Edited by: Juan Ruiz
& Keri Stooksbury
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Airline: Starlux Airlines
Aircraft: Airbus 350-900
Flight #: JX205
Route: Taipei (TPE) to Macau (MFM)
Date: March 23, 2023
Duration: 1hr 25min
Cabin and Layout: Business class, 1-2-1
My plan was to spend the last few days of my 3-month long trip around Australia and Southeast Asia with a brief stay in Hong Kong. As usual, I spent hours looking for the best value business class ticket to get me there.
As I searched for flights, ironically, flying Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong to Taipei was the best deal I could find. The alternative direct flights were very pricey.
But then I remembered that Taiwan-based Starlux Airlines flies to Macau, which is only an hour by bus from Hong Kong. Next, I performed some research to find where the airline flew its Airbus A350. This is the plane that will commence service between Taipei and Los Angeles on April 26, 2023.
As luck would have it, Starlux operates that very aircraft on its short route from Taipei to Macau.
And just like that, my AvGeek journey came together.
As always, I book my flight directly through the airline’s website. Starlux isn’t a member of any airline alliance, and I certainly didn’t have any of its COSMILE points to redeem, so my only option was paying cash.
I wouldn’t normally consider $470 for a 1-hour 25-minute flight as good value, but I decided it was worth it for reviewing purposes. I used my U.K. version of The Platinum Card® from American Express for this purchase which earned me a measly 1 point per £1 spent.
When booking travel as an American, you’re just blessed for choice when it comes to travel rewards credit cards that reward you for spending on travel. The card I wish I had in my wallet and would have most likely used to purchase my Starlux ticket would have been the U.S. version of The Platinum Card® from American Express. It would have earned me 5x points on every $1 spent on this flight, as cardmembers can earn 5x points per $1 spent on flights purchased directly with the airline or with American Express Travel (up to $500,000 per year).
Much to my delight, getting to Taipei’s Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is quick and easy thanks to the city’s metro. The express train took just 36 minutes and cost around $5 (NT$150)
There was no queue at all at check-in as my flight to Macau was Starlux’s last departure of the day.
Signs pointed out the dedicated check-in zones for business class, premium economy, and economy passengers as well as for those with Starlux elite status.
Interestingly, there was no lane for Starlux’s first class. I’d presume this will change once its LA service takes wing in April 2023.
Seeing the baggage handlers behind the check-in desks in their bright orange overalls was the first time I properly noticed Starlux’s space-themed branding.
This space theme would be a solid feature throughout the rest of my experience.
Check-in was very simple and systemic. It was over in a couple of minutes and, despite my best efforts, without much in the way of rapport-building from the staffer who checked me in.
I’d never been asked to do this before, but I was told that I needed to make sure my checked bag passed through this scanner before heading through security. The jury is out as to why.
Unless this is the norm for this airport, this empty security area made it evidently clear that travel in this part of the world has far from recovered.
It was a matter of a few minutes before I arrived at the airline’s Galactic Lounge.
Directions to Starlux’s Galactic Lounge, along with the terminal’s 3 other lounges, are clear from the get-go.
Let the space theme continue.
I was immediately greeted by the receptionist and asked to show my boarding pass.
He continued to escort me into the lounge and even seated me as you’d experience in a restaurant.
Within seconds of sitting down, I was handed a menu with à la carte dining options. These included:
The one-bite piece of salmon was a little dry but that serves me right for choosing the Western option.
Luckily the buffet was well-stocked, so I filled up on that instead.
Hot options included kaba with sea bream and vegetables as well as a tomato and chicken pasta.
It was a hard pass for me on the boiled curry eggs. The cheesy potatoes looked very, well, cheesy.
I filled up on the buffet with a hearty plate of vegetables and enjoyed several pieces of dim sum that I forgot to take a picture of. Savory cold options included various salad bits and bread rolls.
On the sweet side, there was a fridge with 2 types of dessert to choose from.
And for ice cream lovers, there was a freezer with Taiwanese-made, Japanese-inspired Ninao gelato. The keenest of eyes among you may also have noticed the self-pour Asahi pump. A great addition to a lounge for beer lovers.
Liquors and wines, but no Champagne, were also available on a help-yourself basis from the self-serve bar.
I stuck to soft drinks and had a couple of San Pellegrino sparkling waters from the well-stocked fridge.
And finally, there was a coffee machine alongside a selection of teas.
Even though the lounge was on the small side, there was more than enough seating to accommodate the dozen or so business class passengers who were heading to Macau with me.
They still manage separate seating zones, including this are more suited to dining.
About a fifth of the space was taken up by the buffet area.
Lounge guests could also help themselves to a wide selection of mostly Chinese reading material.
My flight would board from gate A8 which had more than enough seats.
While gate A8 had accessible toilets, passengers had to clamber down a set of stairs with their cases to reach the seating area.
I even caught my first glimpse of Starlux’s crew, whose uniforms and luggage were in keeping with the airline’s space theme.
The windows were grubby and the light wasn’t in my favor, so this is the best shot I could get of the Airbus A350 that would take me the 525 miles to Macau.
My initial impression on boarding the aircraft was “wow.” The sleek, modern design was very pleasing to the eye.
The business cabin features a total 0f 30 seats — 26 of which are business class seats with a 44- to 45-inch seat pitch — while the first row of 4 seats is dedicated to the airline’s first class seat.
The rest of the cabin comprises 7 rows of business class: 6 rows in a 1-2-1 configuration and 1 row with 2 middle seats separated by a partition.
Each seat boasts direct-aisle access.
I loved everything about the seat. From the storage and huge IFE screens to the unique “Zero G” seating position, this seat is up there with one of my favorite business class seats.
If you can visualize what a squashed and slanted letter ‘N’ might look like, that’s the ‘Zero G’ position.
My head and upper body remained slightly on an incline while the middle of the longer part of the seat also remained inclined, providing super comfortable under-knee support.
As you’d expect from a modern business class seat, it reclined into the lie-flat position.
The tray table released easily from underneath the IFE screen and folded out to create a very large surface area.
It could also be pulled out just a little bit to act as a little tray table to pose a drink.
This space was an added bonus given that items posed on the large surface area between my seat would need to be moved to open the lid of a storage cubby.
The largest storage area was a compartment with a latched door. Inside were a large mirror, Starlux’s headphones, and several charging points, including a wireless charging surface.
Additionally, there was a small cubby hole large enough for a big bottle of water. This is also where the safety card, duty-free magazine, and menu could be found.
I could control my seat position, adjust the lighting, call for a flight attendant, or ask for privacy all from the super-reactive touchscreen panel underneath the cubby.
It was only when I was checking out the control panel that I realized there were 3 different light fittings that could each be dimmed or brightened individually.
The seat was also designed with optimum privacy in mind thanks to the almost-fully-closing door. The addition of a door is often a feature when airlines unveil new business class hard products these days.
Speaking of sliding doors, middle seats feature a sliding partition that can be opened or closed for the duration of the flight as per passengers’ preferences.
I have to say, I was impressed with the quality of food and drink I was served on this short-haul flight.
The flight kicked off with a choice of orange juice or water accompanied by a hotel towel.
My beautifully-presented main meal was served all on the same tray around 30 minutes after take off. To make the most of the 90-minute flight, I ordered myself a glass of bubbles and Starlux’s signature Sci-Fi Cosmo 2.0 cocktail.
Starlux serves a Bollinger special cuvée which retails from around $40 per bottle on the ground.
The only main course option was Taiwanese pork, which was plated up with some roasted vegetables and roasted sweet potatoes. It was served with tomato soup, a piece of focaccia, and a regular bread roll.
The dessert was a mini mixed fruit salad and an iced bun.
The quality of the produce and the way it had been perfectly cooked meant that every bite was more delicious than the last.
Side note: this was the most eclectic array of cutlery I’d ever seen. I’m guessing the 2-pronged gadget on the end would have been for the fruit.
I liked that I also received a dental floss pick in my pack of cutlery.
There were cute little salt and pepper shakers, too.
After the meal service, hot towels were handed out for a second time, which I thought was a nice touch for such a short flight.
And just before landing, a member of the crew passed through the cabin offering candies (wrapped in plastic).
As per the pre-landing rules you’ll experience on any flight, a member of the crew took my unfinished glass of Champagne away to pour it into a non-glass cup.
I was impressed when a cup that wasn’t made of plastic was handed back to me.
While there’s still room for improvement, I was impressed with how little single-use plastic I encountered during the flight.
No amenity kit was given out on such a short flight. I still had the use of great IFE and Wi-Fi was available.
Even Starlux’s IFE system was in keeping with the space theme. The safety video was a very intergalactic affair that could have been mistaken for a snippet of a Disney/Pixar film.
The theme ran through to the home screen, though thankfully the many films and TV shows weren’t all about galaxies and universes.
While the sound quality of the Starlux-branded headset was good, it wasn’t to the same standard as what you might expect from a Bose equivalent.
Well-padded pillows in a silky-soft gold material were awaiting us at our seats when we boarded.
3 Wi-Fi packages were on offer, including free messaging via popular chatting apps such as WhatsApp, iMessage, WeChat, Line, Instagram, Viber, and Messenger.
That was enough for me to keep connected while in the air. For a better connection with more capability, packages for purchase included 30MB for $5 and 100MB for $10.
The space theme continued its way into the lavatories.
Business class passengers had access to 3 lavatories: 2 smaller towards the rear of the cabin and 1 larger located in the forward galley.
The space was perfectly clean and well-appointed. I liked the addition of a single flower which reminded me of Qatar Airways’ extravagant bathroom flowers.
The crew on board my Starlux flight from Taipei to Macau did a stellar job. Meal service started promptly and top-ups and extra drinks were offered proactively.
The crew didn’t stop for a second on this short flight which meant that there wasn’t a whole lot of time to build up much rapport. However, I was able to get a sense of the friendly and professional personalities of the crew from the brief chats I did have.
We touched down in Macau 13 minutes of schedule after a very pleasant flying experience with Starlux.
We descended via stairs, which I actually enjoy as it provides cracking views like this.
In my many previous bus gate experiences, all passengers were piled onto the same bus. Not when flying Starlux: the first bus that arrived was reserved just for the dozen or so business class passengers.
Starlux’s business class seat on the Airbus A350 is one of the best that I’ve flown in recent times. The space, comfort, and feeling of luxury make this a very competitive product indeed.
I was expecting Starlux’s space theme to come across as slightly tacky, however, I found it to be fun and quirky.
If you don’t mind spending cash instead of points on your next trip to Asia, I’d definitely recommend trying out Starlux when its flights to LA launch.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
No, Starlux is a full-service carrier.
Starlux is a Taiwanese carrier based in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei.
Yes, Starlux’s A350s have 4 first class seats which you’ll find in row 1 of the business class cabin.
Starlux will arrive on U.S. soil for the first time on April 26, 2023, when it inaugurates its Los Angeles service.
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