I admit that I had high expectations for this flight on EVA Air Business Class from Taipei (TPE) to Vancouver (YVR) for my review. I had been to Taipei before but this time I had much more time to explore the soul of this place.
The day of my departure coincided with a direct hit of Typhoon Nesat. Most of the day, things did not look so bad but by the evening hours, the winds had turned rather violent and the rain was heavy. When we had arrived at the airport, it was deserted and most flights were either cancelled or had huge delays. Our flight had one of the smallest delays of just 4 hours, which seemed very optimistic at the time.
I ventured myself to the Infinity Lounge (the kids would not have access) and was blown away by how empty and how bad the lounge was.
The food was bathed in oil and salt and was completely inedible.
The drink options were sparse, with cheap red and white wine options (just one for each) and no champagne. I inquired how this happens with an airline that serves excellent champagne on-board and got some empty stares.
Since we could not enter as a party of three anyway, we walked over to the Plaza Premium Lounge, with low expectations. That was not needed though, as it was actually pretty awesome.
The lounge is more a front for a hotel, as there are 20 sleeping rooms available for rent at $150 for 6 hours (one room sleeps two people). The lounge itself had great food and gave out a shiny and much cooler vibe, though it offered drinks similar to the EVA Air Infinity Lounge.
The WiFi came in at 10 Mbit – all much more to my liking.
It was a waiting game but EVA Air threw in meal vouchers for all of us when I asked. EVA’s policy is to provide meal vouchers for delays over 2 hours and hotels for delays over 6 hours, surprisingly even when it is not their fault (a hurricane is more of an issue for them than anyone else really).
Amazingly, at 3.15AM the displays started to show ‘boarding’ and indeed we were some of the first people to get onboard this 777-300.
Boarding was quick, orderly and quiet, with most of the business and economy class sections full and premium economy empty.
EVA Air uses the same Zodiac-manufactured mini-suite that you may know from Cathay Pacific, US Airways or American Airlines.
I wanted to order Krug (of course) and the friendly flight attendant mentioned it was not available, as only Paris, Houston and New York routes get stocked with Krug these days. Veuve Clicquot was on offer though (not my ideal brand of champagne).
Pajamas and amenity kits were given out. The pajamas were a tight fit, though better quality than most (e.g. Singapore Airlines).
The amenity kit was as basic as those with most airlines these days. I liked the toothbrush and lip balm but could have lived without all the other stuff.
There were no nuts served with the pre-takeoff drink. At 4AM we roared into the Taipei skies with full engine power and I expected some major shaking but after a very sharp right turn at 5,000 feet to avoid the storm’s center, we were almost right outside any turbulence.
At 31,000 feet, the sun would begin to rise at 4.30AM. I decided to see dinner service at this hour before going to sleep.
I had pre-ordered a vegetarian meal as I had not like the other options when I checked. The vegetarian burger proved to be a disappointment, though; stale, and tasteless, it must have sat in someone’s fridge for at least a week.
I did like the nice cake that came right after, however, which was of high quality and had just the right amount of sweetness. I also liked the Riesling served, which was of perfect acidity and sweetness.
Shortly after dinner, I stretched out on the seat, which felt a bit ‘less flat’ than what I remember from my many Cathay Pacific adventures. The duvet given is thick and easily as good as any I ever had but it is short – not made for anyone over 6 feet.
I fell asleep right away and stayed that way until 90 minutes before landing. The flight attendant was extremely attentive and friendly and came by a minute after I woke and asked if she should serve the second meal; minutes later, I had the appetizer on my table. I did not like the tomatoes with ricotta cheese, though – strange fit and badly executed.
My main dish was a seafood lasagna, which was OK in taste. Not a dish I like but it was done OK. I’d expect this quality as a good economy class meal, though.
The highlight of this meal was the fruit dessert right after, which was the best part of any of the meals.
Overall, the food was a complete let-down (given my high expectations).
In summary, I think EVA Air has a solid seat (who doesn’t like the Zodiac seat?) as well as very attentive service staff and great bedding but they have horrible food and standards that are seemingly slipping in terms of amenities and drink options.
EVA Air is a decent product that does the trick on an overnight flight but the low lounge quality and less than perfect product will make it hard to compete with the relaunched China Airlines product.