Review: EVA Air Royal Laurel Class 777-300ER Taipei to Houston for only $80!
EVA Air is mostly known for their quirky Hello Kitty decorated planes, but they also carry the distinction of being one of the 10 best airlines in the world and a SKYTRAX designated 5-star airline.
When looking for our return flights home, EVA Air presented an opportunity to try another of the world’s best airlines for minimal cost using points earned through our Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
EVA Air is a Star Alliance member, which opens up excellent partner award booking opportunities on United, Singapore, and more. With a lot of United MileagePlus miles to use, I started the search for our flights home on the United site hoping to find good partner award availability.
We needed to get from Bangkok all the way to our home in Lubbock, and when the search returned EVA Air availability for the trans-Pacific leg, it immediately jumped out at me as the best way to put our United miles to good use. The itinerary had us traveling on EVA Air metal from Bangkok (BKK) to EVA Air’s hub in Taipei (TPE) then to Houston (IAH), before jumping on a short United Express flight to our home in LBB.
The entire award cost us 80,000 United MileagePlus miles plus $80 in taxes each. We already had more than 70,000 United miles, and the rest was transferred from our stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio.
BKK to TPE on EVA Air Airbus A330-300.
The main attraction was the flight between Taipei and Houston aboard EVA’s 777-300ER, but I’ll quickly touch on the flight between Bangkok and Taipei since it was also part of the award ticket. The flight departure time was quite late at 2am, but having already checked out of our hotel, we decided to head to the airport and enjoy some lounge time. EVA recently opened their own lounge in BKK, and overall it was pretty nice with a good selection of food and drink.
The business class cabin of the A330-300, dubbed “Premium Laurel” class, consists of five rows of seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, for a total of 30 seats. Despite the crowded configuration, I still found the seat comfortable, and the cabin was new and clean. Since it was so late, and I had filled up in the lounge, I passed on inflight service hoping to get as much sleep as possible so we could maximize our layover time in Taipei.
TPE to IAH on EVA Air Boeing 777-300ER Royal Laurel Class
We had a long layover in Taipei so we decided to see a bit of the city. That meant having to go through security and immigration again when we got back to Tayoun International Aiport. Even though we already had boarding passes since we received them in Bangkok, we thought we’d check out the dedicated Hello Kitty check in station, which is exclusively for passengers flying one of EVA Air’s Hello Kitty decorated flights.
Houston was being served by a Hello Kitty plane at some point, but EVA’s website was kind of confusing on whether or not this was still the case. I was holding out hope that we might get to experience the craziness of a Hello Kitty flight, but alas when we tried to check in using the kiosk we were informed that our flight wasn’t eligible.
Business class passengers get access to a sort of two-in-one lounge at Tayoun International Airport, with both being served by the same entrance. To the right when you enter is the Infinity lounge, a retro-futuristic and colorful lounge that presumably laid the blueprint for the design of the Bangkok lounge. To the left is the Star lounge, which is much more subdued and typical of many other airport lounges. It’s a little odd that its split up that way, but I guess you get the option of choosing how you want to pass the time.
At the entrance of the lounge is a creepy robot with an info screen on it. Its head and eyes follow you around as you pass by.
Upon arrival we spent a few hours in the Infinity lounge eating some breakfast and taking a nap before heading out into Taipei since we didn’t get a whole lot of sleep the night before. We were probably an annoyance to other guests since there wasn’t a good place for napping and we ended up taking up room on some bench seats along the back wall. We only later discovered reclining lounge chairs all the way in the back of the Star lounge which would have been a much better option for napping.
Both the Infinity and Star lounges had nearly identical offerings on their buffet, the only difference we noticed was the ice cream selection. A robust self-serve drink selection was also available. As far as the food selection and quality, I would say the offerings on display at the Bangkok lounge were more appetizing then the Taipei lounges, which is odd given that TPE is EVA’s hub.
Despite the disappointing food, the lounge still boasted several other amenities we appreciated, the top of the list being lockers. We were able to safely stash our luggage away for the day while we explored Taipei which was greatly appreciated. Also a number of showers were available for guests, which were all very nicely appointed despite the odd names assigned to them such as “Fantasy Flow” and “Smile Zone.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
We managed to be the first ones aboard the plane which allowed us to snap a few pictures of the empty cabin. Dubbed “Royal Laurel” class, EVA Air’s 777-300ER business class has 9 rows arranged in 1-2-1 configuration with another mini row of two middle seats for a total of 38 seats. In addition to the Royal Laurel cabin, there are also 64 premium economy “Elite” class seats, and 211 standard economy seats.
The cabin is decorated with EVA’s green color scheme, and under the lighting of the cabin was almost ghastly. With the lack of added flourishes, the cabin was almost sterile, like a hospital ward. That’s odd, considering how over the top EVA Air goes for their Hello Kitty themed flights. Somewhere in between would be a nice balance, but this minor aesthetic quibble didn’t damper our enthusiam for the rest of the flight.
After taking our seats a flight attendant quickly greeted us and asked if we’d like a welcome drink. EVA Air is one of the few airlines that serves Krug in its business class, so I went with that, and it didn’t disappoint. I may or may not have had a bottle’s worth throughout the flight 🙂
We were then presented with our amenity kits and pajamas for the flight, both of which were stellar. EVA Air hands out Rimowa-branded kits, the only airline to offer these in business class. The hard case makes for a great collectible, and inside was a nicely appointed selection of Harnn beauty products as well as the standards (eye mask, eag plugs, socks, dental kit).
The Apujan-branded pajamas were stellar as well. Again, it’s rare for an airline to offer pajamas in business class, and the ones offered by EVA were not only adequate but exceptional. The large size given to me fit very well and were extremely comfortable. They made it into my bag and I’ve been enjoying them at home since the flight.
Between offering Krug, a Rimowa amenity kit, and Apujan pajamas, EVA Air had already cemented themselves as a highly desirable business class product.
After playing an odd, animated safety video (what else would you expect from a Taiwanese airline?) we were off on the 13 hour flight to Houston.
Seat and Bed
EVA Air’s Royal Laurel business class seats utilize a reverse herringbone design, which is one of the most popular layouts for business class cabins on airlines across the world. There are pros and cons to this layout, and the way EVA implements it.
The seat itself is 26″ wide with a pitch of 81″ and a bed length of 78″. I found the seat to be reasonably comfortable at first, firm yet supportive, but after a fews hours in the sky the fabric upholstery started to get uncomfortable. Fortunately, EVA performs a turn down service and adds a thin mattress pad to the seat when you’re ready for bed, but even in upright mode the pad adds to the comfort of the seat.
The biggest issue I had with the seat is that it kind of wants you to sit in it a certain way. Despite the fairly generous width of the seat, with the arm rests and side table around you, there isn’t much room to shift and adjust your weight if you get uncomfortable being in one position for too long. You pretty much have to lay straight like a mummy or else an elbow or knee will be hitting something. If you like to curl up a bit when you lay down, you may have difficulty finding the right position.
Despite that, I still found the bed to be more comfortable for sleeping than the bed on the Singapore 777-300ER business class flight that we flew to start our trip. Comparing the two, Singapore had the better seat, but EVA had the better bed. I managed to get 6 hours of sleep during the flight only waking up a few times.
Another quibble: the IFE screen has to be folded away during take off and landing. This isn’t the case on all airlines with reverse herringbone seats, but it was the case on EVA’s 777.
Speaking of IFE, there was a solid selection of Hollywood films to choose from, as well as TV shows, music and games. I was able to squeeze in three movies during the flight: Fences and The Accountant before some shuteye, and Allied after waking.
The remote acts as a second screen so you can track the air show while watching a movie on the large 15.4″ main screen.
The screen quality was average. The matte finish made the image a little dull and low contrast. This is probably the one area of the flight that could use definite improvement.
Wi-fi was also available on the flight, but in my tiredness I forgot to check if it was reasonably priced. Other reports suggest an unlimited package can be had for a decent rate, but that may vary by route.
Dining and Service
EVA Air’s dining service was exceptional. We were handed a menu before takeoff with the choices for the flight. Royal Laurel passengers get to order from the Royal Laurel menu, but are also able to choose selections off the Star menu for the premium economy “Elite” passengers as well. Wanting to experience the best we stuck to the Royal Laurel options.
Everything was quite excellent, far superior to the dining aboard our Singapore flight to start the trip.
Scoll through the above slideshow to get an idea of the menu and drink options available. In addition to the aforementioned Krug, there was also a very good selection of wines and spirits.
While overall the menu was rather limited, we were impressed by the quality and presentation of the food. Everything was served at a good clip. When one course was finished, it was quickly removed and the next one brought, highlighting the impeccable service that earned EVA Air it’s 5-star distinction. The crew was very good at being responsive without being intrusive.
We arrived in Houston ahead of schedule and were sad to leave EVA Air our flight behind knowing a short jump on a cramped United Express lay ahead of us. EVA’s service definitely exceeded our expectations, and made for a very enjoyable way to cross the Pacific. On the service front, they are very worthy of their 5-star rating.
A less-sterile interior (but not necessarily Hello Kitty crazy!) would have been nice, and despite not being a fan of the reverse herringbone layout, this isn’t a good enough reason to avoid them since that layout is popular on many business class offerings. If a chance arises again to fly EVA Air’s Royal Laurel class, we would definitely jump at it.
If you want to take flights like this for next to nothing, start earning points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card! The sign up bonus alone with you get a long way toward enjoying luxury and comfort at 40,000 feet.