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Wednesday 8 November 2023

Flying the Latest Airline In Taiwan, Starlux (Part 1: SIN-TPE Premium Economy)

 Welcome to my trip report on Starlux Premium Economy Class Experience! 

This is my ride, B-58502, the airline's Airbus A350-900. 

I enjoyed my A350 ride with Starlux.


When the chance to fly with Starlux came, I decided to go for it even though it happened during my busiest period. At that point of time, I need a short break and Taiwan was the perfect place to get away from work. I decided to do a quick few days in Taipei and Kaohsiung so I will fly up to Taipei with Starlux and return and take the HSR (High speed railway) to Kaohsiung from Taipei City to Zuoying and return to Taoyuan. Once that was set, I confirmed my tickets and everything was good to go. For my flights with Starlux, I would experience both the Premium Economy and Economy class products and since the price of the Premium Economy was the same for both SIN-TPE and TPE-SIN sectors, I chose Premium Economy Class on the SIN-TPE sector because the flight time was slightly longer due to the headwind towards the Taiwanese city. So without further ado, let's begin this trip report! 

The airline's website/mobile app 

The airline's website and mobile app are easy to use, user-friendly and the terms and condition are clearly stated so one should not have any issues navigating them. 

This is the price for 2 persons (one-way) and I chose the savings option.

The timing is far from ideal for travellers based in Singapore as the amount of time you spend in Taiwan is lesser than one would hope for. Will Starlux introduce a 2nd daily flight for this route with a better timing for those departing from Singapore? It is difficult because the market between both countries are saturated. 

After paying for the seats, I wanted to check the seat map but I was unable to do so. The website prompted me to contact the office in order to make changes, not so convenient here. 

For 2 passengers, I had to fork out $53 for the Premium Economy Class seats. I decided to pay as I wanted the best seats in the cabin. 

My seat for this flight (Photo: Aerolopa.com)

I chose row 21 so that I can have the engine view. 

After payment, my itinerary will be shown below. I decided to sign up for the cosmiles programme to earn miles. I hope the airline will sign up with more partners to make this programme more useful. 

What I like about booking with this airline is the ability to choose your meals ahead of your flight. 

You can pre-order your meal on the mobile app or website and it is available up to 24 hours prior to flight departure while for kosher meal selections is closed 72 hours prior to flight departure. 

About Starlux Airlines 

Starlux is a Taiwanese international airline, based in Taipei, Taiwan and was founded in 2018. The airline started its first operation in January 2020 and is operating an all Airbus fleet: A321NEO, A330-900NEO and A350-900. The founding CEO, Chang Kuo-wei is a former chairman of EVA Airways and he set up the airline together with Glenn Chai. When the airline started commercial service after receiving the AOC, (Air Operator's Certificate), the Covid-19 pandemic affected the airline's operations along with many others, however a few years later, when the travel industry started recovering, the airline started deploying the aircraft to regional routes and introduced flights to the U.S with the A350. There are plans to start domestic flights with the ATR-72 aircraft but nothing has been confirmed yet (at this time of blogging). 

Meanwhile the airline is working hard to operate more flights to the U.S, eager to grab some share of the market on the Taiwan to U.S routes and for now, the airline has entered a strategic-partnership with Alaska Airlines.

This map shows the current routes of the airline (Subject to changes) - November 2023 update 

Do note

Taipei to Nagoya (Starts on 1st December 2023)
Taipei to Chiang Mai (Starts on 18 January 2024) 
Taipei to San Francisco (Starts on 16 December 2024) 

On the day of departure 

I did a check on what aircraft would be flying me to Taipei, B-58502 gets the honour. 

On that day, there were three commercial flights and a cargo flight flying from Taipei to Singapore and would return to Taipei after a short layover. 

Checking the departure board, my flight was scheduled to depart on time. 

Starlux uses terminal 1 for flights in Singapore. Will we see Starlux operating Kaohsiung to Singapore in the near future? I hope so, I like try the airline's A321NEO. 

This is the check-in counters for Starlux. 

It's cool to see the Spiderman theme on the airline's boarding pass. 

At that point of time, the terminal was busy with a good number of flights departing at that time. 

This is the airside. It looks nice on the inside but like I mentioned before, for those with trolleys or cabin baggage, it isn't so pleasant to move around with them. 

As I had little interest in these high end shops, I went to find some lunch before boarding my flight. 

This is Thai Airways Airbus A330-300 HS-TEO being prepared for departure. 

A comfortable area to relax and chill out. 

The Snooze lounge is located the floor above the departure hall (airside). 

I settled for some noodle soup and while enjoying it, I get to enjoy the view of  Scoot's Airbus A321NEO which I will be flying next month, stay tuned for the trip report. 

Finally the aircraft lined up for landing at SIN airport. 

After eating, I made my way to the gate. There isn't much to do in this terminal. 

The walk from the main concourse to the gate D47 took about 10 minutes. 

Time to board! There are 2 aero-bridges. One is connected to the First and Business Class cabin while the other is connected to the Premium Economy and Economy Class cabin. 

Here she is, my very first Taiwanese registered A350 ride! China Airlines also operate this model and the latest news is EVA Air will also join the A350 club from 2026 onwards, subject to changes. 

Time to board Starlux's Airbus A350-900! The cabin crew were waiting for us. 

My ride: B-58502 (Photo: Justin Lin) 

Airbus A350-941 (Leased from ALC) 
Configuration: F4 C26 W36 Y240 
Engines: 2 X Roll Royce Trent XWB-84
Delivered to the airline in Jan 2023 
Age: 1 years old (September 2023)
557th Airbus A350 built 
Built in Toulouse (TLS) 

Route: SIN-TPE 

Miles: 1,996 

Date of departure: 15th September 2023
Airline: Starlux 
Flight: JX732 
Route: SIN-TPE 
Aircraft type: Airbus A350-900
Registration: B-58502 
Terminal: 1 
Gate: D47 
Load: 80% full in Premium Economy 
Seat: 21A 
Flight Duration: 4 hours 30 minutes 
Actual Flight Time: 4 hours 28 minutes 
Boarding: 1337 
Schedule departure: 1400
Push back: 1419 
Take off: 1442 
Schedule arrival: 1850 
Actual arrival: 1909
Departure runway: 20L 
Arrival runway: 05R

The seat map of the Starlux's Airbus A350 (Photo: Starlux) 

First Class (Photos: Starlux) (A350 only) 

This cabin consists of one row of 4 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. These seats have a seat pitch of 83 inches, with a seat width of 23 inches and can recline up to 180 degrees meaning this is a lie-flat bed seat. 

What's special about these seats? Well, for every seat, it comes with a 60 inches height closing doors, wardrobe to store one's belongings, mini-bar and a massive 32 inches 4K In-Flight Entertainment Screen. 

USB and Power plugs are available. 

For first class passengers travelling in or out of Taipei Taoyuan Airport, the airline offers complimentary chauffeur service, do check the airline's website for more details. 

Only this Taiwanese airline offers First class while China Airlines and EVA Air have discontinued First Class service quite sometime ago. 

Business Class (Photos: Starlux) 

These reverse herringbone seats are built by Collins Aerospace and this is the latest Elements suite which can be upgraded to First Class without sacrificing space on the aircraft layout. 

These 26 seats are configured in a 1-2-1 layout and have a privacy door each with a height of 48.5 inches. The seats have a seat pitch of 44 inches, 20 inches seat width and a recline of 180 degrees (lie-flat bed)

In addition, each seats comes with 24-inch 4K In-Flight Entertainment Screen and also comes with USB and power plugs. 

Economy Class 

There are 240 Economy Class seats configured in a 3-3-3 layout. 

More information of this product in my Part 2 of my Starlux trip report. 

My flight experience 

As a Premium Economy Class passenger, I was part of the 2nd group to board the aircraft. My partner and I were welcomed on board but there was no pre departure drink for us. After settling down, we waited for the aircraft to push back, the Captain did his usual welcome announcement but there was no information on the late push back. However, he mentioned that there was turbulence along the way, not a surprise especially June to October period is usually the typhoon season and bad weather is quite common. I wonder whether was it because of the bad weather on route that caused us to push back late. We pushed back about 20 minutes after the schedule departure time and finally took off at 1442. 

Once we were on our way, we encountered some bumps during the climb especially flying through the clouds. While observing the cabin, I noticed the gap between the front seats which allows me to see whatever the person sitting at the aisle seat doing and the programme he is watching in the screen, not much privacy. I checked out the IFE system and there wasn't many choices of movies and in-flight wifi was not available on this flight.

About an hour after the take off, the crew came around with the meal service and we received our pre-ordered meals. Overall the quality of food was nothing to shout about. I definitely tasted better in-flight meals with other airlines. 

Regarding the in-flight service, it was not bad, the crew came around offering us refill and they are always around when needed. About the flight itself, there was turbulence along the way but it was not as bad as I thought it would be and even though it was raining at Taipei, the approach and landing at Taoyuan Airport was smooth. Overall it was a nice flight.

Premium Economy Class (A350 only) 

There are 36 seats in this cabin, configured in a 2-4-2 layout. These seats are the Recaro CL3710 which includes the 15.6 inches 4K Ultra-HD In-Flight Entertainment Screen and also comes with USB port and power plugs. For this trip report, I will be focusing on this product and share with you my thoughts on this. 

There are 20 seats (5 rows of 2) on each of the window sides and 16 seats in the middle section (4 rows of 4). Each seat has a generous legroom space of 40 inches, seat width of 19 inches and can recline up to 6 inches, it also comes with six-way adjustable headrest, retractable legrest and footrest. 

For this aircraft, IFE screen is mounted on the wall for the bulkhead row seats. 

Legroom space of these seats is better as there is no IFE box to obstruct your legs. 

I find the colours of the Premium Economy Class to be quite pleasant. 

The 4K resolution IFE screen is definitely top notch. 

Notice something different about this A350? The electronic dimmed windows. 

Notice the legroom space? Asile seat passengers get slightly more legroom space.  

The last row of the window seats offer a bit more privacy than the others. 

The mood lighting certainly enhance the atmosphere on board this aircraft. 

This is my seat, 21A.

I find the seat to be more comfortable thanks to the wider seat width comparing to the Economy Class seat, I don't have to worry about bumping my shoulder with my seat mate. 

More photos of the cabin 

The legroom space is limited due to the IFE box taking up much of the precious space. I had no choice but to place my backpack in the overhead compartment. 

I am quite impressed with the IFE screen system. 

The seat (below) is in half reclined mode. What I don't like about this seat is that when it is fully reclined, it can be troublesome to move in or out of the window seat especially when your seat mate is sleeping. 

When I set my seat into the fully reclined mode, I find it to be quite comfortable and manage to grab a short nap. 

Overall I give this airline's product a rating of 7/10. 

The A350 Dimmable Windows 

Gentex Corperation is responsible for Airbus' dimmable windows and Starlux is the first airline to select this electronic window shade which allows passengers to darken or brighten the window when desired. This depends whether the crew control the windows, if they are not controlled by the crew, then every passenger sitting by the window gets to adjust according to his/her preference. 

What is the difference between this and the 787 Dreamliner's version? This version darkens or brightens twice as fast and when it gets dark, it gets darker than what you see on the Dreamliner. According to Gentex, the dimmest mode eliminates about 99% of the visible light. 

I would have to say this version is better than the 787 Dreamliner. On my LATAM flight with the 787 Dreamliner, even though I set it to the dimmest mode, I still feel the heat as the window was not blocking all the light. While for the A350's electronic dimmable windows, I didn't feel the heat even though the sun was shining at my direction. This version is definitely more effective blocking the light. 

So for now Airbus mentioned that this is an option for the airlines, unlike the Boeing 787. All the Boeing 787 operators have the electronic dimmed windows stystem installed on their aircraft. Which A350 operator will opt for Gentex's electronic dimmed windows?  I think there is a higher chance of new A350 operators rather than the current operators selecting this for their aircraft as changing the fleet of A350 already in operation from the conventional window shade to the electronic dimmed window is very expensive and it doesn't make sense for the future delivery of the A350 to have this system while the older aircraft don't. 

There are 2 buttons below, you can adjust the brightness according to your preference. 

From brightness 

To the darkest 

This is photographed during daytime.

How do these dimmable windows work? 

Using the electrochromic technolgy, when the button is pressed, a small amount of current passed through the electrochromic gel sandwiched between the glass panels so each time the strength of the current increases, the darker the reaction in the gel. When the current is reduced, the gel becomes brighter and eventually return to its original transparent state when the current is completely halted.

More photos of the Premium Economy Seat 

The remote control for the IFE system and the buttons to recline or set the seat upright. 

This is a drink holder. 

There are seat pockets for you to store your things. The pockets contain in-flight magazine, safety card and the headset. 

The vibrant colour of the screen is impressive. 

Each passenger gets a reading light but something is missing, individual air vents. 

Each passenger gets to charge his/her electronic devices with the USB port and universal power port provided. 

The size of the screen is quite impressive. 

The remote control comes in handy especially if the touchscreen is not working well. 

The foldable tray is stored at the handrest area. 

It is large enough to place your laptop on it. 

The airline showed a video of Taiwan's rules and regulations which would be played before landing at Taipei. 

Overall, I am satisfied with the IFE system. 

In-Flight Meals

I had the chicken meal. 

My partner had the prawns. 

Signature cocktail or any other beverages can be requested anytime during the flight except during take off and landing. 

The wine and beverages menu

Before the main course was served, we were given a beverage of our choice and a little snack bag. 

This is the Prawn Pasta option. 

This is the Chicken rice option. 

Both meals contain the same side dishes: salad, red velvet cake, fruits and a small loaf of bread. We agreed that the meals are not the best as my partner commented her noodles were too dry while mine was a bit too saltish for my liking. While for the side dishes, they were ok. I chose a glass of water to wash down the meal. 

Later on after the meal, we ordered the signature drink Twilight Mojito. It contains rum, green tea and orange. We enjoyed this drink. 

What's provided for each Premium Economy Class Passenger?

A pillow 

A blanket 

Good quality blanket 

Disposal Bag 

In-Flight magazine 

In-flight duty free magazine 

Headphones - quality is ok

In-Flight Entertainment 

This 15.6 inch entertainment screen has a very good quality display, it allows you to connect your wireless headphone via bluetooth connectivity. 

While the selection of movies is limited, they are enough for the Taipei to U.S flights, however it would be great if the airline can add more contents. 

The system is user-friendly so anyone should be able to use it without difficulty. 

After selecting the movie, I enjoyed the show and the headset that we were given was able to block out the cabin noise. 

My flight details 

The system allows me to watch the movie and observe my flight's progress at the same time. 

Isn't the A350 a beautiful plane? 

Time flies fast and soon we were landing. 

Lavatory Check 

It looks nice and clean. 

Window shot photos (Take off to Landing)

This is why I chose row 21A, I get a good view of the wing and the engine.

After a short delay, we pushed back. 

Passing by some local traffic. 

After 20 minutes of taxi, we reached runway 20L. 

The take off roll was quite impressive. 

We lifted off almost effortlessly. 

The weather at Singapore at that time was pleasant. 

We hit some turbulence while flying through some clouds. 

We are at our assigned flight level, enjoying every minute of the flight. 

At this point, the sky is becoming dark as we started our descend towards Taipei. 

It was nice to witness the sun setting. 

The Captain announced that it was raining in Taipei so now we get to enjoy the view before the plane hit the clouds. 

At this point, we were on final approach to Taipei Taoyuan Airport. 

We touched down smoothly in this wet condition.

We parked besides an EVA Air 777-300ER. EVA Air announced the day before that they have placed an order for 18 A350-1000 and 15 A321NEO and that is quite exciting for the aviation community. Not many expected EVA Air to order the A350 as they seem to be building up a Boeing wide-body fleet as they are currently replacing the Airbus A330 with Boeing 787-9 and -10 series. So for the future fleet of EVA Air, the airline will be operating Airbus A321NEO (Narrow-body), Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 777-300ER (Long haul) and Boeing 787-9 and -10 (Regional and long haul flights). Eventually the Boeing 777-300ER will be retired and since only 18 A350-1000 are ordered, perhaps there is a possiblity the airline orders the Boeing 777-9 to replace the remaining 17 777-300ER, let's see how it goes. 

With that, my flight has come to an end. 

My flight summary 

Welcome to Taipei Taoyuan Airport 

The last time I was in Taipei is in 2018. So it's great to be back! 

This is the arrival hall and I noticed some changes to the terminal. 

The arrival hall seems more spacious compared to my last trip here.

Finally the MRT train system is available, that makes transport from the airport to the city faster and more convenient. 

 I took the express train to Taipei Main station. 

This is the airport metro map (Taoyuan Airport's website) 

To be continued : Part 2 (Some photos of Taipei, Kaohsiung and my return flight with Starlux on the airline's Economy Class cabin) 

My ratings 

Airline mobile app/website: 4/5 
Airport Experience (SIN Terminal 2): 4/5
In-Flight Experience: 3/5 
In-Flight Entertainment System: 3.5/5 
Seat Comfort: 4/5
Cabin Ambiance: 5/5
Cabin Condition: 4/5
Punctuality: 2/5 (Late by 19 minutes)
In-Flight Meal: 3.5/5 
Cleanliness: 5/5 
Overall rating: 38/50
Percentage: 76%


When Starlux announced its arrival into the aviation world, many of us were skeptical about it especially with the massive order of A321NEO, A330NEO and A350-900/-1000. The first question came into many people's mind, how is Taiwan going to cope with 3 airlines? Transasia and Far Eastern Air Transport disappeared from our skies few years ago and will this new kid of the block be able to succeed with such an ambition? I hope they do, the more airlines mean better competition but first Starlux needs to establish itself before going all out against the other 2 airlines, EVA Air and China Airlines. For now it is introducing new routes which the other airlines are already flying such as Los Angeles and some regional routes in Japan, Malaysia, Korea and Singapore and having 3 airlines operating these routes, is it a good idea? EVA Air and China Airlines have an advantage and that is both airlines are well established as they are members in the airline alliance which means they can help to carry passengers from other airlines in their alliance to the destinations in their respective route network. Starlux currently has only one partner and that is Alaska Airlines, they need to work with more airlines so that they can attract more passengers to become a regular flyer with this airline. Will they succeed? It is possible but a lot of hard work is needed. 

My first flight with Starlux was a pleasant one. What I am impressed is the good quality of cabin products the airline offers for the Premium Economy Class. The seats are comfortable and do look luxurious however the small legroom space is a letdown. The service on board is similar to the ones you get with EVA Air and China Airlines, the warmth and friendliness from the Taiwanese can be compared to the other top tier Asian airlines. For my flight, while the in-flight meal wasn't fantastic but at least there are some nice beverages offered onboard and you can refer to the list on the In-Flight Entertainment System. Starlux's A350-900 is unique as it is the only A350 airline so far that uses the dimmed electronic windows system and I find it to be more responsive than Boeing's 787 version. The other airline to use this dimmed window system will be Qantas on the upcoming A350-1000 aircraft which we assumed both the ULR and the standard version will get. 

Is it value for money flying in the premium economy class? Yes, you get better legroom space, wider seat width and better in-flight meal. Personally after experiencing the product, I would go for the bulkhead row since I can't fully stretched my legs due to the  smaller legroom space. Another advantage of this cabin is the more comfortable 2-4-2 seating configuration means one lesser seat in each row and no middle seat. Overall comfort is definitely better than Economy Class. 

Stay tuned for my Economy Class trip report on my next blog post and also an overview of my flight experience with this airline! 

For my previous trip report (Singapore Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 PEN-SIN), click here.

Next trip report: (Part 2: Starlux's Economy Class TPE-SIN), click here

Thanks for reading and have a good one! 

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