BACKGROUND EVA Air flies seven times daily to Hong Kong. Depending on the passenger load, it may be either the B747-400 Combi or the newer A330-200 aircraft deployed on the Hong Kong-Taipei-Hong Kong route. Its business class product is called Premium Laurel on the A330 or Super Business on the B747. Both are basically the same product. On my flight to Taipei, the B747 was used. EVA Air, which is owned by Taiwanese shipping and transport conglomerate Evergreen Group, competes with China Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Dragonair on the Hong Kong-Taipei-Hong Kong route.
CHECK-IN I was booked on flight BR852 departing at 1120 and so I made sure to arrive at Terminal 1 of Hong Kong airport at 1000. By the time I arrived at row E for check-in, there was no queue, which I assumed meant everybody else had already checked in. EVA Air offers web check-in from 24 hours up to three hours before flight departure. I checked in the previous night and opted for window seat 13A.
THE LOUNGE EVA Air does not operate a lounge at Hong Kong airport, but offers complimentary access to the Travellers’ Lounge (http://www.plaza-ppl.com/hk_en/index.php) for its first and business class passengers as well as Diamond, Gold and Silver members of Evergreen Club, EVA Air’s frequent flyer programme. This pay-for-use, 24-hour lounge opened in February 2010 and is located in the East Hall near departure Gate 1. It features an exclusive resting area, showers, a bar, beauty salon, spa and a small meeting room for up to eight people.
BOARDING Boarding was at Gate 60 at 1050, a good half-hour before the scheduled departure. To get to Gate 60, you could either use the Automated People Mover train which takes a few minutes to reach, or walk, which takes about 15 minutes. I chose the latter. Boarding had already started by the time I got to the gate, and since there was no one in the business queue, I was processed immediately. As there were about five of us in the business cabin, it did not take long before the cabin crew came with the first round of drinks and a paper. The aircraft peeled away from the gate on time at 1120.
THE SEAT This is a two-decked B747, offering 276 seats in three cabins – Super Business for 28 passengers, Evergreen Deluxe (EVA Air’s version of premium economy) for 86 and Economy for 162. Business class seats are on the upper deck from rows 6 to 13, configured in a 2-2 (AC-HK) format. On the lower deck, Evergreen Deluxe starts from rows 20 to 33 in two layouts (2-2/AC-HK or 2-4-2/AC-DEFG-HK) while the Economy seats are from rows 35 to 54 and configured 3-4-3 (ABC-DEFG-HJK).
Follow the link to see the seat plan for this EVA Air B747-400 combi.
Seats in the business cabin are 20.7 inches wide, with a pitch of 44-47 inches and a recline angle of 45.8 degrees from horizontal. As this is an old-style B747, the seat does not come with many features, except an individual 6.5-inch TV screen (stowed during takeoff and landing), foldable table and adjustable legrest control. Storage space is in the overhead luggage cabin or in the compartment beside the seat. A point to note: the ceiling on the upper deck is rather low and can be challenging for taller people.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? If you do not want to be disturbed by the constant flow of flight attendants walking up and down the aisle, it would be wise to choose window seat 6A or 6K. I chose window seat 13A in the last row because it is nearest to the staircase once you come up from the lower deck.
THE FLIGHT About 30 minutes after takeoff, the cabin crew came around taking our lunch orders. I opted for pan-seared scallops with pesto cream served with red skin potato slices, the portion for which I found quite small. The other choice for lunch was braised pork with bamboo shoots and shiitake mushroom served with steamed rice.
After lunch, I checked out the IFE system, which provided a variety of shows in English and quite a few Asian languages. But I decided to finish up some work on my laptop instead. Service onboard was pleasant. While I was typing away, the cabin crew was kind enough to offer rounds of hot green tea.
ARRIVAL The B747 touched down safely at 1245 at Taipei Taoyuan airport.
VERDICT EVA Air offers a fine business product, although passengers have fewer flight options than if they choose Cathay Pacific or China Airlines which fly the same route but with greater frequency.
PRICE Internet fares for a return business class flight in mid-April from Hong Kong to Taipei started from HK$2,900 (US$374).