Starlux Airlines: Setting a New Standard in Air Travel

Since its inception in 2020, Starlux Airlines has navigated a remarkable journey marked by resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to excellence. Despite the turbulent onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Starlux has emerged as a prominent player in the aviation industry, with a focus on global expansion and fostering key partnerships, notably in Japan. From its inaugural flight in January 2020 to the recent milestones of joining IATA and launching new routes, Starlux continues to redefine the aviation landscape. In this exclusive interview, Glenn Chai, Chief Executive Officer of Starlux Airlines, shares insights into the company’s journey, its distinctive approach to delivering exceptional travel experiences, and its strategic vision for the future.

Can you share key milestones in Starlux Airlines’ journey since its establishment in 2020, with a focus on global expansion, business operations, and notable partnerships in Japan?

Our very first commercial flight was launched in January 2020. Covid-19 engulfed the globe almost immediately, and we faced this huge, unexpected challenge. Despite the setbacks, we have expanded our routes from Taipei to 23 destinations across Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and the US, and the number is still growing. I’m glad and grateful that Starlux has survived the pandemic and that we finally see the recovery of the travel industry. Launching our first US route — Taipei – Los Angeles — was an essential step toward our goal of serving the transfer market between Southeast Asia and North America, and we will continue to add more routes to US cities.

We currently operate nine scheduled and two charter routes in Japan. Starlux has forged strong relationships with relevant stakeholders, including governments, airports, travel agencies, airport service companies, and other relevant organizations. We consider each partnership indispensable and greatly appreciate their support and cooperation.

What distinguishes Starlux Airlines in the competitive aviation market, and how does the company consistently deliver exceptional travel experiences to passengers?

We promote ourselves as a “boutique airline” and are focused on the transfer and business passenger market. Our brand strategy focuses on attracting business passengers and mid-to-high-end pleasure travelers. We aim to build brand loyalty while avoiding price competition and filling the void between regular and boutique airline services in Taiwan. We intend to appeal to business travelers and mid-to-high-end consumers who value a superior flight experience over price. To that end, we must consistently project a boutique airline image through branding, excellent service and cabin design, and partnership with the best of the best in supporting industries. 

From the award-winning uniform design to the luxurious VIP room and high-performance fleet, we have brought a new standard to the airline industry.

Glenn Chai, Chief Executive Officer of Starlux Airlines

From the award-winning uniform design to the luxurious VIP room and high-performance fleet, we have brought a new standard to the airline industry. Our unique cabin design sets a higher benchmark and creates an exquisite flight experience noticeably several notches higher than traditional airlines. We expect that if we can offer services other airlines cannot duplicate, passengers will be drawn to us, including regular customers of other airlines. We hope flying with us will be something that all passengers will look forward to. We hope they enjoy every second of their flight, where all five senses will be addressed and satisfied.

Considering Starlux’s recent membership in IATA and the launch of new routes, what future trends and challenges do you foresee in the aviation industry, especially concerning Taiwan-Japan relations?

Becoming an IATA member is a significant milestone for us. Starlux will have many more opportunities to strengthen Taiwan-Japan relations by participating in various member conferences, committees, and important events. We aim to establish closer relationships with official counterparts in Japan.

As for future trends, there has been a notable resurgence in air travel worldwide in the post-COVID era. As one of the airlines benefiting from this surge in demand, we acknowledge the inevitable challenges, notably the escalating fuel cost leading to higher ticket prices.

The global aviation industry is also struggling with another severe problem: the manpower shortage in ground handling staff, pilots, cabin crews, and even security personnel. This scarcity poses a potential hindrance to meeting the escalating demands for air travel. Internally, we have proactively addressed this issue through extensive recruitment efforts across all departments. Notably, we have initiated cadet pilot programs, with two groups of cadets currently undergoing training to obtain their pilot’s licenses.

We view these challenges not merely as obstacles but as opportunities to reaffirm our commitment to a sustainable future. Our forthcoming sustainability report will comprehensively outline our efforts and contributions towards this goal.

What insights can you share about the significance of the airline industry in both Taiwan and Japan? Additionally, what direction do you envision for the industry’s future?

We are currently observing a recurring trend in Taiwan’s travel market. Travelers’ habits have changed since the recovery from COVID-19. More passengers now prefer high-quality, flexible travel styles that provide a more enjoyable experience.

With a notable increase in the ratio and demand from Frequent Indeoendent Travelers (FITs), travelers are inclined to invest their resources in experiences, particularly favoring local tours and immersive tourism. This shift stems from firsthand knowledge of the limitations and inconveniences encountered during the pandemic.

Furthermore, since the enhanced ability for self-guided tours, travelers have begun to target small and medium-sized cities as destinations in Japan rather than the most famous cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Self-guided tours comprising family members and friends are becoming more popular, diminishing the appeal of traditional guided tours that emphasize predefined values that are less desired among travelers.

On the other hand, we are witnessing increasing collaborations in the economy, cultural exchange, education, sports, and other areas between Taiwan and Japan, such as TSMC’s investment in Kumamoto. We firmly believe that as these ongoing interactions become more frequent, demand will gradually stabilize. We will also play our part in promoting Taiwan-Japan relations by providing passenger and cargo transporting services.

Looking ahead, what are the key priorities and growth strategies that Starlux Airlines is focusing on in the coming years, particularly in expanding its presence in the Taiwan-Japan market?

Japan has always been one of Taiwanese travelers’ favorite destinations. We already have nine Japanese destinations — Okinawa, Kumamoto, Fukuoka, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, Sendai, Hakodate, and Sapporo. These routes have produced stellar records so far, and growth momentum is expected to continue. We will not only keep developing our network in Japan but persist in our “seasonal spotlights” strategies and “keep it trending” by consistently offering enticements. In 2023, we unveiled collaborations with the movie Spiderman, the LA Clippers, the LA Dodgers, and the Peanuts cartoon character Snoopy.

To cater to the tastes and preferences of local Japanese travelers, we have already employed Japanese flight attendants specifically for Japan-bound flights. We are actively recruiting cabin crews based in Japan. Additionally, we will soon partner with renowned local Japanese restaurants to offer highly acclaimed high-end Japanese cuisine on board.

We remain confident that even though we are newcomers to the industry, our best days are still ahead. We look forward to one day becoming a household name in the industry.

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