Our Desk | Sit back, relax, and enjoy more choice flying

Anthony Lam

A new airline, Starlux Airlines, had been approved to fly between Taipei and Macau, as reported yesterday by Taiwan’s Economic Daily News.

Since it is a new airline, rumors about its batches of launching destinations have been spreading from its official inauguration in May last year. It has been speculated that Macau would be in the first – if not the second – batch of destinations.

According to the Taiwan newspaper, as the airline is a newcomer, there are no free air routes that can be assigned to Starlux. As a result, it can only focus on destinations where the “Open Sky” policy with Taiwan is implemented.

In 2014, Macau and Taiwan signed an agreement to implement the arrangement. Such arrangement allows operators from either jurisdiction to freely administer their flights, in areas including flight timetable, number of flights, capacity of each flight, etc.

Currently, there are three airlines operating flights between Taiwan and Macau, namely Air Macau, EVA Air and low-cost carrier Tigerair Taiwan. Altogether they operate a total of more than 12 two-way flights between the two places every day. During peak seasons, they enjoy the agreed liberty to add flights to accommodate the extra amount of travelers.

Before 2016, when Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways terminated its business, they operated flights between Macau and Taiwan too. That said, with the expected addition of Starlux Airlines, flight operation would resume to a four-sided competition, just like in a mahjong game.

The airline is expected to start ticket sales in this coming December, as it has aimed to launch flights the following month. At the early stage, the airline will rely on its own three Airbus A321neo aircrafts.

The fleet has been said to expand to one eventually comprising 27 aircrafts: 10 A321neo and 17 A350XWB. The latter set a record in the largest purchase of Airbus aircraft in Taiwan’s aviation history.

On the other hand, you may feel curious about the ownership of the new airline. The owner of Starlux is not unknown to the sector: The company is owned by 49-year-old Chang Kuo-wei, ex-president of EVA Air. EVA Air was founded by Chang’s father, the late Chang Yung-fa, a legend of Taiwan’s transportation industry.

Chang “Junior” is a Boeing 777 pilot. During his reign at EVA Air, he managed a fleet of around 60 aircraft. He targets his new aspiration on business travelers and transit passengers.

At the same time, the concession of Air Macau is expiring in November next year. The Aviation Authority has already publicized that the concession will not be renewed, meaning that after then any interested operator will not need Air Macau’s nod to run any route in Macau.

It is always good to have more choice, and our airport is working to cope with the increase. Last year, six new boarding gates were opened as the quintessential part of the airport’s north extension. The airport terminal has been extended northward to accommodate 1.8 million more passengers annually.

Furthermore, the Airport Authority has also announced a master plan for the airport’s future. Reclamation will be conducted to make space for more aircraft parking spots and facilities. The runway will be lengthened to provide for a safer environment. Let’s hope after all these expansions, the airport will be able to receive super jumbo jets A380 and B747-8. 

Categories Opinion