Written by Staff Writer
Until recently, a large group of East Asia’s business elite lived in spacious, well-guarded towers, surrounded by executive suites.
Today, the super-rich have learned to make do with rising living standards in ordinary residential towers — and rather than shelving the reading glasses, they’re taking advantage of those new developments to fly to the Middle East and Southeast Asia aboard planes that seemingly drift from one remote spot to another.
In February 2017, Taipei-based KLM Pegasus Airways flew out the first passengers on an Airbus A220-300 plane, the world’s largest single-aisle passenger jet at 309 feet long. At the same time, Europe’s Airbus unveiled a new seven-across jetliner called the A220, its first new model since 2011.
While that’s a novel idea at least on paper, the A220’s novelty didn’t distinguish it from a string of other traditional long-haul aircraft designed for transcontinental routes.
Although those European-built planes have never been seen in the Americas, that may soon change with the joining of a hitherto little-known Taiwanese airline in the mix.
Taiwan’s NokScoot Airlines.
On January 11, the business-friendly government of president Tsai Ing-wen approved the launch of NokScoot Airlines, a subsidiary of charter carrier Golden Eagle Airlines (a prior incarnation of Taiwan’s Wizz Air).
By 2020, NokScoot plans to offer 27 routes to 55 destinations in Asia, Australasia and the Middle East, according to Golden Eagle. Flights from Taipei will initially offer nonstop nonstop connections to several Asian and Middle Eastern cities. But NokScoot will look to lengthen those routes to include long-haul flights from South America, Europe and North America.
These new ultra-long haul aircraft are more efficient, flying 10% faster than the average jumbo jet, and cost 20% less to maintain — so let’s say $1,749 for a round-trip ticket between Sydney and San Francisco?
In addition to expanding passenger flows, the new airline could also allow the island nation to grow its commercial presence in the Far East. Currently, Taiwanese citizens can travel to mainland China for a $170 daily visa, but for those in Taiwan who wish to visit places such as Singapore or Hong Kong, they must fly on a regular service to mainland China (typically with an overnight stop in Hong Kong).
Now they’ll be able to fly nonstop from Taiwan to these high-flying spots, potentially lowering demand for trips to the mainland.
Now, NokScoot needs the funds to buy the new planes.
The aircraft that will most likely feature in NokScoot’s fleet are the Airbus A220s, but the airline says it may have a couple of Bombardier Challenger 300 jets on order.
In return for agreeing to charter the latest aircraft, the airline will receive payments upfront — about $370 million — according to the Taiwanese daily, The Economic Daily.
“Right now NokScoot is still a startup, it has almost zero assets, so there are many different funders in the ground,” said Tim Hamilton, an analyst who specializes in infrastructure investment at U.S.-based consultancy IHS Markit.
“If NokScoot is able to get its hands on these new super-long-haul jets, it could make a really significant impact on the market.”