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EVA Air Royal Laurel Class (Business Class) ORD-TPE
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?
Singapore: By the Numbers
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?
A Weekend in Vienna
Having no real travel in the first quarter of 2018 really started to wear on me. I decided to take a long weekend (Thursday through Sunday) and visit Vienna. I had been to Vienna once before, also for a long weekend and will undoubtedly have more opportunities to visit in the coming years – so I don’t feel obligated to hit it hard and see everything on one trip. The purpose of this trip was to escape from the daily winter work life in Chicago, cash-in some miles and points and get away.
If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Vero you’ve seen some of my time in Vienna (and if you don’t, you should). This trip was like almost all of my trips, centered around good food, exploring a city, experiencing it’s art, culture and history — and finding a nice glass of wine along the way.
Over the next few days/weeks, I’ll be posting about key parts of my trip, including:
- United Polaris Club (ORD)
- Swiss International Lounge – Terminal 5 O’hare
- Austrian Airlines ORD-VIE (OS66)
- Hotel Bristol Vienna – A Luxury Collection Hotel
- The Most Instagrammable Places in Vienna
- Steirereck – Fine Dining in Vienna
- Going to the Opera – A Night Out In Vienna
- Standing Room Only Tickets – Vienna Opera House
- Bristol Lounge
- Austrian Airlines VIE-IAD (OS93)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on my trip and get suggestions from you all for my future trips to Vienna. What am I missing? What shocks you that I haven’t seen? Do you have a favorite dessert place you always go?
Thai Airways Royal First Class – Ground Services BKK
The beauty of flying First Class doesn’t start once you walk down the gate, with good airlines, it starts long before. Thai Airways is known for this great service and their First Class Ground Service at BKK (Suvarnabhumi Airport) was one of the reasons we planned our return trip like we did. We could have returned on Air China or ANA for the same number miles (we didn’t pay cash for this flight, but cashed in United Miles) and left around the same time. If you aren’t flying Thai in Royal First you don’t get access to all the amenities that Thai flyers get.
Our Uber dropped us off at the door near the First Class Check-In area at BKK and we see this beautiful sight. Other than the woman at the door (and the three armed guards with assault rifles, just out of frame) no one was around.
We walk towards the Royal First Check In area – located away from the hustle and bustle that is BKK. It was around 20h00 and the rest of this terminal was buzzing with activity. We make it about half way to the check-in podium and the woman guarding the door greets us and asks for our names and the City we are traveling too. Less than 10 seconds later she flags over two young men who grab our bags and lead us into the Check-In Area. This woman asked for our passports and said that we would be checked in here and it would take about 10 minutes and that we should relax. Before we could even make it into the Check-In area a couple asked this woman for help (they were flying business on ANA) and she quickly told them that she was with her Royal First Passengers and that surely someone “over there” could help. She wasn’t rude, but she was forceful.
We were whisked to a small seating area while our checked bags were weighed and our boarding passes were printed. She asked if we needed anything as we sat at the small seating area. I, of course asked for a glass of champagne…and Mike thought I was nuts. Why would anyone need a glass of champagne while you sit and wait for someone to check you in for a flight. To that, I say “Who wouldn’t want a glass of champagne….” We sat here and chatted – both excited for the experience the next 24 hours would give. I finished about half my glass before our escort showed up to take us to the Royal First Lounge. Our escort handed us our passports and boarding passes, but took our hand luggage. She quickly escorted us through the First Class Security area, which was a bit of a clusterfuck because the security guards required us to carry our own bags and remove our electronics. I don’t care about that, but you’d think that they’d have this process down a little better. Carrying our own briefcases is fine. We were the only ones going through the security checkpoint when we were there.
Once we cleared security, we hopped on a golf cart and were whisked down to the lounge. I’m not usually a golf cart in an airport guy, but it was a pretty long haul and I had a lot of things I wanted to do in the lounge. Unlike in the US, the Thai golf cart driver just honked the tiny horn and floored the cart. I know we clipped a couple people as we shot by, but the cart did have a Thai Royal First sticker, so I guess that was okay. One of the people the cart clipped turned and apologized to us – which is probably just a polite gut reaction, but c’mon, we hit you with a cart, you should not apologize.
We make it to the lounge and are handed off to our Lounge Attendant. She tells us that she’ll be taking care of us during our stay and that she will personally come get us when it is time to board the plane. Sometimes these folks won’t get you until the very end of boarding and you can feel a bit rushed once on board. I’d rather get on a bit early, get settled, maybe even change into my new pajamas, get a glass (or two??) of champagne – basically, I want a leisurely start to my First Class experience.
Our Attendant took us into the lounge and helped us find a seat. She was very apologetic for it being so busy. The Royal First Lounge has traditional lounge seating areas, plus private rooms. We passed by several that were occupied – of course, I asked if we could have a private room and she was hesitant. At first I thought she was saving those for families or larger parties, but as we continued to walk through the lounge, I saw a couple with just one person hanging out. Then, as if it were timed by God himself, we came across a private room that was being serviced. The empty glasses were being taken out and a woman just finished sweeping the floor and wiping down the tables. SCORE. We got a private room. These rooms don’t have doors and one side is all glass that opens up into the rest of the lounge, but it is still just for us.
When flying Royal First, passengers get access to complimentary massages too. You can get up to 60-minutes of spa treatments. You can do a full body massage (with or without oil) or two 30-minute massages (shoulder and foot) or you can opt for just a 30 minute massage, if time is limited (again, your choice is shoulder or foot). Business class passengers can choose one of the 30-minute options. Before our Attendant left our private area, I asked her about massages and we were in luck – two 60 minute spots were available immediately. We were told to leave our bags in our area in the lounge (which really concerned me, but I grabbed my wallet and passport and left my bag there).
The Spa is actually in across the hall from the Royal First Lounge and we were escorted over and quickly checked in. Things were moving very quickly and efficiently. The massage area is quite large and separated into two rooms. You have the main area with your massage table and a separate area where you change and can shower, shave, etc. I wanted to take more photos of the massage area, but my masseuse seemed to be in a hurry and I didn’t want to keep other patrons from having a massage before their flight.
I popped into the changing area and found XL Disposable Underwear, which were still a bit tight (I’m 1.82M/6′ 84kg/185lbs), but fit so much better than those disposable undies in Myanmar.
The massage was good and the room was quite quiet, considering how much was going on just outside the room. It did take me a bit longer to get relaxed – I think it was because of how much running around we were doing just to get to this point. She did a great job though. I chose the Full Body Massage with Oil. After the massage I took another shower (so far this day, I had a shower before breakfast, a shower at the St. Regis spa…yes, I had a massage earlier in the day, a shower before we went to the airport, as we weren’t sure if we’d get a massage or not and I couldn’t wait until Munich for a shower) and headed back to the Royal First Lounge. Our Attendant was waiting for me to finish and walked me back to the Lounge. I assume they pinged her and said that I was done and that she didn’t just wait there for 75 minutes…
I made it back to the Lounge and found an elderly Thai woman (in full Thai Airways Uniform) sitting on a folding chair to the entrance to our private lounge space. She wasn’t on her phone. She wasn’t reading. She was just sitting, perfectly straight. She thanked me (for what??) and folded her chair up and walked away. I was told that she was there to watch our stuff and keep unauthorized people out of our room. Hmmm.
I sat down and before I knew it, our Attendant brought me a glass of champagne, a still water and a menu for food. The Royal First Lounge does have a full and proper sit down restaurant (white table cloth type of place). I’ve heard that the food there is authentic and amazing, but after Nahm for lunch and Gaggan for dinner the prior night…and a full dinner on the plane, I couldn’t bring myself to eat a sit down dinner…so I just ordered some fried spring rolls. Hey, it’s still vacation, right?
By this point it was about 22h30. Mike had returned from his massage and we relaxed in the Lounge. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 00h50, so I thought we’d head over to the gate, which wasn’t very far from the Lounge at around 00h00, but our Attendant really didn’t like that idea. She asked, then begged us to stay. She said the flight was a bit delayed because of mechanical issues and it was a bad idea for us to just go stand at the gate. As she said when we first came in, she reminded us to sit and relax and she’ll get us when it is time to leave. Fair enough.
At around 00h40 we decided to leave. We just felt uncomfortable and the lounge was getting pretty empty. When we walked up to the Lounge entrance we found six other passengers in our same boat — uncomfortable that we were still in the lounge just minutes before scheduled departure. Most of these people were German…
Our Attendant finally agreed and they collected the final people for our flight and walked us to the gate. No one had started boarding yet. It was mayhem. Our Attendant had stayed in the lounge and our new guide was a bit frustrated. We had a couple folks who couldn’t follow simple directions – they got lost on the way to the plane and he had to go find them. After a few minutes waiting in the gate area, our guide pushed through the crowd saying something in Thai, something in German then “First Class Passengers, please move”… ouch. I loved it though.
The gate area was surrounded by glass and doors into a glass wall lead to the gate itself. We were escorted directly past the glass doors and then spent a few minutes hanging out – watching all 300 of the other passengers glare at us as we moved to the front of the line. I’m sure they could smell the champagne and massage oil on us as we moved by.
I really enjoyed the Royal First Lounge and the full 60-minute massage. I do wish I could have tried the full restaurant. I also wish I had a bit more time in the Spa. There are rooms that have full bathtubs where you can have a massage then a nice long relax in the tub. The problem here is that I really shouldn’t be spending so much time in an airport lounge, right? I’m on vacation in an amazing city like Bangkok, I should be out and about. Maybe next time I can schedule a longer connection at BKK (as long as I arrive or leave in proper Royal First, otherwise, I don’t get access to all the amenities).
Have you visited the Royal First Lounge in Bangkok? How was the food? Did you spend enough time in the lounge or did you need more? What massage option did you go with?
Thai Airways Royal Silk Class TPE-BKK-RGN (TG 637 & 301)
After spending a couple hours in Taipei, relaxing in the EVA Lounge and showering, we headed off to our next flight – this one to Bangkok on Thai Airways then after a short connection, continuing on to Yangon, but first, I had to get a photo with Hello Kitty herself. Who knew she was such an aviation aficionado?
We were on Thai’s Airbus 330s for both legs on this portion of the journey – different planes, but the same configuration. Since we flew in on EVA’s Royal Laurel Business Class, continuing on in Business was included in the price we paid, and it was a nice continuation. Thai’s Royal Silk (Business Class) on these planes is a bit out dated, but still much nicer than flying in their coach seats.
We boarded through Door 1L on each of these flights, while the majority of our fellow passengers boarded through 2L, right behind the business class cabin. We were surprised at how quickly these planes were boarded and we pulled away from the gate. The seats are angle flat seats – going to 131 degrees of recline. Unlike the EVA flight, there is almost no privacy in these seats. That being said these seats are perfectly fine for a couple hour day time flight. We actually flew these seats a few years ago from Bangkok to Seoul and they did allow us to sleep a bit.
After we sat down and the rest of the plane boarded, we were offered a pre-departure drink, which we chose champagne and orange juice. On both of these flights, we were served Veuve Clicquot N.V – which is a perfectly fine selection – one that we often will give as host gifts back home.
From Taipei to Bangkok, I decided not to have a full meal – I had eaten quite a bit on the flight to Taipei. I just had some more fruit and another couple glasses of Veuve. From Bangkok to Yangon, I did decide to grab a bite to eat and it was really great. I decided to try to Prawn Pad Thai and I have to say that was a wonderful decision – it was better than any restaurant Pad Thai I’ve had.
These flights were easy, comfortable and above all, got us to where we were going in a timely and safe fashion. Would I pay extra to fly Royal Silk on these routes? It’s unlikely, but depending on the variance in prices, I could see it making sense for less than $100 premium – otherwise, I’d suggest staying in the back of the plane and using your money for great food wherever you are going. If you do happen to have an opportunity to try the Pad Thai served on Thai Airways, I highly recommend it.
What do you think of the regional service offered by Thai on their A330 Aircraft? Am I nuts for wanting so much champagne on these flights?