Celebrating 25 years of flights to Brisbane, Taiwan's EVA Air (Evergreen Airways) offers business travellers its Premium Laurel Class service on flights between the Queensland capital and Taipei's Taoyuan Airport.
Although a step below the carrier's 'Royal Laurel Class' experience as you'd get on journeys further afield, Premium Laurel Class still provides the expected business class inclusions, along with Champagne fitting of a first class cabin.
Here's what to expect in business class aboard EVA Air's Airbus A330-200s between Taipei and Brisbane.
- Frequent flyer program: EVA Air Infinity MileageLands (in Australia, a transfer partner of CBA Awards, Diners Club Rewards, and also Citibank Rewards for Prestige cardholders), but as a Star Alliance airline, miles can be earned and redeemed on EVA Air flights through other programs too, including the popular Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer scheme.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x115cm bags up to 7kg each, plus one personal item such as a thin laptop satchel, handbag or camera bag.
- Checked baggage allowance: 40kg on most tickets issued by EVA Air, although different allowances can apply for passengers connecting to some destinations or travelling on multi-airline or round-the-world bookings.
- Priority airport services: With in-town check-in available in Taipei, I took the opportunity to ditch my checked bag and obtain my boarding pass before heading to the airport to save a little time, although EVA Air also provides business class priority check-in at Taipei's Taoyuan Airport, as you'd expect. There's no priority security screening or passport control here for business class flyers, but priority boarding and baggage delivery is effective.
In Taipei, EVA Air business class passengers can access EVA's funky The Infinity lounge, offering a variety of hot and cold food, along with expected amenities like WiFi and private shower suites.
AusBT review: EVA Air's The Infinity business class lounge, Taipei
Exclusively for EVA Air's MileageLands Diamond cardholders, a separate lounge – The Garden – adds a tended cocktail bar and also a noodle bar into the mix.
On flights departing Brisbane, EVA Air business class passengers can access the Plaza Premium Lounge.
Running four days each week (5x weekly during December and January), EVA Air's Taipei-Brisbane flight pushes back at 11pm to reach Brisbane at 9:50am, with a journey time of 8hrs 50min.
Out of Brisbane, it's another overnight trek, with BR316 leaving at 10:15pm and touching down in Taipei at 5:15am the following morning after a similar flight time.
From December 1 2018 (December 2 out of Brisbane), EVA Air will also upgrade its Brisbane flights to the larger Airbus A330-300 jets, introducing an extra row of business class seats, larger inflight entertainment screens and some other visual improvements, albeit in the same 2-2-2 layout as on the A330-200s.
Brisbane remains the airline's only destination in Oceania, competing head-to-head with China Airlines on the same route.
Spread across just four rows, EVA Air's Airbus A330-200s come with 24 business class seats in a 2-2-2 layout.
With a 61-inch (155cm) seat pitch between rows, those transform into angled-flat beds for these overnight flights with a plush pillow and blanket...
... and with your feet dovetailing underneath the seat in front for extra space. At around 180cms tall, I didn't feel squashed in, but there's no escaping the angled nature of the seat which impacts on comfort.
As you may have spotted in the photo above, pyjamas and slippers are provided...
... as are Rimowa amenity kits on flights departing Taipei...
... and Georg Jensen pouches on flights bound for Taiwan:
Back to the seat itself, a small privacy divider can be withdrawn from the centre console – it doesn't do much when you're sitting upright, but can help block the light from your neighbour's TV when in bed mode to help you rest:
A cocktail table sits between each pair of seats, housing water bottle holders underneath: easy to forget about as you can't spot them when seated, although the crew coming through the cabin after take-off to distribute the bottles serves as an easy reminder.
There's an AC power socket right next to you, although Australian pins aren't accepted without an adaptor – you'll need a European plug or a US-style connector, the latter being standard on the ground in Taiwan – and while this proved sufficient for recharging my iPhone, larger laptop power plugs would struggle to fit, particularly with adaptors attached.
That's less of an issue on these overnight Brisbane flights than on other routes – albeit with no separate USB power outlet – although while talking about gadgets, there'd be room to store your laptop in front, if the recess weren't filled with literature:
Another pocket in front helps keep your smaller items handy, and was a good place to whack the slippers during take-off and landing...
... as the floor space ahead of you has to remain clear, because there's nothing to push your belongings 'under': although there's still plenty of space around your feet:
The position of your seat is controlled via the armrest, with pre-sets for sleeping, dining and take-off/landing, along with tweaks to customise the seat to your liking, or to activate the in-seat massager, which worked well.
Despite all the bells and whistles though, I didn't find the angled seat very comfortable for sleeping, and awoke several times during the overnight journey.
A very hot cabin temperature – combined with the lack of individual air vents – didn't help things either, and that was with me sleeping on top of the supplied blanket.
EVA Air's forthcoming Airbus A3330-300s may improve that situation for Brisbane travellers with a comfier bed (pictured below), albeit one that's still angled-flat, without direct aisle access for all:
One tip: if you find yourself aboard an EVA Air A330, whether the -200 or the -300, do as I did and aim for one of the 'D' or 'G' seats in the centre of the cabin when flying solo (the 2-2-2 cabin being AC-DG-HK). This at least provides you with direct and uninterrupted aisle access, as your neighbour exits to the opposite aisle.
The journey begins with an offer of water or sparkling wine before take-off – but if you wait until you're in the air, that generic sparking is replaced by the sumptuous Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006 – by any measure, a Champagne that most airlines would only serve in first class, given it retails for A$250/bottle here in Australia – but on EVA Air, it's the standard business class drop.
Normally I'd head straight to bed on overnight flights like this, but chose to stay awake this time to sample the inflight dining: commencing with a goat's cheese tartlet and a prawn and crab egg crepe parcel, which were fresh and tasty...
... before the table was set for supper – with more Veuve, of course.
That paired well with the appetiser: foie gras mousse and smoked salmon with a Champagne jelly...
... while the menu gave the following choices for the main:
- Steamed salmon rolled with herb and cheese in a creamy brown sauce, with mixed vegetables and turmeric-flavoured potatoes
- Braised pork spare ribs with red yeast fermented rice sauce, mixed vegetables and fried rice with egg
- Noodle soup with steamed chicken
Beyond that and similar to Singapore Airlines' Book the Cook service, EVA Air also allows guests to pre-order their main dish up to 24 hours before departure, including from a range of options not on the regular menu.
As I'd been on the road for a few weeks and was heading home, I knew I'd be in the mood for something simple, so pre-ordered a burger with vegetables and fries, which was actually quite tasty, even though those "vegetables" were pieces of lettuce, and the dipping sauces were served in plastic containers rather than ceramic pots for better presentation:
I skipped dessert – a choice between fruit, a mousse cake with rum and raisin white chocolate, or an oven-baked pastry with sesame paste filling – and finished up with a simple Matcha milk tea instead.
Skip forward to the morning, and the onboard espresso machine came in handy for a pick-me-up latte...
... while breakfast provides the following options:
- Chinese style: Plain porridge, traditional delicatessen, coriander omelette, stir-fried squid with mustard pickle and fruit
- Western style: Fruit, assorted bread with butter, muesli, yoghurt, cheddar cheese omelette with hollandaise sauce, bacon and potato rosti
- Premium Laurel Special: Peking duck noodle soup, traditional delicatessen, fruit
For something different, I went with the Premium Laurel Special – a different take on the more common beef noodle soup – and enjoyed it, but skipped the fruit plate to follow, as there's only so much food a person can eat on an overnight flight!
Entertainment & Service
Aboard the A330-200s, a 10.4-inch 4:3 entertainment screen sits in front of you, loaded with a variety of content...
... but as the panel isn't HD – let alone widescreen – you'd find better video quality on most modern tablets:
That'll fortunately be replaced by a 15.4-inch HD widescreen monitor from December when the aircraft changes to the A330-300...
... but until then, you'll find your remote control within your armrest...
... with access to key controls such as volume even when the armrest is closed:
Service from the crew is prompt and friendly with glasses always topped up and plates disappearing quickly, although being asked several times whether I'd like to purchase any duty-free items – after I'd already said no – was unnecessary.
Overall, while EVA Air's biggest strength is its food and beverage service (not to mention that stellar Champagne), on overnight flights like these, sleep is the most important thing for most business travellers, and when the bed neither goes flat nor offers direct aisle access for all, it significantly detracts from the overall experience, and you step off the aircraft feeling tired rather than well-rested.
Hopefully the upcoming aircraft change for Brisbane makes these sleeper flights a little more comfortable, and we'll keep our fingers crossed that one of these days, EVA Air brings its Boeing 777s to Australia as are currently flying to London, bringing with them fully-flat beds in a standard 1-2-1 cabin.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Taipei as a guest of Star Alliance and EVA Air.