TESTED BY Ramsey Qubein
PLANE TYPE 777-300ER
SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
SEAT PITCH 81-87 in/205.7 cm-221cm
SEAT WIDTH 26 in/66 cm
SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
PRICE Internet fares for Royal Laurel Class $5,187 roundtrip
VERDICT: On the heels of being named a SKYTRAX Five-Star Airline, EVA was ready to show off its prized inflight product on this inaugural Taipei-Chicago flight. Exceptional, a la carte dining in business class and traditional hospitality in all cabins make this Star Alliance airline a real winner.
CHECK-IN: The international departure halls at Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport are neatly organized in rows of check-in desks with easy-to-find lanes for premium cabins and Star Alliance elite members. US-bound departures require passengers to stop by check-in for a boarding pass even if one checks in online, but it is a swift and efficient process with priority security lanes. The lounges are located just past security amid a full array of duty-free shops, but the speedy WiFi, cold-pressed juices and dim sum in the lounge were calling my name.
BOARDING: Since this was an inaugural flight, there was plenty of fanfare at the gate with speeches from dignitaries and the airline’s president. EVA Air has a strong presence across the Pacific connecting passengers between Asia and North America. The Taiwanese media turned out in full force, too. As passengers were boarding, everyone was given a gift bag with a traditional Chicago favorite: Garrett’s Popcorn. As we pushed back, the airport offered a water cannon salute in honor of the inaugural service. Once on board, the offer of a pre-departure juice, water or Champagne was made, and the airline’s signature Krug Champagne was delivered in a tall flute accompanied by a warm towel and Godiva chocolate. It began to become apparent that everything EVA Air does is above-average.
THE SEAT: Oh, the seat…window seats are especially private as they angle away from the aisle with a massive, swing-out television screen, a large console for storing items, and a power outlet and USB port. Each seat has several large windows, but the best part is that the seat goes completely flat (in addition to various lounging positions) with an arm rest that rises to cocoon you in privacy. A large pillow and thick, plaid duvet were there for added comfort.
THE FLIGHT: Name recognition was a hallmark from all crewmembers. Since I placed my meal orders with my reservation, the flight attendants knew my choice already, but I still perused the thick menu packed with beverage selections (EVA Air is the only airline to serve Krug in business class) and three meal services. All meals are served a la carte directly on the table for a true restaurant experience. I appreciated the stemless wine glasses – which remained topped up constantly – and the service ware meticulously placed on the tablecloth.
The mid-afternoon departure meant an early dinner, starting with a lovely appetizer. My main dish of rack of lamb with couscous was perfect and presented with great flair. Fresh fruit followed along with a cheese and dessert cart, and there were always snacks available in the galley. The cabin is wonderfully quiet; after a morning of meetings, it was nice to recline my seat and conk out for awhile. Halfway through the 13-hour flight, I ordered the traditional Taiwanese noodle soup. The fairly priced onboard WiFi by T-Mobile worked quite well even over Alaska. After yet another slumber, the third meal of the day was wok-fried noodles with vegetables.
ARRIVAL: Before touching down, I made one last visit to the restroom, which looked as immaculate as it had when we departed Taipei. The flight landed almost an hour early thanks to excellent tailwinds and we were met with yet another water cannon salute. I had flown EVA before, but was excited to try the airline on a long flight. It more than exceeded my expectations, and the SKYTRAX 5-Star award comes as no surprise to this seasoned traveler.