more crowded than expected though, definitely a sign of recovery (let us see how the Omicron variant will unfold).
Since Taiwan’s border restriction means only Taiwanese citizens, permanent residence, direct family members and special access pass are allowed, I will still have to go to Starlux counter (Row 1) at the airport to verify my arrivals data. However, queue simply does not exist and I would soon found out that there wee only 7 of us flying. That’s private flying-covid edition I guess?
I was through immigration in less than 2 minutes. Terminal 1 is under a period of large maintenance so there was not a lot to be seen. On that afternoon, there were departures for Kuala Lumpur, Doha and Dhakar etc. I found a nice little space above the Cactus garden to do some plane spotting. Usual tenants like Scoot’s 787 and Malaysian’s A330 were present.
Type: A321-200NX (ACF)
Age: 2.1 years
Engines: CFM LEAP-1A30 (X2)
For me, this trip’s airline wasn’t only new to me, the plane was too. It was the Airbus A321neo (the increased weight ACF variant). Off course, being an avgeek that I am, a research through this aircraft was compulsory. For the past few years, I’ve felt that Airbus have gone crazy with their upgrades to their A321. It almost felt like its an entirely separate family from the A320 right now. From the humble A321-100/200, now we have A321neo, A321neoACF, A321LR and even the XLR is already starting assembly. It has come to the point where the used to be 83 ton aircraft have buffed up to more than 107 tons maximum take off weight (MTOW) .
Starlux’s A321neo have opted for he CFM LEAP-1A30 engines, which is the most powerful version of the LEAP engines. It is rated at 141 kN continuous maximum thrust or 31700 lbf. This engine is known for its metallic 3D printed fuel nozzle. However what interested me the most was its ultra large carbon fiber fan blades which were manufactured without autoclave.
I know some people would like to bring up the PW1100G powered A321neo. I have done some research on that too. The PW1100G actually has a higher potential thrust of 148kN or 34000 lbf. Its utilization of of reduction gear also allowed main fan’s slower rotation rate by 200 rpm. So I guess the reason why Starlux opted the Leap was due to PW’s reliability issues and its lack of requirement in Hot and High runways.
Our aircraft is stationed at gate C16. Boarding commenced about 10 minutes later than planned. However, the shockingly light load means we departed only 5 minutes later than scheduled. We then proceed to take off from runway 02 Left after a short taxi. I must credit Starlux’s livery of bronze and dark blue was a bold choice. It looks really good when painted on their up coming A330 neo too.
Starlux’s A321neo is actually quite low density for flights that at max would only be 5 hours. 8 lie flat Collins diamond seats in business class are in a 2-2 configuration. Economy class was the bog-standard 3-3 configuration on literally every A320 families. In total, 8 business class and 180 economy class seats were installed. I actually loved heir interior theme of grey, brown and tan. It exudes certain level of richness that serve the brand’s identity well. Being an A321neo, a welcoming warm tone mood lighting was present as well. It didn’t take me long to settle in my seat. Due to the light load, not only I have the whole row to myself right now, but possibly a full 6 rows of economy class.
Settling into my seat 8A, my first impression was that legroom was decent for me (I am 175 cm or 5 foot 9 inch). The seat dimension was perfectly good for me even for longer flights up to 8 hours, which is impressive considering that this is an A321, a type of plane typically configured with tight slimline seats. Seat comfort was decent, with adjustable headrest and reclining functions acceptable for medium haul flying. No leg rest was equipped on all seats and do note that the tray tables are quite small like most narrow body aircraft.
If seat comfort was compared to their competitors on the same route, I reckoned that SQ’s 787 Recaro seats and Eva Air’s 3-3-3 configured 777s would be much more comfortable. China Airline’s A330 seats would not stand a chance as they feel old, lack of support and scratchy to me. However, their A350 somewhat leveled the playing field.
The entire cabin is spotlessly clean through out the flight, so as the toilet. In economy class, there were 3 toilets at the rear galley. The size is quite small. It could be quite difficult for parents to have their baby's diapers changed, however the airline makes effort to deck it out as nice as possible with wooden floor and bronze themed wall that suits well with the airline's brand.
Before I start this section, I must say that I was very pleasant with the flight, however I feel that I need to highlight the bad stuff in an unbiased manner.
I was utterly disappointed to not see a new aircraft not equipped with universal power outlet in economy class (It's not even under the seats). The only charging option was a USB type-A port, embarrassing for an era where USB-C is already trickling into the market rapidly. I would reluctantly forgive this on the A321neo (most Starlux’s A321 only flies a maximum of 5 hours). However, I would refuse to fly on them long haul if this was not rectified on their up-coming A330neo and A350s.
The IFE selection was unfortunately miserable too. There was only 13 movies and 14 TV shows, worse then the already mediocre China Airlines and Eva Air, forget about competing with SQ on this territory. However, I suspect that the content issue could be due to covid related cost cutting or content rights issue, someone will have to tell me in the future to see if this has improved. Luckily, the screen was a responsive 720p 10.1 inch touchscreen. The complimentary headset was also good for economy class. It doesn’t have the scratchy noises that many earphones make.
Onto the weirder parts about my flight. As part of the covid measures, pillows and blankets were provided on request. The quality was decent but nothing to write home about. The toilet’s communal lotion was also not present, and the entire aircraft being kept spotlessly clean for the same covid reason. Oddly, full set of inflight magazines were provided, and no forms of care kit (such as mask and cleaning wipes) were provided. I was puzzled. I have flown the same route on China Airlines and SQ, and they all provided masks and cleaning wipes. I don’t mind not having these kit (I brought them anyways), but it is something worthy to know nevertheless.
On a more positive note, individual air nozzles were present to keep me cool, which is great for me. In the future, Starlux will also roll out Wifi on their fleet. Economy class passengers get free access to texting app (WhatsApp, Line and Facebook Messenger). Pricing looks reasonable to me with US$5 for 30MB and $10 for 100MB.
Service was definitely a highlight of the flight. The flight attendants (FA) were friendly without being intrusive. I asked them if pictures are allowed and they gladly allowed , even invited me for a business class photoshoot. Due to the light load, I decided to satisfy my gluttony with second servings of main course. The FA, having already taken my previous order proactively asked me if I want to try a different main course, a choice which I gladly accepted.
There was also a very interesting service flow that I had never seen in economy class. Before departure, the FA came and took my order of post take off drinks while addressed me by my surname. This was obviously an excellent service, however I cannot seem to make sense of this. Yes, there was only 4 of us economy, but this would be a logistical nightmare when the flight is full in normal times.
I will be blunt here. Food and drinks are stellar, I would outright call it a perfect economy meal.
Minutes after takeoff. I was served with my requested Green Tea mocktails and multigrain snacks. The snacks tasted good, but a bit too sophisticated for my taste (I prefer the China Airline’s rice crackers). The green tea mocktails was refreshing though.
I soon turned my attention to the digital menu in the IFE. There was no paper menu which I can surely forgive. I don’t see the reason for wasting extra papers when digital menu does it just as well in economy class. Some may say this is against the airline’s premium theme, I digress. In summary, the menu was surely impressive for economy class. 2 choices of main course were available, with extensive selections of mocktails, cocktails, caffeins and mix juices. Is felt that the alcoholic drinks are super extensive, but leave a comment below to let me know if other airlines are as good as this.
For economy class , online pre-ordering of meals are available.
For dinner services, it all came in one tray. Immediately on my notice is the full set of appetizer, dessert, main course, fruits and bread roll. Metal cutlery and even salt and pepper comes as standard. I don’t remember short haul economy meal was this complete. All of my previous flights on this sector either has fruits missing, or simply a dessert and main course served.
As previously mentioned, I tried both main courses. At first, I opted for the BBQ chicken with Mixed Rice. This meal was a partnership with Taipei’s famed Japanese BBQ store Hutong. I was blown away with this selection. The chicken was tender and retained the sweetness of the BBQ sauce. The mixed rice was also tasty and perfectly moist (some airlines made their rice taste like dried grains). The accompanying bean sprout and kimchi also gave a nice crunch and acidity to the otherwise heavy meal. My second main, the dried Laksa was more of a usual comfort food. The coconut and shrimp paste fragrance was omnipresent, but the spiciness was very much toned down. The noodle was not anything to write home about too. Appetizer was also a very refreshing combination of cucumber , tomato mixed with plum sauce, however it could be too sour for some people. Fruits was also pleasantly sweet.
I was already super full at this point. But I simply could not pass on the opportunity of the bread roll and dessert. I totally did not regret it. The bread roll needs no butter. It is crispy on the outside, soft in the inside. The first bite comes with a powerful kick from ground pepper, followed by the sweetness of caramelized onion. The Pana cotta dessert was creamy, milky with a light hint of taro, rounded off with a nice bouncy texture from the sago.
With the meals over, I had a cup of white wine to enjoy the sunset wing view as the Leap-1 engine hums in the background. How much better can life gets. Hope tou all enjoy the pictures as seen in the gallery.
The flight then passed uneventfully. There was no turbulence through out the flight. Just 30 minutes after dinner service, the pilots announced our imminent approach. Soon, the lights were dimmed, leaving the mood lighting to set the tone of the cabin. At 19:45 Taipei time, the flight landed on time. We landed on runway 05 Left, a very much preferred route over the northern approach as that will require a detour and 180 degree turn.
The flight left me very impressed with the service and meals. I must say that this airline really pays attention to detail and its reflected from seemingly mundane stuff like surname referring and the stellar bread rolls. However, the airlines really need to sort out the short comings in their IFE and charging department. The afternoon departure schedule from Singapore is also optimum for me. Overall, I would not hesitate to fly them again.
However, how does it stack up against the competition? Well, it is hard to say it definitively. If you are a person who cares about food and services, I think Starlux is entirely in its own league. But in overall, I will still give my hats to SQ. Apart from Starlux’s short comings in IFE and charging port, it also does not have network and alliance advantage that SQ enjoys. That situation applies to Eva Air and China Airlines too. Finally, I need to say that the 4 airlines I am comparing today are some of best in the world. Therefore I am forced to set a high expectations. Apart from the likes of Qatar, the 2 Japanese carriers and Cathay, I do not think we should have this level of expectations to other airlines.
1. As of currently, arrival into Taiwan requires traveler to be fully vaccinated. 10-14 days mandatory quarantine are also enforced depending on departing country.
2. Mask wearing was mandatory and was observed through out the trip.