I fly a lot, I enjoy it for the most part and instead of dreading long-haul flights I actually look forward to them. I tend to prefer longer flights because I can get more done. I can get a good night’s rest (hopefully), I can watch a movie, read a book, get some writing finished and so on. This isn’t possible on a shorter 6-hour flight. But not all long-haul carriers are made the same sadly, especially when it comes to economy class seating. I recently had the chance to fly what was a new airline for me, Taiwan based EVA Air and wanted to share my thoughts on this sometimes forgotten airline.
Comfort/Service – As a Star Alliance Gold member, I was able to check out their lounge before boarding the aircraft at JFK in New York. Since they don’t have a large presence in New York, they share a lounge with Japan Airlines (JAL), something they should perhaps reconsider. For an airline that only flies long haul out of JFK, the lounge was very small and deficient on a lot of amenities I’ve come to expect. The food offerings were practically nonexistent, just a few snacks really with no option of bringing in something else to eat. The lounge also lacked a shower facility or any way to refresh before a very long flight. Overall, I wasn’t impressed by the lounge and EVA should really think about partnering with another Star Alliance member at JFK.
The plane I flew on both times was a 777-300ER, coincidentally my favorite aircraft. Walking through the business class section is always hard when I’m not booked in that section, but from what I could tell it’s a very strong product. Lie-flat seats and plenty of room to relax compliment what is sure to be amazing service. Even the Premium Economy looked decent, lots of legroom and extra amenities for the passengers. The coach class cabin was exactly as I expected though, no surprises to be had there. Well, that’s not true, the service surprised me and not in a good way.
Other long-haul carriers give their economy passengers a small amenity kit. Nothing big, usually just containing earplugs and an eye shade, but it’s a nice perk and an acknowledgement that you’re about to go on a very long flight. My flight to Taipei was nearly 16 hours long, that’s a long time to spend up in the air and yet there was nothing sitting in my seat to help make that trip more comfortable. I was disappointed.
That disappointment progressed throughout the flight; the service in economy just wasn’t good. Flight attendants did not offer water to us often enough, which is a health issue in my opinion, and instead could be seen fawning over higher classes of service. That’s fine, they paid more, but you can’t just ignore the well being of your customers in coach either. No one was rude to me and whenever I asked for something it was given, but the fact is most of the time I shouldn’t have had to ask.
Food/entertainment – I’m a picky eater and didn’t have high hopes for the food in coach since EVA is of course an Asian airline and my tolerance of mass produced Asian food is low. Luckily, chicken was an option for dinner and breakfast featured an omelet in addition to congee. But on a 16-hour flight we just had the two meals. No, that’s not quite right; going to Taipei we were offered a fish sandwich as a snack with no alternatives. Since I don’t eat seafood I was left out. That’s a long flight to only be offered a couple of meals. Most other long-haul carriers I’ve been on feature snack bars in the galleys so that guests can grab something whenever they get hungry, as they will on an extremely long flight. I should’ve been thankful though because the food was terrible, even for airplane food. On the way back it was so bad I couldn’t even finish the meals provided, and I noticed many of my seatmates felt the same way.
The entertainment options were ok, but not great. The selection could have been better and probably should have been. I think there were two movies of interest to me; that’s disappointing when spending a combined 30 hours in the air. One thing EVA does well is cater to kids. They have a partnership with Hello Kitty and before the flight they hand out Hello Kitty play packs to all kids. In Taipei you can also forgo the boring check in counter for a Hello Kitty version, making the flying experience for kids a lot more fun. I just wish they’d put as much thought into making the trip as enjoyable for the adults as well.
Overall – My experience when examined in its totality wasn’t awful, not at all. It was a very standard trip with very standard features. I think that’s what disappointed me the most though. I wasn’t flying from DC to Denver, I was flying halfway across the world and EVA didn’t seem to make any effort to see to my comfort in what truly is an extreme flight situation. But I did manage to sleep, I did manage to eat and I did manage to get some work done. It was barebones, but it was fine.
If given the choice though between carriers, I would skip EVA in favor of another airline flying in the same direction, even if it meant making more connections. That may sound extreme, but when taking a very long flight, getting there is an important part of the experience and if I can’t be comfortable with an airline, then I won’t go out of my way to fly them again.
Have you flown EVA Air? What did you think?