Tried & Tested

Eva Air B777-300ER business class

1 Nov 2005 by Tom Otley

First impressions I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3 at 1930
for this 2135 flight. The carrier’s five weekly flights depart Tuesday to
Sunday and will be joined by a sixth weekly flight from November 4.

There was no queue at either of the two
business class desks, check-in was swift and I was given clear directions on
how to find my way through fast-track security and to the lounge the airline
shares with SAS.

The lounge The SAS London Lounge is on two floors
close to gate 2. The upper floor is slightly larger and has more comfortable
seating instead of just tables and chairs. It also has a smoking room, an
internet area with eight terminals (only four were working) and an empty area
for plugging in laptops, which was empty – probably because the internet was
dial-up only.

Wifi is available but only if a 24-hour
voucher is bought at reception (£10 cash, I was told). One day – hopefully soon
– such measures as these will seem amusingly antiquated. The London lounge is a
smart place, however, with a good drinks selection, a basic snack selection, a
choice of board games (honestly) and a collection of orange buddhas on one
wall.

Boarding Boarding was economy first, business last,
and was completed on time, though we were then delayed for 30 minutes by the
late arrival of a passenger.

The seat We were flying during the first week of Eva
Air’s new product on the Boeing B777-300ER (the airline was the launch customer
for this aircraft). It’s configured in a new three-class system for 316
passengers. The classes are Premium Laurel: the new business class (42 seats
configured 2-2-2); Elite Class: premium economy (63 seats in 2-4-2); and
economy (211 seats in 3-3-3).

The seats in Premium Laurel are
fixed-shell, lie-flat seats similar to the new business class products of
airlines such as KLM, Air France, SAS and Lufthansa. Seat pitch is 155cm with
56cm width, electronically adjustable lumbar supports, personal LED reading
lights, power outlets, 10.4-inch LCD screens and Sennheiser noise-cancelling
headphones.

General improvements on the aircraft
include an extra-wide lavatory for passengers with special needs (or changing
babies). All three cabins feature the Star Gallery audio/video on demand (AVOD)
entertainment system with TV programmes, music, video games and shopping. The
interactive maps and information weren’t working on our flight, but on the
return flight the next day were working, and were fascinating – not least
because you can magnify the scale of the map and see the names of every village
you are flying over.

The flight I was impressed by the service throughout,
and the extra touches such as the new Sisley amenity kits and the large quilt
and pillows. The meals were enjoyable, as were the wines (the champagne was
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne blanc de blancs brut 1997). Members of Eva Air’s
Evergreen Club can pre-order menu items through the website, and to test this I
had joined the loyalty scheme and done just that. It worked faultlessly (and
certainly seemed to impress my neighbour).

I managed to get several hours’ sleep on
this overnight flight, and awoke refreshed and ready for breakfast, which was
served promptly and was very filling (I’d pre-chosen an omelette).

Arrival We landed on time at 1455 and were quickly
disembarked.

Verdict An excellent service, an up-to-date product
and a good price (below) make this a service to consider for both Bangkok and
Taipei. For those going on to Taipei, the plane waits at Bangkok for
approximately one hour before continuing its journey. The return flight the
next day was just as good.

Prices Return fares in business class
London-Bangkok are £5,186 – although travel agents have lower fares. For
example, Airline Network (airline-network.co.uk) quotes £1,543 return.

Tom Otley

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