A brand-new business-class suite lands in the US
Editors' note: Starlux provided TPG with a free round-trip business-class ticket for the inaugural U.S. route. All opinions expressed here are the author's alone and were not subject to review by Starlux.
Over the years, we've seen monumental innovation in business-class seats.
What started as simple recliners decades ago (some that were even marketed as international first class) have since turned into private pods with direct aisle access and sliding doors.
These days, there's a massive range in the comfort, privacy and spaciousness of business-class seats. Some, like Lufthansa's aging product, leave a lot to be desired, while others, like the Qatar Qsuite, keep winning awards, despite being 6 years old.
On Wednesday, a new business-class suite enters the U.S. market, and from the looks of it, it's poised to impress.
Starlux Airlines, a Taiwan-based luxury airline startup that began flying in January 2020, will fly its inaugural route to and from Los Angeles on April 26 and 27 on board a brand-new Airbus A350-900 aircraft.
The carrier is entering a competitive market between L.A. and Taiwan — the two established Taiwanese airlines, EVA Air and China Airlines, already fly the route. However, what sets Starlux apart is the onboard product it chose for the first- and business-class cabin.
The airline is the launch customer for Collins Aerospace's new Elements suite, a product that builds on some incredibly popular predecessors to raise the bar for business-class seating. (Etihad Airways will also introduce this seat on its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners later this year.)
Though you may have never paid much attention to Collins before, it's the company behind the Super Diamond reverse herringbone business-class seat that launched in the early 2010s. It's on some planes operated by American Airlines, Air Canada and WestJet, among others.
The company debuted the Elevation suite a few years later, which added a sliding door to the Super Diamond seat. It's marketed as the British Airways Club Suite and on Etihad Airways' new Airbus A350s.
Now, Starlux is officially flying the latest and greatest Collins seat to the U.S., and the airline seems to have done a great job customizing the pod with a bespoke design. In fact, Starlux collaborated with BMW Designworks to outfit its A350s with a highly customized version of the Elements suite that shines in renderings thanks to the accent lamps, gold finishes and patterned seats.
In advance of the launch, TPG spoke with Alastair Hamilton, vice president of sales and marketing for Collins' seating division, about the new product.
He shared that the ideation behind the Elements suite began by taking the Super Diamond product and finding ways to innovate from this already popular baseline by adding more living space, a large tray table and a bigger footwell.
These are all things you'll find in Starlux's new business-class cabin — improvements that are sure to make a noticeable difference in the passenger experience.
However, one thing that really sets Elements apart is the ability to offer an oversized front-row configuration that airlines can market as business-class-plus or as first class.
In Starlux's case, the carrier is going with the first-class moniker, selling these bulkhead suites as a completely separate cabin with round-trip fares to L.A. starting at around a whopping $18,000. (Business-class fares aren't a bargain either; they start at around $5,500.)
The first-class seats are based on the chassis of the business-class pods, but they feature taller doors and privacy dividers, even-larger tray tables and more storage areas.
This trend of differentiating the first row of business-class seats is something that's really picked up steam since the pandemic began, as airlines like Condor, JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic have all introduced something similar in the last three years.
Starlux is the latest to join the pack, and it's an offering that Hamilton said is only getting more popular. "It's certainly picking up some momentum," he said about business-class-plus products, adding, "I think they're early into the market at this point, and we're seeing it in a lot of inquiries at the moment."
As for Starlux, the airline is now flying daily service between Taipei and Los Angeles. The A350s it deploys on this 6,799-mile route are outfitted with four first-class suites, 26 business-class pods, 36 premium economy recliners and 240 economy seats.
Aside from the seat itself, Starlux promises to offer an elevated service experience that includes Taiwanese signature dishes and special amenities for all premium-cabin customers, including La Mer-branded amenity kits and catering by popular Asian restaurants Hutong and Longtail.
Each seat offers a high-definition personal entertainment screen with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB charging port, while those in premium economy, business class and first class also feature universal power outlets.
Inmarsat GX Aviation-powered satellite Wi-Fi is available on the carrier's A350. First- and business-class customers can enjoy unlimited free internet, while those in the back can access a free messaging plan.
To boost its appeal to U.S. travelers, Starlux announced Wednesday that its first airline partner is Alaska Airlines.
Alaska flyers can now book Starlux flights from Southern California to 16 destinations across Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Macau and Japan.
Alaska will also offer mileage earning on all Starlux flights, and starting this summer, you'll be able to redeem miles on Starlux, starting at 20,000 miles for economy, 40,000 for premium economy and 60,000 for business class — a phenomenal limited-time rate to celebrate the new partnership.
TPG will be on Starlux's inaugural flight from Los Angeles to Taipei, and we'll have a full recap of the experience, including a deep dive on the new seat, publishing in the coming days.
- When is the best time to book flights for the cheapest airfare?
- The best airline credit cards
- What exactly are airline miles, anyway?
- 6 real-life strategies you can use when your flight is canceled or delayed
- Maximize your airfare: The best credit cards for booking flights
- The best credit cards to reach elite status
- What are points and miles worth? TPG’s monthly valuations