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There’s been a lot of talk this year about the world’s best business class (spoiler alert: it’s Qatar Airways Qsuite and it’s not even close). Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much good for US-based travelers flying west to Asia and Australia. But I recently flew EVA Airways (pronounced E-V-A, not eevuh) from Chicago (ORD) to Taipei (TPE), and I’m thoroughly convinced it’s the most overlooked business class option for flying across the Pacific.
EVA’s long-haul fleet is comprised of Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A330s, but only the 777s fly to the US. For an idea of the overall experience, check out TPG’s Managing Editor Alberto Riva’s review of business class aboard the 777 from Seattle (SEA). EVA currently flies to several US cities aside from Seattle, including Chicago (ORD), New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Houston (IAH) and San Francisco (SFO).
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 their 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) and the Zodiac Cirrus seat which EVA uses. The differences between these two styles are pretty minimal, and I found my EVA seat (8G, the bulkhead row in the rear mini-cabin) to be incredibly comfortable for a 15-hour flight.
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.
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. I personally wasn’t brave enough to take the gamble that I’d still enjoy Hello Kitty at the end of a 15-hour flight, but you sure have to admire EVA’s commitment to the theme.
From dedicated Hello Kitty-themed gates in Taipei to an onboard experience that includes branded silverware, pillows, flight attendant uniforms and even toilet paper, this has to be one 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 Grand Cuvee, 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, possibly my favorite champagne I’ve ever tasted, and a perfect compliment to my lobster dinner.
5. Immaculate Attention to Detail
In business class, it’s really the little things that set an airline apart and remind you you’re not flying on a US airline. 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 who were working my flight. 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 roar of the engines.
There was a minor language barrier, but it ended up working out all right. For example, my girlfriend was served a glass of red wine she didn’t order, but she ended up loving it anyway. And when I woke up for breakfast, I was served black coffee, but with a quick request to the flight attendant, some cream and sugar materialized. 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 80,000 United MileagePlus miles, which you can get by transferring Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred 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.
I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a number of incredible first class flights in recent years, but EVA is making me question whether it’s worth it to pay the premium for first over business. After a nearly perfect flight, I’ll have a much harder time shelling out those extra miles to sit a little bit further up front, and I’ll be looking to EVA Air as my go-to choice for getting between the US and Asia.
Featured image by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy.
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