In the summer of 2019, I booked my first long-haul business class using points to fly Taiwanese carrier EVA Air's Royal Laurel business class. My previous post outlined the details on how I was able to redeem a flight worth ~$8000 with 160,000 Chase UR Points and ~$50 in taxes.
Today, I'll share the actual flight experience. Note that this is not a professional travel review, and is simply me sharing my thoughts and experiences. Apologies for the photo quality too as my super-outdated iPhone 6S didn't fare so well in the dark.
For more on the return leg of my journey, check out this post:
Key Trip Info
- Flight #: EVA Airways BR 27
- Route: San Francisco (SFO) - Taipei (TPE)
- Departure (local time): 7/29/2019 1:20am
- Arrival (local time): 7/30/2019 5:10am
- Duration: 12hr 50min
- Aircraft Type: Boeing 777-300ER
- Seat: 2A (Business Class)
I was a little TOO early for my flight (6 hours to be precise). This was because my friend's flight was a couple hours earlier and after dropping her off at the terminal, decided to just return my Silvercar (separate article on this coming soon!) rental and headed to the terminal.
When I glanced up at the flight departure board, I noticed that there were THREE scheduled flights - all bound for Taipei, leaving within a span of 40 minutes. So cool!
I already checked in online, but since I had check-in luggage and the counters don't open until ~3 hours prior to boarding (9pm), it wasn't possible to head inside the secure area early. I ended up just sitting in the general terminal area and got some work done.
At 9pm sharp, the ground staff started welcoming passengers to check-in. I was second in the business class line, but due to staff allocation, it took quite a while until it was my turn. It really was not a big deal but it didn't make a great first impression and I was dying to check out the lounge, which has on-demand dining only until 9:30pm.
The rest of the check-in process went smoothly and my heart was pumping with excitement for the journey ahead. After a year of the all-nighter CS student life and a summer of interning, I was ready to take a vacation. Once the check-in agent confirmed my documents, I promptly received my boarding pass as well as an invitation to the brand new United Polaris Lounge at SFO.
Priority security is sometimes a perk for premium class passengers, although it depends on the airport, airline, and ticket type. In my case, it did include access to priority security, but since I already have TSA PreCheck (which I got as a benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve), I wasn't able to try priority security out. If I were to guess, priority security will still require you to remove the usual laptop, shoes, belts, etc. (which TSA PreCheck members don't), you just get to skip to the front of the line.
Star Alliance (which EVA is a member of) passengers flying long-haul international business class are eligible to use the United Polaris Lounge (review). This is a relatively new and heavily-praised lounge, with some calling it "the best lounge experience in the United States". However, invitation to this lounge is very strict, and as to who qualifies can be rather confusing.
Overall, the lounge did not disappoint. The 28,000+ sqft facility is spread across 2 levels, and feature a plethora of seating areas, open buffet, bar, an à la carte dining room (!!!), business center, showers, quiet suites, and of course great views of the bustling activity happening down on the tarmac.
I think I spent a solid three hours here, and enjoyed every bit. It really was an incredibly relaxing experience and felt like I was at a holiday resort.
Boarding & Pre-Departure
I headed over to the gate a little past midnight, as I couldn't wait to get onto the plane. However, there was a slight boarding delay, and I think I ended up standing around for 45 min before I actually got on the plane.
It also looked like a pretty full flight. Boarding started just past 1am. Wheelchair and special needs boarded first, then business class passengers were called. It's time to finally check out the Royal Laurel seat!
Upon boarding, I saw the heavily praised Salvatore Ferragamo x EVA Air overnight amenity kit (Taipei outbound flights received the now discontinued RIMOWA kit) waiting for me. Also provided were THUNDER noise-cancelling headphones, a pillow, a blanket (these are not for you to keep), and a piece of chocolate.
Shortly after sitting down, I was greeted by name by my flight attendant, offered a hot towel and a pre-departure drink (I went with champagne). She also brought over pajamas and slippers by JASON WU (best known for designing the dresses of Michelle Obama worn during the first and second inauguration of President Obama) and confirmed my meal selections (which I made prior to check-in).
Possibly the most impressive part of EVA Air's Royal Laurel business class product is the amenities. As mentioned in the previous section, they've partnered with some of the world's most renowned luxury brands to deliver an unparalleled experience. I'm not an expert in this, though, so I'll just share some of my thoughts:
JASON WU PJs & Slippers - not only are they aesthetically appealing as far as airline PJs go, they are also super comfortable. I still wear them around the apartment often.
Salvatore Ferragamo Amenity Kit - premium feeling toiletries bag that can also be a collector item. Inside the bag are useful items such as Ferragamo branded lotion, lip balm etc, as well as EVA Air fiber cloth, eye mask, and comfy socks. I gave the bag to my mom since she fell in love with it at first sight.
RIMOWA Amenity Kit - I got this on the TPE-SEA return flight, which I will cover in a later article. Sadly, this product has now been discontinued.
EVA's business class is arranged in a 1-2-1 reverse-herringbone configuration, so everyone gets direct aisle access. Check out my previous article for exact configurations / seating plans. For this trip, I chose 2A, a window seat in the forward business class cabin. Check out this 360 VR from EVA!
The lie-flat seat is very spacious and super comfortable to sleep on. I think I slept a good 6-7 hours on this 13 hour flight. It's the best sleep I've ever gotten on a plane!
I arrived the next day in Taiwan feeling completely refreshed. I ended up spending a full day out in the city with my mom and cousin - without any hint of jetlag!
EVA really put a lot of work into their menu to blend the best of east and west, and partnered with some respected brands to deliver an in-flight dining experience that rivals some competitor's first class offerings. Here are some examples:
- Partnered with Tan-style cuisine master chef Huang Ching-biao on select flights
- Offers Din Tai Fung noodle soup as a main course option
- Veuve Clicquot LA GRANDE DAME 2006 champagne (retails ~$150/bottle, apparently pretty amazing for a business class offering, but I'm not much of a drinker to know better sorry...)
- TWG Tea, renowned luxury tea brand from Singapore
- FIJI water
- illy espresso
Below are some pictures of the menu. Note that specific offerings differ based on season, route, and other factors.
The starter was Smoked Salmon with Sesame on Zucchini Slice paired with Saffron Flavored Mashed Potato with Caviar in Mini Tartlet. I'm not a food reviewer, so I'm not going to try and just let the pictures do the talking. All I can say is it was delicious. I also got some tea to go with it (champagne came soon-after).
Next the flight attendant came around with the bread basket (with HOT bread, note North American airlines!), which included my favorite Garlic Bread. I must say EVA's Garlic Bread is the most amazing garlic bread I've ever had, it's simply BREATHtaking. That's honestly the one thing I keep reminiscing about from my flight. The bread also came with a tiny bottle of olive oil, super cute!
As part of the starter, I was also served a salad. It didn't leave much of an impression. Let's leave it at that.
For my main course, I went with the Stir Fried Lobster after many online reviewers raved about it. Note that this option is only available for preorder online and is not available on the on-board menu. I'm by no means a "foodie", but I thought it was pretty delicious, especially when considering I was 30,000 ft in the air.
Though, I do have to say that I miss the old tablecloth and cutlery packaging that EVA used to have. The tablecloth is now replaced with plain white checkerboard design, and a more standard cutlery wrapper. Here are some pictures taken by my friend who flew on EVA a few months before my trip:
The dessert was the most disappointing. I felt the fruit (presentation and taste-wise) was not any better than what you get in EVA's economy, and the cherry cheese cake was an absolute disaster. I had about 2 bites before giving up. Maybe I just had bad luck as I've read other reviews talk about dessert carts and generally pretty good offerings (although my return trip wasn't that great either, more on that later). Thankfully, the TWG Tea I tried after did a great job washing the taste away. Loved it!
All the movie-binging during the flight made me hungry...
I woke up from my really good nap a few hours later, as we started making our descent into Taipei. I decided to go freshen up using the provided amenity kit and ordered a cup of coffee. Breakfast was served shortly after. It was pretty good, although nothing extremely spectacular about it. I think the surreal part was the experience of waking up and having breakfast 30,000 ft in the air while watching the sun slowly rise above my home.
EVA's in-flight entertainment (IFE) is a little outdated, especially the monitor (this has been dramatically improved in EVA's new business class offering on the 787 Dreamliner), but overall not too bad. The monitors have to be stowed away for take-off and landing, so you'll have to watch it on a weird angle during these times, and the resolution is on the low side. However, the controller is a nice touch, with good UI and ability for you to control your music without your main screen on during the night. It can also be used as a second monitor to view content, although I wouldn't recommend doing that. The THUNDER headphones provided were also comfortable and had decent noise cancellation.
Service & Overall Experience
The service during the entire flight was incredible. The cabin crew were detail-oriented and always prompt to respond if I needed anything. Not only did the flight attendants address me by name, they also remembered my drink preferences. They also used the time I went to brush my teeth to transform my seat into a lie-flat bed (they offer turndown service where they add a foam padding on your seat) - this exemplified the level of care demonstrated by the flight attendants.
Would I pay $4000+ for this flight? Probably not. But, as mentioned in my previous article, booking this on points is an incredible deal that I would do again in a heartbeat. The flawless service, unparalleled amenity kit, and delicious food are all reasons why I will recommend it to family & friends. I'm also looking forward to trying out their new 787 cabin when travel is safe again!
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