Taiwanese carrier Starlux Airlines’ tentative agreement for 17 Airbus A350s is evidence that the airframer’s long-haul order drought is starting to ease.
Airbus chief commercial officer Eric Schulz, speaking as the airline disclosed its memorandum of understanding for 12 A350-1000s and five -900s, said he expected the long-haul market to pick up over the next 18 months to two years.
Outside of Emirates’ follow-on agreement for A380s, long-haul orders had been notably absent from Airbus’s books for the first five months of this year, only starting to emerge in June.
"I believe the widebody market is an extremely long-term market," says Schulz. "I would not change my opinion."
Although air shows can give a misleading impression of order trends, Schulz says: "Indicators seem to be in place for this [pick-up] to happen.
"There are explanations as to why this wave is now coming. We see the first signs of the market starting to accelerate – in Asia in particular."
Starlux is already intending to take 10 Airbus A321neos from October 2019, though agreements with lessors which the airline says it hopes to finalise "by the end of this year".
It will start introducing the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered A350s from late 2021, with the five -900s arriving by 2022 and the -1000s being delivered from 2022-24.
Starlux chairman KW Chang says the A350 capacity is "perfect" for the start-up airline's future network, and says the carrier will have 27 aircraft by 2024, before "steadily expanding" to 50 aircraft by the end of 2030.
The carrier aims to launch its first flights in 2020, initially with routes from Taipei to south-east and north-east Asian destinations.
Starlux has yet to detail the configuration of its A350s but indicates that the jets will have a four-class layout.