BACKGROUND EVA Air flies seven times daily to Hongkong. Depending on the passenger load, it may be either the Boeing B747-400 Combi or the newer Airbus A330-200 aircraft deployed on the Hongkong-Taipei-Hongkong 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 return flight to Hongkong, the A330 was used. EVA Air, which is owned by Taiwanese shipping and transport conglomerate Evergreen Group, shares the Hongkong-Taipei-Hongkong route with China Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Dragonair.
CHECK IN I reached Terminal 2 of Taipei Taoyuan International Airport at 4.20pm to catch my flight, which was timed at 6.10pm. Check in was at row 5A for all passengers. Since December last year, passengers have been able to check in at any of the eight kiosks located near rows 6 and 7 at T2. EVA Air also offers web check-in from 24 hours up to three hours before flight departure.
THE LOUNGE Access to the Evergreen Lounge is given to Business Class passengers and Diamond, Gold and Silver members of Evergreen Club, EVA Air’s frequent flyer programme. The lounge is also open to premium guests of Dragonair, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Air Canada, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Qantas and Uni Air as well as those of credit card companies including American Express, Diners and Citibank.
The lounge at T2 is located one floor above immigrations and retail shops. It is not a new lounge but still has the mod cons like free wireless internet service, newspapers, a business centre (with three ADSL stations, five PCs, a printer and a photocopier), LCD TVs and monitors showing flight departure times. There is a separate dining area where passengers can help themselves to a buffet selection like assorted chicken buns, fried rice, spaghetti and red bean soup. Shower and a nursery room are also available, and four Xbox stations provide the entertainment in an enclosed room near the lounge entrance.
BOARDING The boarding announcement for my flight BR857 came at 5.40pm, half an hour before the scheduled departure. Walking to gate C4 took five minutes, and boarding had already begun by the time I got to the gate. I was seated by 5.47pm and the drinks service followed quickly. The aircraft peeled away from the gate at 6.06pm.
THE SEAT The A330 offers 252 seats in two cabins – Super Laurel which can accommodate 24 passengers and Economy for 228. Business Class seats are configured 2-2-2 (AC-DG-HK) from rows 6 to 9. I had pre-selected online window seat 9A, which is the closest to the entrance/exit.
Seats are equipped with a 110-volt universal power outlet on the armrest for hooking up computers and other devices, telephones, LED reading lights, 10.4-inch screens, coat hooks and bottle holders. The headrest and seat cushion are adjustable, the lumbar support and legrest are operated electronically, and for sleeping, the seat reclines to an angle of 11º from horizontal with a pitch of about 155cm (61in). Storage space is in the seat pocket in front or in the overhead luggage cabin.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? As there were only four rows in the Business cabin, it did not matter to me to choose a seat in the front or back row. But 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.
THE FLIGHT Shortly after we were airborne, the meal service started. Dinner was a choice of roast chicken thigh with oregano citrus sauce served with mashed potato, or braised beef shank with Chu Han sauce served with egg noodle Cantonese-style. I chose the latter, which turned out to be quite tasty.
Touchdown at Hong Kong International Airport was estimated to be at 7.43pm, with a flight time of an hour and 20 minutes. This being such a short flight, I did not expect to finish any work on my Mac without being interrupted by the meal service. So I decided to “channel surf” and discovered that the IFE system offered a variety of shows in English and quite a few Asian languages.
The cabin crew was attentive throughout the flight. When I informed them that my IFE was faulty, they checked the system, rebooted it several times and made sure I finally got to enjoy it.
ARRIVAL It was a smooth landing, with the A330 touching down in Hongkong at 7.35pm.
CONFIGURATION 2-2-2 in Business Class and 2-4-2 or 2-3-2 in Economy
SEAT WIDTH 48.84cm/19.23in
SEAT PITCH 154.94cm/61in
SEAT RECLINE 169°
PRICE Internet fares for a return Business Class flight in mid-April from Hongkong to Taipei started from HK$2,900 (US$374).
Verdict EVA Air offers a fine Business product, although passengers have fewer flight options than if they choose to take Cathay Pacific or China Airlines which also fly the same route but with greater frequency.