Indonesia’s island paradise of Bali is very, very far away from Toronto, and our Christmas trip started with what would typically be a dread-inducing 15-hour flight to Taipei. But with EVA Air taking us across the Pacific, I had no reason to fret, and instead I was looking to rediscover the amazing time I had on EVA in the opposite direction back in the summer.
Since I’ve already written an extensive review of that flight, I won’t be doing the same again. After all, stuff like the business class seat features wouldn’t have changed much, if at all. Instead, I’ll do a quick post focusing on the soft product (amenities, food and drink, and service) to show why EVA Air continues to be one of the airlines in the sky with the most impressive business class.
Before the Flight
One of the things I found was relatively lacking on my previous flight with EVA was the quality of the onboard dining. While the food had been edible and somewhat tasty, there was nothing truly outstanding about it. Only after my flight, however, did I discover that EVA lets you pre-book gourmet meals for your long-haul flights, and they have some truly mouthwatering options.
Chalking my disappointing food experience last time down to a lack of due diligence, I made sure not to commit the same mistake again. This time around, I was poring over the advance meal selection menu as soon as online check-in opened.
Note that you have the option of selecting dishes that would otherwise be available on the in-flight menu, as well as special dishes which must be reserved in advance, which are denoted with a green circle. After careful deliberation, I settled on the obvious choice: lobster – stir-fried with XO sauce for myself, and Lobster Thermidor for Jessica.
Of course, I also went ahead with pre-flight seat selection. Having sat in a window seat last time when I was travelling on my own, this time I picked 7D and 7G, two seats that “face” each other along the centre of the cabin, both with full aisle access.
EVA’s long-haul flights to North America are oddly timed: the eastbound flights typically depart in the evening and arrive very late at night, and then the westbound flights take place in the wee hours of the morning, getting into Taipei around sunrise. At Toronto Pearson, this makes EVA Air’s flight to Taipei the very last flight out of the night, with a departure time of 12:45am.
For this reason, one of the first things that the flight attendants ask you as you settle into your seat is whether you’d like to take your meal immediately after takeoff, or at some later time after getting some sleep. It’s very thoughtful that they give you this choice, because even though I had opted to eat after takeoff, I felt quite sleepy indeed by the time the dinner service actually came around.
Jessica and I hung out for a bit as we enjoyed our welcome champagne. The reverse herringbone seats down the middle of the cabin are pretty great if you’re travelling as a couple. You can lean forwards a bit to see each other, or sit back to enjoy your seat for yourself. Best of all, the way the entertainment monitors are stowed means that you can watch an in-flight movie together with your partner, which is something that not many business class seats allow you to do comfortably.
One thing I should note: in my review of my flight from Taipei to Toronto, I had noted how impressed I was that the amenity kit, menu, pajamas, and headphones were all distributed individually by the crew members prior to the flight.
Aboard the Toronto to Taipei service, however, all the items were already waiting for me at my seat by the time I boarded. So it appears that you can expect to be personally handed your items for the flight aboard EVA Air only when originating from Taipei.
Props to EVA Air for a significantly better onboard food showing this time around. I’m not sure if ordering the special meals beforehand played a major role in this, but I’m inclined to believe so – after all, the whole point of the advance food selections is to allow EVA to offer passengers a very wide range or gourmet dishes while keeping its onboard catering manageable.
The amuse-bouche was a very palatable dollop of goose liver together with some cheese on a cracker.
After the amuse bouche, the crew came by to set my table and offer me a selection from the breadbasket, followed by the appetizer. Jessica and I love our seafood, so we found the appetizer of shrimp and seared albacore tuna to be very satisfying.
For the main course, I was very curious how the lobster dishes would taste, given that it’s a tricky dish to prepare for consumption at 35,000 feet in the air. I was not disappointed with my stir-fried lobster in XO sauce, which was delicious albeit a little heavy on the sauce.
The real winner, however, was Jessica’s Lobster Thermidor. While the freshness of the lobster will obviously pale in comparison to a meal on the ground, the creamy flavour really came through nonetheless.
To drink, I had ordered one of the most eye-catching items on EVA Air’s drinks menu: the matcha milk tea. I’m sure it doesn’t compare to what you’d get at a tea shop in Taipei, but I still savoured its decadent taste over quite a few mugs’ worth. I went easy on the champagne this time, because I did hope to get some good sleep over the course of the 15-hour flight.
I slept for about six hours after the meal service concluded, waking up just as we were passing over Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. 15 hours is a long time, and I spent the remainder of the flight on-and-off relaxing in my seat and working on a couple of blog posts.
The in-flight wifi, which only costs US$21 for a 24-hour pass, was a bit on the slow side, and disconnected rather frequently. A smoother wifi experience is one of the few improvements I would suggest for EVA Air.
With about five hours of the flight remaining, I got a little peckish and decided to order some instant noodles. Just like my last EVA flight, the noodles were presented in a beautiful bowl. I also ordered some of their 1837 Black Tea, another old favourite, to enjoy alongside my snack.
Apparently shocked that I was content with snacking on instant noodles (hey, I’m a man of simple pleasures), the flight attendant also insisted that I try some of their “featured” light snack, the fried noodles with chicken. It was tasty though a little salty, and I needed some more of that 1837 Black Tea to wash it all down.
Breakfast was served about an hour and a half prior to landing, as we were passing over the southern coast of Japan's Honshu island.
The choice was given between Chinese and Western options; out of curiosity, I decided to try the Western breakfast, which consisted of assorted fruit, bread, a choice between cereal and yogurt, and a choice between a wild mushroom ragout and a spinach and mozzarella frittata.
As you can probably tell, this airline likes to dazzle hungry passengers with choices galore. As though my selection of the Western breakfast – followed by cereal over yogurt and the frittata over the ragout – were not granular enough, I was then asked to choose between cornflakes and muesli for my cereal. Oh EVA Air, you’re too good to me!
I went with the muesli, which came with a cute little metal jug for the milk.
The spinach frittata also hit the spot pretty well, as did a few bites that I had of Jessica’s porridge from the Chinese menu.
By this time, the 15-hour mark was upon us, and I was getting a little restless. Looking back, though, it’s clear to me that there’s no other business class product I’d rather have flown on the long journey to Bali.
EVA Air left me with lots of good impressions on my previous flight with them, and this flight only reinforced my belief that the airline’s tagline of “The Best Link to Cross the Pacific” absolutely holds water. I’m thankful to have easy access to such a consistently outstanding business class option, and my only fear is that their excellent award availability may dry up any day!