FILE PHOTO: Starlux flight attendants receive emergency landing and slide trainings at their center in Taoyuan, Taiwan April 12, 2023. REUTERS/Ann Wang
By Ben Blanchard
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s Starlux Airlines Co Ltd is pushing Airbus SE (OTC:EADSY) to speed up deliveries as it seeks to expand its routes beyond Asia to keep up with booming post-pandemic demand, the carrier’s chief executive said.
Starlux, Taiwan’s newest full-service airline, launched its first flights in 2020 and serves destinations including Tokyo, Bangkok, Macau, Hanoi and Singapore.
The all-Airbus operator competes against the island’s long-established carriers China Airlines Ltd and Eva Airways Corp, which are expanding and updating their own fleets with Boeing (NYSE:BA) Co 787s.
Starlux took delivery of the first of 18 A350s in October as it expands operations to long-haul routes from Taipei, starting with Los Angeles next week.
The airline, which also operates the A330neo, expects to receive five widebody jets next year, but that is not enough to keep pace with strong post-pandemic demand, CEO Glenn Chai told Reuters at the company’s headquarters in Taipei.
“We have been pushing Airbus to provide the aircraft as soon as possible, but their production rate is not able at the moment to return to pre-pandemic levels,” he said.
North America is the focus for now with Starlux launching San Francisco before the end of the year, Chai added. The airline is targeting transit passengers given the small size of its domestic market.
“New York is a must – it’s the largest city in North America, but it depends on aircraft deliveries,” he said. “The headache for us is Airbus can’t hand them over.”
Airbus said it was in “direct contact with all our customers” but declined to comment on talks with individual airlines. The planemaker has reaffirmed production targets for 2024 and beyond.
Chai said Starlux, which reported a net loss of T$5.3 billion ($173.75 million) last year, aimed to have a fleet of 39 planes in the “first phase” and then expand to 50, with Boeing Co jets a consideration depending on pricing.
“We welcome Boeing to take part in the price quotation process,” he said. “We absolutely are not ruling them out.”
While its initial long-haul focus is on North America, it plans to eventually fly to Europe and Australia, Chai added.
($1 = 30.5030 Taiwan dollars)