7 reasons EVA Air is the most overlooked transpacific business-class option
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Note that EVA Air’s U.S. flight schedule is currently reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to Airlineroute, it is operating one flight a week between its base in Taipei and each one of its U.S. destinations: Houston, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco and Seattle.
This post, which originally appeared in July 2018, has been lightly edited from the original.
The best business class in the world is Qatar Airways Qsuite, the winner of last year’s TPG Award for best long-haul business class. ANA’s new “The Room” biz class is a strong contender for the title, too.
But there’s another great option for US-based travelers, at least those flying west to Asia and Australia. It’s Taiwan-based EVA Airways (pronounced E-V-A, not eevuh), which may be the most overlooked business-class option for flying across the Pacific. When the time is right to travel again, this relatively small Taiwan-based airline — a Star Alliance partner of United Airlines — should be on your radar.
EVA’s long-haul fleet is comprised of Boeing 777-300ERs and 787s and Airbus A330s; most U.S. routes are served by the 777s. The 787s, with a new business-class seat, make some appearances too. For an idea of the overall experience, check out TPG editor Alberto Riva’s review of business class aboard the 777 from Seattle and my review of another 777 flight in business from Houston. All of EVA’s flights from the U.S. land in Taipei, which has an extensive network of connections throughout East Asia.
But what is it that makes EVA Air so great? Let’s take a look.
1. Solid Seats
EVA offers a comfortable reverse herringbone business-class seat on 777s. These seats are ubiquitous nowadays and hardly worthy of any awards on their own, but if you don’t get the basic things right, the rest of it doesn’t really matter.
Although most airlines customize the finishes a bit, there are generally two main types of reverse herringbone seats on the market — the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat (which is what you’ll find on Air Canada’s 787s, for example) and the Zodiac Cirrus seat, which EVA uses. The differences between these two styles are pretty minimal, and we found EVA seats to be incredibly comfortable for flights from the U.S. that can last 15 hours.
2. Book the Cook and 5-Star Food
EVA is not the only airline to offer a “book the cook” service where you can pre-order meals from an extended menu that isn’t offered on-board. But I normally associate this level of luxury service with Singapore Suites, not business class.
On an EVA flight in business from Chicago to Taipei, I pre-ordered the lobster for my flight just like Alberto did, and it was hands down one of the best dishes I’ve ever had on a plane. But it wasn’t just the lobster — everything about this meal was perfect from taste to presentation. If you’d thrown in a caviar course, you could have told me this was first-class dining and I would have believed it.
Another touch I loved was the amuse bouche served before the main meal — a shrimp and avocado tartlet and a tomato and mozzarella skewer. Other airlines like Cathay Pacific have done away with this even in first class, so I was excited to see EVA still offer it.
3. The Hello Kitty Experience
This is the kind of thing you’re either going to really love or really hate. EVA Air has a small fleet of Hello Kitty-themed airplanes, painted on the outside with Hello Kitty cartoon characters and featuring a special Hello Kitty experience on the inside. The airline even has a dedicated site for its Hello Kitty jets.
From dedicated Hello Kitty-themed gates in Taipei to an onboard experience that includes branded silverware, pillows, flight attendant uniforms and even toilet paper, EVA’s Hello Kitty planes, like them or not, have to be some of the most unique flights out there.
4. First-Class Champagne
This is certainly not a make or break detail, but just one more way EVA provides a premium experience to its business-class passengers. EVA has been known to offer a number of high-end champagnes in business class, including Krug Grande Cuvée, which you can also find in Cathay Pacific or Singapore first class.
The airline recently seems to have settled in on Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame 2006. Not only is it rare to see a vintage champagne served in business class, but La Grande Dame is not cheap, retailing for ~$160 a bottle. It is also absolutely sublime.
5. Immaculate Attention to Detail
In business class, it’s really the little things that set an airline apart. When I flew EVA, the attention to detail started during boarding, when we were offered Godiva chocolates along with our pre-departure beverages, and continued all the way through the meal service. Dinner included menus designed by an award-winning Taiwanese artist and the beautiful tablecloths you can see in the photo below.
As minor as these details may seem, they really went a long way to elevating the dining experience to something you’d find on the ground in a fancy restaurant, not in the air.
6. Top-Notch Service
I can’t say enough about the terrific flight attendants we’ve encountered on EVA Air. On my flight from Chicago, they asked at the beginning of the flight how I preferred to be addressed, and knelt by my seat to take my order so I could hear everything they said above the engines.
There was a minor language barrier, but it ended up working out all right. In one instance od great service, when I woke up for breakfast I was served black coffee, but with a quick request to the flight attendant cream and sugar materialized quickly. You could really tell that they cared about providing quality service, and it made all the difference.
7. Decent Award Availability
I made the comparison to Singapore Suites earlier and I’ll make it again here. If you offer the best in-flight product in the world but never release any award space, it doesn’t do us points collectors much good. But EVA award space is generally fairly easy to come by, especially if you’re flexible with dates and can book in advance.
Based on my experience, Chicago and LAX seem to have the best availability, including two or more seats on several days. You can book a one-way business-class ticket to Asia for 88,000 United MileagePlus miles, which you can get by transferring Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. Taxes and fees are just $5.60 each way.
You can also book EVA Air flights via Aeroplan, which is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. Those points are earned on cards such as The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. A one-way ticket will cost you 75,000 Aeroplan miles and the same minimal taxes and fees as booking through United.
The information for the Ink Business Preferred and Amex EveryDay card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a number of incredible first-class flights in recent years, but EVA Air is making me question whether it’s worth it to pay the premium for first over business. EVA has made me think much harder about shelling out those extra miles to sit a little bit further up front, and I’ll be looking to it as my go-to choice for getting between the US and Asia.
Featured image by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy
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