Flying home from Vietnam on EVA Air 777: SGN-TPE-ORD
I had a great time in Vietnam and wanted to stay longer, but I was also looking forward to my EVA Air flights to get back to the USA. I was booked in their 777 Royal Laurel business class on both the flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Taipei and also the long flight from Taipei to Chicago.
I booked the flight using 80,000 Life Miles, which is the mileage program of Avianca, a Colombian airline and Star Alliance member. Life Miles has access to most Star Alliance award availability, but you have to be able to book it on their website. From what I understand their call center does not do well with award bookings.
Life Miles tends to have great sales on mileage purchases–sometimes up to 140% bonus miles, so I was able to take advantage of one of these sales to top up my account and make the award booking. This same award booking could also be made via United’s website for 80,000 Mileage Plus miles. You can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to United very easily and use those miles for your own business class trip to/from Asia.
The check in process in Ho Chi Minh City was very easy. EVA Air had a dedicated line for Royal Laurel class guests and it took us only a few minutes to check in, check our luggage, and go through immigration and security. They provided lounge passes for a shared business class lounge, which was adequate, but nothing exceptional. It had basic food and drinks, free wifi, and a crowded sitting area. I didn’t bother taking any photos of the lounge.
The first EVA Air flight was only a few hours, but still had a nice lie-flat product. The boarding process went smoothly and soon I was stretched out in my seat.
We departed Vietnam on time, and got a nice view of Ho Chi Minh city on departure.
I am not going to review the flight from Ho Chi Minh to Taipei since it was only a few hours and the hard product was almost identical to the flight from Taipei to Chicago. The food and service were both good, and I was able to get a couple hour nap on the flight.
When we arrived in Taipei we had to go through another quick security check and then headed right to the EVA Air business class lounge. I made a quick stop to take a picture with Hello Kitty on the way! The Taipei airport actually has a gate themed with Hello Kitty, which you can see just over my head in the picture below. Worth checking out if you have time.
Flight BR56: EVA Air 777 from TPE (Tapei) to ORD (Chicago-O’Hare)
Soon it was time to board the flight. There were two separate air bridges, one for Royal Laurel class and one for economy. I was greeted warmly and directed to my seat when I got on board. I had selected seat 5D, the second to last row in the business class cabin. Seating on EVA’s 777s is 1-2-1–and the middle seats have plenty of room between, so you aren’t right on top of your neighbor. There was already a nice pillow, slippers, a blanket, and mattress cover at my seat when I arrived.
Shortly after I sat down, one of the flight attendants came by to welcome me and offer me juice or water. Right after she brought my water, she also brought both a food and wine menu, my amenity kit, and a pair of pajamas.
The EVA Air amenity kit is really cool! It is a Rimowa designed case that looks like their luggage–definitely a keeper!
The amenity kit included: socks, earplugs, eye mask, toothbrush/toothpaste, comb/brush combo, a microfiber cloth, and some Melvita branded lotions/lip balm.
After checking out the amenity kit, I took a look at the menu. The menu had both Western and Chinese options on it. The options included a Filet, Sea Bass, or Kung Pao Chicken. Snack options were advertised as available throughout the flight and included stir fry noodles with beef or vegetable, a hamburger, or instant noodles.
The second meal options also had both Western and Chinese options. Additionally it included a “Royal Laurel Special.”
The wine menu was up next! I wanted to make sure I paired my dinner with an appropriate drink selection. As expected, Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006 was the champagne. The red wines were either a Bordeaux or a Malbec. The white wines were either a Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling.
I decided to select the Filet for dinner and start with some Grand Dame with my appetizer courses, and then switch to the French red for the steak. For the second meal, I decided to go with the Western option, although just based on the description, it didn’t really really appeal that much to me. Pork, Turkey and Salad followed by pumpkin cheese ravioli with squid and mussels? Sounded like an odd combination.
Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendant came by with the champagne.
The business class cabin was only about half-full, and service was very attentive during the entire boarding and departure process. As we climbed to our initial cruise altitude, I sipped my champagne and checked out the entertainment selection.
The screens fold out from the seat back in front–but the screens have to be stowed for taxi, take off, and landing, and due to the angle, you really can’t watch anything while the screen is stowed. The movie selection was somewhat limited, but had several new releases.
EVA Air offers noise canceling headphones that are Thunder branded. I haven’t heard of the brand and couldn’t find much online about it. However, the headphones were actually pretty good and I used them for several hours on the flight.
About 45 minutes after take off, the first course was served–Shrimp and Crab in an Egg Crepe with goat cheese on the side. It was followed by liver mousse and smoked salmon. I tried both, but was not a fan of either one. However, the place setting was very nice…a customized EVA Air tablecloth and nice little salt and pepper shakers on a separate bread, butter, and oil plate. The Grand Dame champagne was a very nice touch and I appreciate that EVA Air offers such a premium champagne in business class.
Next came the beetroot and celery soup. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, but it ended up being pretty good. Not sure I would order it on my own at a restaurant, but it had an interesting sweet taste that was better than expected.
The main course was more to my liking. The steak was cooked decently and was tender and the peppercorn sauce was good. The serving of potatoes was too small and a bit dry, but the vegetables were cooked exactly right–not too soggy and not too crisp. I switched to the Bordeaux to accompany the steak. The wine was very good and paired well with the meal.
I was pretty full by the time I finished the steak, so I opted to skip desert and get ready for some sleep. I went to the bathroom to change into my stylish pajamas and when I returned I asked the flight attendants to make my bed. Royal Laurel class offers a nice mattress cover to go over the seat, a good sized pillow, and a thick blanket.
After my bed was made, I was ready to get a few hours of sleep.
The cabin was initially too warm to really get comfortable under the thick blanket, so I asked the crew to make it just a bit cooler. The bed itself was fairly comfortable and the mattress cover was a nice (and appreciated) touch for business class.
I liked that the crew provided bottled water prior to crawling in bed…and when the bottle was empty they just brought another without prompting. The bed was comfortable, and I had plenty of room. I slept for about 5 hours.
When I woke up, I started reading–and within 2 minutes a flight attendant approached my seat and asked if I needed anything. This is the service that really makes a good business class soft product–which was unfortunately lacking on the Asiana flight to Korea that I reviewed here.
I was still full from dinner, so I just asked for another bottle of water and read my book for about an hour before I fell asleep again for about 2 hours.
When I woke up the second time, the second meal was already being served. Since we would be arriving into Chicago around 7pm, EVA opted for more of a second dinner option rather than a breakfast. I still felt like it was morning and still wanted to be on vacation, so I ordered a Bloody Mary and a cappuccino. Both drinks were pretty tasty–the cappuccino was as good as most I have had on land.
Like I mentioned earlier, the second meal sounded a bit odd, and it really wasn’t my taste. However, again, the presentation and service was very nice.
I picked at my second dinner–luckily I wasn’t starving. Soon, we were starting our decent into Chicago. The rest of the flight was uneventful and we arrived in a very cold (below 0 degrees F) Chicago on time.
Overall, I thought that the service on EVA Air business class was significantly better than the business class service on Asiana. There were several other things that I liked about EVA. First, EVA Air offered in flight WiFi, while Asiana did not. Second, EVA Air’s amenity kit, headphones, bedding and pillow, were all superior. Finally, the seat itself was more comfortable to sleep in and I didn’t feel as squished.
On the other hand, I was not a fan of the food on EVA. I thought that overall the meals had odd pairings that didn’t really mesh well together. Nothing stood out as outstanding…though it was mostly edible. Asiana certainly had the better food.
That being said, I think EVA offers a very nice business class product and would not hesitate to fly them again on my next trip to Asia. Their award availability is pretty good and the overall product is well above most other business class products I have flown. For 80,000 miles each way, this ends up being a pretty outstanding deal!