Thursday 16 November 2023

Flying The Latest Airline in Taiwan, Starlux (Part 2: TPE-SIN Economy Class)

 Welcome to my part 2 of my Starlux Experience! 

B-58501's delivery flight (Photo: Dn280)


Introduction 

The timing of the return flight is less than desirable especially for those enjoying their holiday and returning home to Singapore. I prefer the afternoon flight which means half a day to spent on the day of departure. At the time of booking, only China Airlines (among the Taiwanese airlines) offered the afternoon flight for the TPE-SIN sector. EVA Air does fly twice daily but the flights departing from Taipei is at 0740 and 0955 about 2 hours apart. 

Since my flight was departing at 8.10 am, I had to wake up around 4.30 and leave the hotel about 6 a.m. I chose the Hotel Novotel located very near the Airport Hotel MRT station for convenience to get to the airport but that doesn't matter as there is a complimentary shuttle bus transport to the airport which takes around 10 minutes. So without further ado, let's begin this return flight with Starlux! This time, I will be checking out the Economy Class. Is the Economy Class product as competitive with the top tier airlines? Do read on to find out. 

Photos of my time in Taipei 

This is Ximending, it is worth visiting this place for good food. 


A typical street in Taipei 



This is the Danshui old street and it is one of the popular street markets in Taipei.


This is Valentine's bridge during sunset 


Isn't it lovely? 



Taipei 101 


We decided to drop by here to enjoy the best of Din Tai Fung. In my opinion, this is better than Singapore's version. 


Steamed chicken 


Seafood fried rice 


Xiao Long Bao (Little basket bun)


The popular Taiwanese beef noodle 


Sweet and sour soup 


Small chinese buns consist of bean paste 


The Taipei airport line is more convenient to travel around especially from the Taoyuan Airport to Taipei City.


This is Novotel Taipei Taoyuan Hotel. 


The room was small but comfortable enough for the one night stay. 


At the lobby, what caught my eye was the plane models on display. 

This is China Airlines Boeing 747-400


There are more than 100 smaller models on display! This is definitely avgeek heaven. 



About Taipei Taoyuan Airport (2023) 


This airport was formerly known as Chiang Kai-Shek international airport until 2006, was opened for commercial operations in 1979. Before 1979, Taipei Songshan Airport handled international flights but ever since Taoyuan took over the international flight duties, Taipei Songshan handled mainly chartered flights, intra-island flights and limited international regional flights. Currently this airport is a hub for China Airlines, EVA Air, Mandarin Airlines, Starlux, Tigerair Taiwan and Uni Air and is located at Dayuan District, Taoyuan. It is about 40 km west of  Taipei and is the largest airport in Taiwan. The airport currently has 2 terminals in operation with a 3rd terminal currently being built and has 2 runways 05L/23R and 05R/23L, with a 3rd runway being built to manage the increased traffic once the new terminal starts operation. 

About the upcoming terminal 3, it is about half completed (November 2023) and scheduled to finished in 2026. Which airlines will be operating out of this new terminal? Nothing has been decided but I will update this post once more information on this new terminal is revealed. 

The future of Taoyuan Airport 

The MRT system certainly makes life easier connecting to other places from the airport. 


On the day of departure 

The hotel shuttle bus took about 10 minutes to reach the airport, terminal 2. 


Once there, we took the escalator to the departure hall. 


The last time I was here, I flew with EVA Air. 


See how busy the traffic is at this time. 


Starlux's check-in desk is at row 1 which is located at a corner of the terminal. 


Here we are, this time flying on Economy Class. 


My Economy Class boarding pass without the spiderman theme. 


Once done, I made my way to the observation deck located at the 3rd floor. 


A nice layout of the airport.


There is a food court at this level. At that time, many stalls were closed. 


Here is the observation deck, it is a must visit for all aviation enthusiasts. 


Once I was done, I made my way to the airside. 


This is the airside of terminal 2.


I did another check on my flight, it was going ahead on schedule. 


There are a number of lounges to visit but unfortunately no lounge access for me. 


The terminal may be showing its age but it is quite a pleasant airport to hang out. The airport-wifi connection is quite good. 


I did a bit of walk checking out both end of the pier. 




My first look of B-58501, the airline's first A350-900. She was my ride to Singapore. 


There are lots of sitting areas at the gate and they are well decorated. 



There is even a train model and track over here. 




It's nice to see the taiwanese culture in the terminal. 




There are duty-free shops and resturants near the main concourse of the terminal. 




What do you think of the decoration put up by the airport management? 


Overall I prefer Taipei Taoyuan Airport to Singapore Changi Airport. 

For a few reasons:

-Observation decks (Terminal 2 North and South) for plane spotters
-  Limited carpeted area at the airport means easier for passengers with carry-on luggages
- Nice decoration promoting the country's culture 
- Security check is done after immigration (with the exception of terminal 4 SIN)
 - More local food options
- Better public transport system (The train connects to all terminals and goes directly to the heart of Taipei with an option of taking the express train) and bus system.
 

Once I was done, I made my way to the departure gate. 



This is where my flight departed from. 


It's time to board! 


My ride: B-58501 




Airbus A350-941 (Owned)
Configuration: F4 C26 W36 Y240 
Engines: 2 X Roll Royce Trent XWB-84 
Delivered to the airline in October 2022
Age: 1+ Years old (November 2023)
480th A350 built 
Built in Toulouse (TLS)

Route: TPE-SIN

Miles: 1,996 


Date of departure: 20 September 2023
Airline: Starlux 
Flight: JX731 
Route: TPE-SIN
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900
Registration: B-58501 
Terminal: 2 
Gate: D9 
Load: 70% in Y Class
Seat: 58J (Middle seat) 
Schedule departure: 0810 
Boarding: 0737 
Push back: 0805 
Take off: 0828 
Schedule arrival: 1240
Actual arrival: 1232
Departure runway: 23R 
Arrival runway: 20R 

Economy Class 

There are 240 seats in the airline's A350-900 aircraft and the seats are configured in the standard 3-3-3 layout. For this airline's configuration, there are forward and standard seats. Row 32 to 37 are forward seats and they cost more than the standard seats. Why do they cost more? I have no idea. I paid for the seats at the rear cabin, a pair of seats by the window just behind the wing. 

For the economy class seats, they have a seat width of 17 and 1/2 inch and the legroom space is between 31 and 32 inches. The bulkhead and exit rows offer more legroom space but the problem is they are close to the lavatories and galleys which may be a bother for some. 

The economy class seats are designed and manufactured by Recaro and based on the airline's requirement to include a 6-way bendable headrest similar to the Premium Economy seats and an ultra-thin backrest design to enhance comfort level for the passengers. 

The seat is comfortable, but would be better with seat padding in my opinion. 



These were my seats. Look at the alignment of the window and the seat, it is certainly not ideal for photography. 


The IFE screen of the Economy Class compare to the Premium Economy is slightly smaller. My partner and I find the seat pitch to be tight. 


Look at the cabin ambiance, I am a definitely a fan of these colours. 


A starlux cabin crew was preparing the flight for departure. 




Each economy class passenger gets a set of pillow and blanket. 




The view from my seat. 


The overhead compartment 


With the light light up on the strip (below) which shows the seat number, it is certainly easier for the passengers to locate their seats. 


The roomy cabin of Starlux A350-900 Economy Class


The bulkhead and Emergency rows of the Economy Class


Another photo of the Economy Class cabin 


After 4 hours + on the aircraft, it was time to disembark and I took a few more photos. 




Overall I find the seats to be reasonably comfortable though the legroom space was slightly tight. However as I was sitting at the middle seat, I was fortunate not to have a seat mate so that means more legroom space for me. My partner on the other hand complained to me about the legroom space and would prefer to fly on the airline's Premium Economy or Economy Class with another airline. 

More photos of the Economy Class Seat 

Each row of 3-seater comes with 2 usb-c charging ports and 2 universal charging ports. 


A nice welcome by the airline! This was my seat, 58J. I agreed with my partner that since I took the window seat on the Premium Economy class, it's only fair that she took the window seat on this flight. 


This is the tablet holder, to watch your programmes in case you feel the IFE system is not to your liking. 



I should be able to do a video call but if there is turbulence, I won’t be surprised if my phone “fly". 


The overhead panel 


Seat pitch was tight 


The foldable tray table 



Starlux's A350's winglets. Did you know that the A350 have 2 different types of winglets? 


This is A350's old winglets 


This is the new winglets 


Can you spot the difference? The new winglet is taller and has more curvature in the design. This updated winglet offers aerodynamic improvements. 

Below the IFE screen, there is an audio and a usb charging port available for each passenger (except the bulkhead and emergency rows). 


What's provided for each Economy Class passenger? 

A pillow 


Blanket 


Safety card - this is really nice. 


A set of headphone - quality is ok 


Lavatory check 

This lavatory is quite nice. 


The lavatory was clean and tidy. 




My flight Experience 

Boarding the flight took place on time and very soon we were ready to go. As you all know how competitive this route is so it wasn't a surprise to see empty seats scattered around. I was fortunate to have the aisle seat beside mine vacant so that means more legroom space. 

The captain came to do the announcement and reported fine weather for most parts of the journey except around Singapore where it would be slightly bumpy during the descent. For this flight, we pushed back a few minutes ahead of schedule and took off about 23 minutes later. As the traffic was heavy at the airport, it took a while for us to reach the runway. Once the seatbelt sign was turned off, the cabin crew started their duty and soon our meal was served. Was this set of meal better than our previous flight? Well, the question to be revealed in my later part of the trip report (In-flight meal section).  This time round, there was no cocktail offered on this flight as my partner wanted to try the other drink, perhaps it was too early for one? We forgot to ask the crew about it. Anyway, for the rest of our flight, it was uneventful until our plane was on final approach to runway 20R 

While our aircraft was descending, suddently I felt the plane started climbing, the passengers around me were confused (muttering to each other). I was quite excited as this turned out to be my first go-around. What happened? Well, according to the Captain, there was a disabled aircraft at the runway and was not able to move at that point of time so we had to abort our landing and go around, we flew around Batam before attempting to land again.  During the go-around, we flew through some nasty clouds which gave us quite a bit of turbulence including one sudden rise and sink and that caused me to grab hold of the seat in front of me. Once cleared of the clouds, we descended and landed smoothly at Changi Airport, few minutes ahead of schedule. 

With that, my flying adventure with Starlux came to an end. 

Premium Economy Class 

Looking at the premium economy class during the flight, it was about 60% full. 


This is the last row of the premium economy class, you can recline without anyone grumbling. 


I won't want to be stuck at the seats beside the aisle. 




The window seat with the engine view. 



One last look at the Premium Economy Class seat 


In-Flight Entertainment System


Our food options for this flight, I would have prefer something light for breakfast. 


The seat map in Chinese.



The cute safety video 


I watched a couple of movies on this flight. 




For this flight, WiFi was available but you have to purchase in order to use it for Economy Class passengers but complimentary for Business Class passengers. 


Messenging with apps such as Messenger and Whatsapp are available for all Cosmile members. 


In-Flight Meals 

I chose the beef option. 


My partner chose the chicken option. 


Here are the meals 

Each set of meal comes with fruits, yogurt, salad, a bun and the main course. 

This is the Beef Belly Donburi 


This is the Black Pepper Chicken Stew 


The quality of both Premium Economy and Economy meals are around the same. They are not bad but I have tasted better ones. Overall score: 3.5/5 

Window shot photos (Take off to landing) 

Terminal 3 is currently under construction. 


Passing by a China Airlines A330 


Hello to fellow Starlux Airbus aircraft, preparing for departure. 


This is China Airlines' territory. 


I would like to fly on Starlux's A321NEO in the near future. Hopefully Starlux will start flights from Taipei Songshan Airport, only problem is only the A321NEO is able to operate from that airport. The A330NEO and A350 won't be able to operate at that airport due to the length of the wings doesn't meet the allowance allowed to operate at that airport due to the size of the taxiway and airport gate. This is one of the reasons why China Airlines chose the Boeing 787-9 instead of the A330neo to replace the A330-300CEO fleet. 



We are almost there. 


Goodbye Taiwan! Hope to be back soon! I am thinking of flying China Airlines's A321NEO and A350-900 on my next trip to Taipei next year, once I confirmed trip reports will be done. 



Can you spot a Far Eastern Air Transport MD-80? I wonder what would happen to this aircraft and also a pair of them parked at Taipei Songshan Airport. 



V1....rotate. Positive climb, gear up. 



It was a lovely day for flying. 





Leaving Taiwan is always hard for me as I love this country a lot. 


The weather was better than my previous flight. (SIN-TPE)


At this point, we did a go-around, as we climbed to 4,000 feet from 2,000. 


Finally out of the clouds and at this point, we were making our 2nd attempt to land at SIN airport. 




We landed smoothly at Changi Airport. 


After 10 minutes of taxi, we reached at our gate. For us, it was time to get our body tuned back to working life while for this set of crew, they would prepare for the flight back to Taipei.


Thanks for the rides, B-58501 and B-58502. 

My flight summary 



Due to an aircraft stalled on the runway, my flight had to do a go-around (shown below). Fortunately the aircraft was able to clear the runway and we were able to land on our 2nd attempt. How come the other runway (20L) was not used? It was probably busy with the departure. 


Arrival at Changi Airport 

This is terminal 1 and it is connected to Jewel. Have you been there? The waterfall is definitely one of the highlights to check out when you are at this airport. 



Hope you enjoyed my trip reports on Starlux! 

My rating 

Airline mobile app/website: 4/5
Airport Experience (Taipei Taoyuan Terminal 2): 5/5 
In-Flight Experience: 4/5 
In-Flight Entertainment System: 3.5/5 
Seat Comfort: 4/5 
Cabin Ambiance: 5/5 
Cabin Condition: 4/5 
Punctuality: 5/5
In-Flight Meal: 3.5/5
Cleanliness: 5/5 
Overall rating: 43/50
Percentage: 86%

Conclusion 

Starlux offers competitive cabin products on this A350 aircraft and even though both Premium Economy and Economy class are not the best but for the right price, I think they are value for money. What I like about the airline is how they market their products and the cabin interior which I am a fan of, using the nice warm colours, making it more cozy for passengers settling in especially for the long haul flights. In addition, the ability to select your meal even in Economy Class is a winner though the quality of the food can be improved. 

The Airbus A350's cabin is one of the quietest in the skies and Starlux's aircraft comes with the dimmable windows, making it the only A350 operator (for now) to have this feature and I find it to be top notch. While the cabin service is not as polished as my previous flights with EVA Air, I had pleasant flights on both sectors and if you ask me, how can the airline improve? Code-share with more airlines perhaps joining Oneworld alliance but with Cathay Pacific as its rival, will the Hong Kong based airline welcome Starlux? Only time will tell. Better quality in-flight meals, the ones I had was average the best I can give. 

One of my best experience with this airline is experiencing my first go-around thanks to the stalled aircraft on the runway and get to enjoy more flying time with on the majestic A350. I thoroughly enjoyed the quiet cabin of the A350 and with the empty seat beside me that makes my Economy Class experience more enjoyable. 

Overall it is a nice experience flying with Starlux and I was glad to be able to experience both Premium Economy and Economy Class. Even at the lowest class cabin, the airline made the effort to make the cabin as comfortable for the Economy Class passengers, letting them enjoy the IFE system and the latest Recaro seat, for that I give the airline some credit for spending quite a bit of time and money to make the cabin products of all class as competitive as it gets against its rivals. Whether this is sustainable, the management knows better. 

Now that the airline is taking delivery of more aircraft, you can expect more routes to be introduced and increase in frequency on some of the current high demand routes. 

This is the current routemap of the airline (November 2023) (Photo: Starlux)





Hope you find this trip report useful. Feel free to ask any questions and thanks for reading! 

For my previous trip report (Part 1: Starlux Part 1: SIN-TPE Premium Economy), click here.

With that, check out my next blog post: My top 10 Economy Class experience so far (2023 edition)

Take care and have a good one!
Charles 

1 comment:

  1. Seems like Taoyuan Airport has not been operating to its full capacity yet. 6months ago I went there and things like some shops and gates were still not opened, thus created not so pleasure feeling.

    On the Starlux itself, I think its pricing not quite competitive with EVA who offered better connectivities, and China Airlines which I rate highly in cabin service.

    ReplyDelete