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Walking down the gate, I take the first left turn and board our Boeing 777-300 through door 1L. Like my last flight, from Chicago, I was seated in a window seat in the second cabin on EVA Air Business Class. This time I was on the right (starboard) side of the plane – I like to mix it up from, time to time, ya know.
I neared my seat, a stew approached me, welcoming me on board. As I got settled she immediately took my drink order. She returned with my drink and took my briefcase from me to stow in the overhead. Such different service than United, huh? I sit down and was handed a warm, moist towel and a glass of champagne. This shorter, non-flagship service, served Delamotte Blanc de Blanc 2007, and not Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame. It was good, but you could definitely tell the difference in their long-haul vs medium/short routes.
This flight was also quite empty, with only 12 of 38 seats occupied. The four and a half hour schlep to Singapore was pretty damn efficient. I really am not a breakfast guy in general and don’t like congee. When I saw the beef noodle soup as a breakfast option, I knew that was my selection! It had been 20 hours since I left home, I wasn’t in the breakfast mood.
The beef noodle soup was amazing. I did pull out the 4 inch piece of giggly beef fat immediately though. The soup was a bit bland at first, but after mixing in the condiments (or as the menu says traditional delicatessens), it was great. I usually steer clear of soups on a plane, the turbulence and spilling or burn issues, but I am so happy I didn’t here.
Pajamas are not provided on such a short flight( which is really a no brainer, why would you need them?) We were not provided an amenity kit, which was disappointing. Since I didn’t get the Rimowa kit out of Chicago, I was hoping I’d get one on this leg. A bit disappointing.
After the meal was cleared, I ordered another glass of champagne and a water. Dropping the seat into a bed I decided to get some more rest. I knew I’d have a long day ahead of me (landing at noon meant I had at least 10 hours of activity ahead of me).
I snoozed off and on over the remaining three hours of flight time. We approached Changi Airport and unlike the last leg, the stews were calm and gracious, closing out their pre-arrival duties about eight minutes before the wheels touched down.
Since we deplaned from door 2L I was the third person off the plane and quickly made my way through immigration, customs and to the airport’s train station.
I was really looking forward to experiencing and comparing EVA 777-300 service on both long and short haul flights. The hard product was the same, which I love. The service and food was really top notch as well. The real differences were the PJs, amenity kits and the really awful entrees on the long-haul.
The only other time I’ve flown a regional Business Class product in Asia before was between Bangkok and Hanoi, Taipei and Bangkok, Bangkok and Rangoon and Bangkok to Soeul all on Thai Airways. Those Thai products differed greatly and of them all, I’d prefer to stick with EVA. I’m flying Singapore to Bangkok later this trip and can’t wait to compare that product.
What do you think about EVA’s Regional service? Does it seem crazy to you that an airline would fly an internationally configured long-haul aircraft in a short 4.5 hour hop? I wish United would fly Polaris Business Class flights from Chicago to the west coast!
After hurrying off the flight from Chicago, I quickly made my way to the EVA Air Infinity Lounge. EVA Air has several lounges available in Taipei, but I decided to visit just one. As I made my way to the lounge, I was struck by how absolutely dead this major airport was at 04h15. Empty hallways as far as the eye could see!
Entering the EVA Air Infinity Lounge you are greeted by several staffers, plus an inquisitive robot. The robot seemed mostly to distract people entering the lounge.
My first order of business was to grab a shower. It had been nearly 20 hours since I had last showered. While I wasn’t working out, I did feel quite gross. Maybe the gallons of champagne I drank had something to do with that. I immediately swapped my boarding pass for a shower key. Every time I take a shower at TPE, I struggle to figure out how to actually enter the shower area. I can’t offer guidance either, as I try a dozen different ways to get in and then it finally clicks. Just ask for help. I’m too stubborn to do that though.
The shower room isn’t anything fancy, but it is clean and has hot water.
After the shower, I felt like a new man. I wasn’t very hungry, but I did force myself to grab some water, more champagne and some ice cream. The lounge was relatively quiet this early in the morning, which allowed me to get a little work done and relax before my next flight.
I had spent the last 15.5 hours eating and drinking, so I wasn’t too keen on the idea of breakfast food. Plus, I had another 5 hour flight in Business Class in just a couple of hours. I’ll skip this meal.
En Route to the Gate
I got a little tired of just sitting around the EVA Air Infinity Lounge, so I headed off to explore TPE and make my way towards the gate.
I’ve never had much time to spend exploring TPE, but I’ve been pretty pleased with my time there. Unfortunately, EVA Air doesn’t offer any stellar ground services like Thai Airways, Singapore or Lufthansa does, so there really isn’t any reason to push for a longer layover.
Have you spent much time in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport? What should I be on the look out for next time I transit?
EVA Air boards Business Class passengers directly from the Air France / KLM Lounge for our flight to Taipei. I was the third person on board and quickly took my seat of 9A. As I was getting situated (you know, tablet, headphones and chargers out), Daisy, the flight attendant working my portion of the cabin approached, delivering menus and a warm moist towel to help you get refreshed before the 15 hour flight.
On the Ground
EVA doesn’t serve champagne on the ground, at least in Chicago. Cook County taxes are very high and they don’t want to pay them, so they serve an inferior sparkling wine, they wouldn’t even tell me what kind it was.
Daisy asks if I want the seat cover – not a mattress pad mind you, just a quilted cover over the seat. I took it. I’ll take any additional padding I can get on airline seats. Pajamas were delivered and I immediately hopped up and changed. The lavatory between the two business class cabins is much more roomy, making it much easier to change. The front lavatory is a standard sized room…small, very small.
Boarding continued and I sat back and enjoyed my drink, in my new pajamas, and thought about my trip. Was I crazy for flying so far for just a couple of days? Maybe, but I am going to enjoy the journey. The door closed at 00h20 and we were pulling away from the jet bridge at 00h23. It was fast. Then we sat on the tarmac for about 20 minutes.
In the Air
Once airborne, the crew sprung into action. It was late, people wanted to sleep and the sooner they can put us to bed, the easier their flight will be.
I had preordered the duck for my entree, which was easy to do on the EVA website. EVA offers some additional entrees that aren’t normally stocked on board, but they are catered upon request.
Another glass of champagne arrived as did the amuse bouche. It was quite lovely, Turkey Ham (huh? What’s turkey ham?) with Asparagus with champagne was a great way to kick off this Business Class Meal.
The lobster appetizer arrived fifteen minutes later. It was served with drawn butter and a quinoa salad that was just packed with flavor. I skipped the quail egg though
Right at 01h30 my duck arrived. I asked for a glass of Bordeaux to accompany the duck, but it never arrived. The duck looked…well…strange. I’m not sure what happened to it, but about three-quarters of it looked and felt like it had been eaten by someone else then spit back onto my plate. I was disgusted. I couldn’t eat it. Daisy came by and saw that I wasn’t eating and she asked a couple of questions, then took it away. The purser came back to talk to me and she was mortified. She suggested I choose a different entree, which I did. The kung pao chicken sounded good to me and it was delivered moments later.
The chicken looked strange too. It was stuffed with a truffle brioche that just seemed off when paired with a kung pao truffle jus. I scraped out the stuffing and ate the chicken. Quite a disappointing entree selection.
The fruit and cake plate and was delivered. There was no cheese course. When I asked about it, the matter of fact answer was that “There was no cheese course tonight.” Hmmmrph.
At 02h00 the dinner service was over, plates and linens cleared. I was a bit disappointed.
It was time to turn in, so I laid my seat out to a bed and put on the EVA provided headphones and listened to the Big Bang Theory as I slept. It is a great plane show – as it always makes me want to sleep.
I woke up after about 5 hours of sleep and decided to watch a movie I brought (Indiana Jones) and get some work done. The internet was slow and cost $16.95 for three hours of service. It did what I needed it to do, but it was soooo slow.
At 08h00 I ordered the vermicelli with pork, which was a great choice. I should have had three of those for dinner.
I napped intermittently until breakfast, which was served promptly at 12h30. The lights popped on with a never before seen intensity! I’m not a big breakfast guy, so I skipped the cereals and I chose to have the fruit, pastry and the bread pudding. It was all pretty great. The fruit was a little under ripe, but it was still flavorful.
At this point, breakfast is done and we are still two hours from Taipei. US and European carriers don’t start serving arrival meal until 90 minutes before landing. We had lots of time left, but now I wasn’t really in the mood for sleeping.
As we come into Taipei, the flight crew sprung into action. Unlike the rest of the trip, they seemed like chickens with their heads cut off. Seemingly executing their landing procedures in a near panic mode. For example, I had five sheets of paper stored in a cubby behind my shoulder. I was told that I couldn’t stow anything there and as I was grabbing it another stew comes over, repeats the request, then the first grabs the paper, ripping it, then shoves it in another cubby (that also said No Stowage During Taxi, Take Off or Landing). Theses were just notes I had taken to prep for my trip – not a big deal, but the service sure went south fast. The crew all took their seats and we still had 30 minutes until we touched down.
We rolled into TPE at 04h05, 11 minutes early. Despite this flight being more than 15 hours, I wasn’t ready for it to end. I really do love EVA. The flight timing is great – I can work a full day, leave at 00h30 and be anywhere in Asia by noon the next day. That’s no small feat from Chicago. The seats are among my favorite in Business Class. If you are traveling with someone it is a bit difficult to chat, but for a solo traveler, you can’t beat these seats. The food is usually pretty good – the entrees on this flight were pretty abysmal, but the other courses were enjoyable. Loved the noodles.
I used 90,000 United Miles (Saver Award) on this Business Class flight (including the next one), the value can’t be beat. I haven’t ever checked the actual cost of the flight, because I’m not expensing these flights back to a third party. I’m not paying thousands of dollars this flight (likely) costs in Business Class.
Have you flown EVA Business Class before? Do you dig their service? What do you think was wrong with that duck entree I had? Have you ever not wanted to get off a flight after more than 15 hours of flying?
Our flight departed at 00h30. EVA doesn’t allow you to print boarding passes at home for flights out of Chicago, so that means I had no way of getting into the Polaris Lounge (usually flying Star Alliance Business Class will gain you entrance, but the lounge closed before the EVA desk even opened up). I’ve written before about how the other Star Alliance and Priority Pass Lounges are just awful at O’Hare’s International Terminal. So this trip, I didn’t leave the house until 22h00.
There was no traffic and I rolled into Terminal 5 at 22h25. One man was in front of me for check-in at EVA and he was finished within 90 seconds. My check-in couldn’t have been smoother. The agent was confused as to why I wasn’t flying back home with EVA. After his colleague explained in intense detail how this is indeed allowable I was on my way to security.
I never go through the full body scanners. I’ve always joked that if you want to see my junk, just ask, you don’t need to have a fancy nude-o-scope to do the dirty work. Plus it is a bit of a non-violent protest to security theater in the US. Usually It doesn’t matter because Pre-Check works fine for me. EVA does not participate in Pre-Check, so it was either the nude-o-scope or the pat down. I opted for the pat down, as always. The frustrated TSA agent started to explain how the nude-o-scope is perfectly safe and I should just deal with it.
Frustrated more at me now, he decides to let me go through the metal detector. An interesting choice, but one I am okay with. Now if that isn’t security theater, I don’t know what is.
Through security and into the duty free area by 22h35 left me 90 minutes before boarding. I walked around the terminal, checking out the restaurants – not that I would want to eat before my flight, but I sure didn’t want to sit in the dismal lounge for an hour and a half.
After a while, I decided to hit up the lounge, because now EVA boards lounge passengers directly from the lounge. Now if that isn’t a little piece of heaven, I don’t know what is. I snag an uninspiring glass of prosecco and wait for my flight.
EVA uses the Air France / KLM Lounge for their flights. Unlike the last time we flew EVA this lounge was pretty empty. Evidently the Friday night flight is much more full. The lounge was quiet and allowed me to get some work done.
Boarding started promptly at 23h50. We queued up in a very civilized manner (sometimes flights to China can feel a bit like Lord of the Flies when it come to boarding or deplaning).
Do you have a preferred lounge in T5 at O’Hare? How do you kill time at this disconnected terminal?
Regular readers know that I had a quick trip to Singapore – returning home last Monday. This was indeed a whirlwind trip. My better half was in Singapore for work and since I had never been and always wanted to go, I found a way to make it work. I’ll have much more details notes coming soon, but here are the high level numbers and stats.
- Airlines Flown: 3
- Flights Taken: 5
- United Miles Redeemed: 180,000
- Miles Flown: 20,288
- Hours in the Air: 44
- Time in Singapore: 68 hours
- Time in Vienna: 15 hours
- Airport Lounges: 6
- Hotels Nights: 4
- Hotels Stayed: 3
- Cities Explored: 2
- Meals Eaten: 6
- Restaurants Dined: 1 (everything else was Street Food / Hawker Stalls)
- Cocktails / Wine / Champagne Consumed: Countless
It was a quick trip, but with more hours on the ground than in the air, which is always a key metric for a trip like this. That being said, spending 44 hours flying (excluding layovers) in some great business class products isn’t too bad of a way to spend a the dog days of summer.
Give me your honest opinion – would you go to Singapore for just 68 hours? Does the fact that it cost nothing (other than points and time) change your opinion? What’s the longest you’ve traveled for the shortest stay?