On a relentless round-the-world trip full of brand-new premium products, I had saved the most exciting new experience until nearly the end: EVA Air 787 business class.
The Taipei-based Star Alliance member introduced the latest seat type in business class (stylized as Royal Laurel Class) on their newly-delivered Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2018, and I’ve been dying to try it out for myself ever since, having been blown away by my previous flights on the airline’s 777 business class from Taipei to Toronto and back.
I therefore made every effort to incorporate the EVA Air 787 as part of this round-the-world trip, and was delighted to successfully book myself on EVA Air Flight 61, the one-stop service from Taipei to Vienna via Bangkok, giving me a staggering 17 hours to fully immerse myself in the new product.
Indeed, this flight would come at the tail end of a 53-hour “milk run” from Australia to Europe, which had begun with Virgin Australia to Perth and ANA to Tokyo, and then continued with shorter hops – the details of which we’ll skip over, as I’d prefer to save these reviews for longer flights in the future – on Asiana Airlines to Seoul and then Thai Airways to Taipei.
Let’s pick up the trip report series from there…
With a two-hour layover in Taipei, I headed for EVA Air’s The Infinity Lounge to pass the time before my flight.
EVA Air’s flagship lounge in Taipei tends to get quite busy at certain hours of the day, and when that happens, the Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge could be a better choice. However, occupancy in the Infinity Lounge was pretty thin on this particular evening, so I sat down in a quiet corner and helped myself to some of the lounge’s signature beef noodle soup and Mövenpick ice cream.
I also requested a shower in the lounge, which ended up requiring a pretty long wait. Eventually, a shower room in The Star Lounge opposite us opened up, so I quickly freshened up before hurrying over to the boarding gate. As always, I wanted to board as early as possible in order to snap some nice pictures of the cabin.
To my relief, I arrived just as business class passengers were being called, which I thought would ensure that I was among the first to board…
EVA Air | BR61
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Cabin: Business class
Route: Taipei (TPE) to Vienna (VIE) with a stop in Bangkok (BKK)
Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Time: Departing 10:30pm and arriving 8:25am the next day
Duration: 16 hours 55 minutes
…until I did so via the first door at the front of the Boeing 787, only to discover that a good number of passengers needing special assistance had already taken their place before me!
I quickly shook off my disappointment, though, because the EVA Air 787 business class cabin was nothing short of gleaming at first glance.
With the lights turned low on tonight’s evening departure and the accent lighting on the seats dancing in the dark, the cabin felt more like a spaceship than a Dreamliner. EVA Air apparently took inspiration from a luxury car in crafting their new 787 business class cabin and seats, and the modern design identity really shines through – I’ve never seen a business class seat that looks quite as sharp and futuristic, even among products that were introduced later than it.
(I do concede that some travellers might find the snazzy spaceship feel to be more garish than gorgeous, but personally, I must say that it was exactly to my taste.)
As I made my way over to Seat 7A – one of 32 staggered seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration across eight rows, and among the window seats that are closer to the window rather than closer to the aisle – I couldn’t wait to start exploring all the features that the seat had to offer.
A cream-coloured plush pillow was waiting for me at the seat, and as soon as I made myself comfortable, I was greeted by a flight attendant at my seat (who addressed me in Mandarin) and offered a welcome beverage of my choice.
With my Veuve Cliquot champagne served immediately upon taking my seat, the high level of service I had come to expect from EVA Air was off to a very good start.
Let’s take a look around then, shall we? An 18’’ entertainment screen dominates your field of vision, mounted against the seat back in front of you. Next to that, a large and ergonomically designed literature pocket extends outwards just far enough to cradle all of the reading material within, and no further.
I was very happy with the size of the footwell, which didn’t feel very restrictive at all thanks to the boxy, straight-edged shape of these EVA Air seats with very little curvature on them. The space underneath the footwell was made into a sloped surface to rest your feet, instead of a space for luggage storage, so your larger carry-on items would need to be stowed in the overhead bins.
Let’s continue to the seat console, which I thought was one of the most well-designed parts of the seat as a whole.
A sleek white surface conveys a sense of spaciousness, and I really felt like I had my own little office desk to the side, in addition to the tray table in front of me, which I was free to use for any purpose I wanted during the 17-hour journey.
All of the features here at the seat console felt like they were in exactly the right place. Check out your in-seat control panel, for example, including the USB and power ports and the headphone jack. The LED backlit buttons, the mini-surface of polished wood, the subtle lighting on the underside of the control panel – does this seat scream ultra-modern luxury or what?!
A frosted divider slides outwards from the seat shell, giving you an additional measure of privacy. If you found yourself seated in one of the middle seats next to a stranger, then this divider would nicely partition off your respective personal spaces from each other.
Situated closer to you along the inner wall of the seat was the entertainment controller. I found the IFE system to be close enough to reach out and control via the touch-screen most of the time, so didn’t end up making use of the separate controller too much.
Then we arrive at the main in-seat storage compartment, which opens up to reveal a vanity mirror and two decent-sized storage units: one that contained the headphones, and another that contained nothing for now, but would be fitted with the amenity kit once the Bangkok–Vienna segment of the flight commenced (it’s worth noting that passengers who were solely flying Taipei–Bangkok did not receive an amenity kit on this flight).
There’s another, more simplified set of seat controls underneath the console surface, which allows for easier access when the seat is in lie-flat mode.
Above that is the push-button for the tray table, which swings outwards from within the console as a single wooden surface.
This is also where you find one disadvantage to the window seats that are closer to the window in these staggered seat types: while I generally prefer these seats over the window seats that are closer to the aisle, since they provide more privacy, they do make it harder to get up from your seat when the tray table is deployed, because the shape of its movement path basically blocks you from exiting.
My overall impression of the EVA Air Dreamliner business class seat was that it’s extremely well-balanced, scoring high marks in all the important criteria: comfort, privacy, functionality, storage, and visual appeal. I sat back and sipped on my champagne, savouring my stunning surroundings as my fellow passengers completed the boarding process.
The purser and a few other flight attendants also came by to greet me and welcome me to the flight, hand-delivering a few of the in-flight items in the process. There were the pajamas by Jason Wu…
…as well as the dining and beverage menus, which were just as beautifully designed as I remembered them from my previous flights on EVA Air.
There would be a grand total of three main meals being served along the journey from Taipei to Bangkok to Vienna. EVA Air allows you to pre-order your main dishes from a wider menu prior to your flight, and so the crew member verified my meal selections with me: Taiwan-style braised beef noodles for the first meal, deep-fried lobster with teriyaki sauce and rice for the second, and smoked salmon casserole with apple slices for the third.
I confirmed all three selections very enthusiastically, and she let me know that she’d give me a few minutes to browse the menu and decide on the other courses of the meal and the accompanying beverages.
The dining menu read as follows:
- 1 of 10
- 2 of 10
- 3 of 10
- 4 of 10
- 5 of 10
- 6 of 10
- 7 of 10
- 8 of 10
- 9 of 10
- 10 of 10
Meanwhile, the beverage menu read as follows:
- 1 of 12
- 2 of 12
- 3 of 12
- 4 of 12
- 5 of 12
- 6 of 12
- 7 of 12
- 8 of 12
- 9 of 12
- 10 of 12
- 11 of 12
- 12 of 12
Eventually, the flight attendant returned to confirm my remaining selections for the first meal on the Taipei–Bangkok segment, including which drinks I’d like to be served right after takeoff.
She also offered a top-up of my champagne, but during the process, I accidentally spilled half a glass of the bubbly on myself – oops! I was very kindly offered to switch seats to an empty window seat on the opposite side of the cabin, but decided to simply let my seat air out on its own.
The cabin lights were dimmed for takeoff, leaving only a few atmospheric purple streaks of light to set the mood as we prepared for takeoff. It was also at this point that I began to doze off in my seat, the exhaustion of a long antipodal journey catching up with me as we sped off into the night bound for Bangkok.
I awoke after a 20-minute nap, upon which we had already climbed to cruising altitude.
I spent a few minutes browsing through EVA Air’s highly advanced Star Gallery in-flight entertainment system. The touch-screen was instantly responsive, the UI/UX experience was gracefully laid out to match modern sensibilities, and the movie and television selection was varied and plentiful.
I particularly liked the ability to filter for movies or television shows based on your mood, which shows you how much thought was put into all aspects of this newer-generation EVA Air business class seat.
As usual, I decided to check out the airshow as well, which was the Panasonic software that’s used by quite a few airlines these days. The moving map showed our flight path to Bangkok for now, and would reset for the Bangkok–Vienna flight once that journey commenced.
Service would begin with the beverages I had ordered earlier: a glass of Château La Louvière white wine from Bordeaux, as well as a mug of EVA Air’s signature matcha milk tea drink (of which I intended to consume as many helpings as possible while onboard), all served with a ramekin of mixed nuts and snacks.
For me, sampling the breadth of a varied drink menu is one of the most enjoyable parts of the business class experience, and I wasn’t about to let an EVA Air business class flight pass by without fully loading up on beverages.
The service continued at a good pace about 10 minutes later, with my table being set and the appetizer of smoked salmon with shrimp and potato salad being served on a single tray. While I was somewhat surprised that a single tray was used instead of each plate being set down on the table individually, it would later become clear that this was only an “express” meal on the Taipei–Bangkok leg, with the main meal service to come later on the long-haul segment.
Having polished off my wine, I then switched back to the Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame 2008 champagne to go with the food, which blended nicely with the indulgent flavours of the salmon and shrimp.
I was also offered my choice of warm bread, and I opted for a few slices of garlic bread, which was delicious.
My plate was cleared almost immediately after I finished the appetizer, and the main course of braised beef noodles, served with spring onion sauce on the side, would follow only a few minutes after that. Needless to say, the pace and attentiveness of the meal service was quite impressive thus far, as the crew actively kept the service flow going in order to maximize passengers’ rest time before arrival in Bangkok.
Unfortunately, while the main course tasted very savoury, the texture as pretty stale on the inside – a result of the dish being unevenly reheated prior to being served. In fairness, it can be tough to serve such a sauce-laden dish correctly on a plane, so I probably could’ve also pre-ordered my meal more wisely in the first place.
I washed it all down with a light fruit plate and a cup of oolong tea, and the entire meal service was wrapped up within an hour or so, just as we were flying over the South China Sea.
Two hours of the journey remained en route to Bangkok, so I quickly headed to the restroom before getting some rest. As you would expect, EVA Air’s business class restrooms were kept in mint condition throughout the flight, and I really appreciated the large bottles of Acqua Colonia premium amenities on offer.
Since I wouldn’t get to rest for too long anyway, I didn’t bother to fully make my bed before closing my eyes, instead simply sneaking in a quick nap for the one and a half hours or so before we’d descend into Bangkok.
I was eventually instructed to put my seat into its default position for landing, but continued to doze off all the way until we had pulled up at the gate.
As with most international one-stop services, passengers making the entire journey are still required to deplane at the intermediate stop and board again later on. And so, taking all my belongings with me, I stumbled into Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport groggy and bleary-eyed at the ungodly hour of 2:40am.
There was definitely a surreal element to the journey by this point, given my sleep-deprived state. I briefly sat down on one of the airport benches, wondering where in the world I was and how I had gotten here, before I followed the flow of fellow Vienna-bound passengers to re-clear security and head to the boarding gate.
I made my way through the security queue – laptops-out and all – wishing the entire time to be reunited with my comfortable EVA Air seat as soon as possible. There were still about 30 minutes of our 80-minute pit stop in Bangkok left to go, though, so I slowly meandered throughout the hallways of a relatively empty Suvarnabhumi Airport towards our boarding gate.
But along the way, I discovered… wait, what’s this? A Turkish Airlines lounge? Here in Bangkok?
It turns out that the Turkish Airlines Lounge was one of the several Star Alliance lounges here in Bangkok, and as an EVA Air premium passenger, I’d have access to the lounge during my brief time at the airport. As if this groggy layover didn’t feel surreal enough already, why not snack on some Turkish flatbread and tea while I waited?
If I had more energy, I would’ve also liked to lounge-hop my way across to the EVA Air Lounge itself, the Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge, or one of the many Thai Airways Royal Orchid Lounges as well, but instead, I simply took up a spot in one of the Turkish Lounge’s run-of-the-mill seating areas and ground out some work on my laptop while I had an internet connection.
Soon enough, it was time to re-board EVA Air Flight 61, and I mercifully made my way into the priority boarding queue to take up my spot in Seat 7A once again, which, to my delight, had been nicely primped up back into its original mint condition for the onward journey.
Interestingly, the previous flight crew had been replaced by a new crew for the Bangkok–Vienna portion of the journey, so everyone came by again to reintroduce themselves, distribute many of the same items as before, and confirm the remaining two meal selections that I had pre-ordered.
I passed on the pre-departure alcohol this time around, instead ordering my second helping of matcha milk tea for the night.
I also stayed awake long enough to catch a glimpse of EVA Air’s safety video this time around – an impressive creative production drawing upon elements of traditional Chinese dance to highlight all of the usual safety notices.
Another pushback, another takeoff – and another impromptu nap in my sleep as I succumbed to my circadian rhythms.
This time, I only awoke after the meal service had already begun, and the crew member mentioned that they had held off on heating up my food since I was sleeping, so I would have to wait for a few minutes before I could eat.
As I waited, I decided to connect to the wifi, since I also hoped to get some work done at some point during the 10-hour journey to Vienna. EVA Air’s in-flight wifi is pretty fast, but it does come at a cost of US$15 for a 100MB pass and US$30 for a 300MB pass.
I decided to go with a 100MB pass, which was a mistake, since I quickly used up most of that data uploading my Instagram stories from the flight, and in hindsight I definitely should’ve chosen the 300MB pass to start with.
Anyway, normal service soon resumed with another glass of Veuve Cliquot, accompanying the amuse bouche of a shrimp salsa and a thin-sliced beef roll with asparagus, both served atop a slice of baguette. While I polished off the shrimp portion heartily, I didn’t like the beef and asparagus combination very much.
I was also very happy to see that the table setting was much more refined this time around, with a separate platter for the bread and butter and every course being carefully laid down plate-by-plate, compared to the single tray used during the earlier “express” meal service.
Now, the appetizer course here made for the single occasion when the EVA Air flight crew missed the mark with their service: I was never actually consulted on which appetizer I would prefer between the Western zucchini potato pesto soup and the Chinese vegetarian mushroom soup, and was simply served the Chinese option without being asked.
I don’t like mushrooms very much at all, so I only took a few sips and passed on the rest. I guess I could’ve asked for a replacement bowl of soup, but I really wasn’t in the mood to do so, since zucchini potato pesto soup didn’t sound very appetizing to me either.
It was just somewhat surprising to encounter this kind of misstep onboard EVA Air, although thankfully it would turn out to be the only notable service flaw during this flight.
Portion the third of matcha milk tea would grace my table at the same time as the main course: deep-fried lobster with teriyaki sauce, served with steamed rice. As I had expected, this ended up being easily the best meal of the entire flight, as the lobster flavour shone through wonderfully in a complex texture of crunchiness on the outside and tenderness on the inside.
An excellent dish all around, and one that I’d highly recommend pre-ordering if you have the option of doing so prior to your EVA Air business class flight.
Regrettably, I forgot to take a picture of the mango sticky rice that followed. Mango sticky rice is one of my favourite desserts, which I’ll order almost every time I eat at a Thai restaurant, and EVA Air’s altitudinal version did not disappoint in the slightest.
The second meal service of the evening came to an end as we reached the Indian Subcontinent. At this point, I realized that I was still way too tired, and would need to get some proper rest first before I’d have any hope of getting any work done.
It was now the time to change into my Jason Wu pajamas, whose asymmetric button-up collar makes it among the most stylish airline pajamas that have ever entered into my collection. I usually assess airline pajamas by how likely I am to continue using them as pajamas at home, but in the case of this Jason Wu masterpiece, I regularly wear them out on the street these days as a simple athleisure top!
I also finally got around to checking out the Salvatore Ferragamo hard-shell amenity kit, which was added to my in-seat storage compartment at the start of the Bangkok–Vienna flight. I have fond memories of the Rimowa hard-shell kits that EVA Air used to distribute, but they had just phased those out by the time I took this flight, replacing them with an equally high-quality product by Ferragamo.
In addition to a trio of premium Ferragamo creams and lotions, the inclusion of a cloth for cleaning eyeglasses was a pleasant surprise for me – I could finally replace the cloth I had gotten on Air Canada business class over a year ago!
This time around, I asked the crew to help prepare my bed for sleep as I headed to the restroom.
A soft pink mood lighting had descended upon the cabin when I returned, and I laid down and got very comfortable under the covers.
In lie-flat mode, the EVA Air 787 business class seat has a pretty standard width, along with a satisfactory amount of legroom in the footwell that allowed me to bend my legs quite freely while I slept.
I should note that the bed does feel rather cocooned compared to the elevated seat console, so if you’re prone to feeling claustrophobic, then one of the seats that are closer to the aisle might be a slightly better fit for you.
The cabin lights were swiftly dimmed completely, leaving only the soft glow of EVA Air’s signature starry-night lighting on the ceiling, as I finally fell into some proper slumber for the next five hours or so.
By the time I woke up once again somewhere over the Caucasus, I was definitely in the mood to start counting down the hours until arriving in Vienna.
An extended premium cabin experience sounds quite appealing at the start of the 17-hour journey, but admittedly, it all starts to get a little old by the 14th hour or so.
Thankfully, there was still an entire snack menu (or “Leisure Delights” as it’s known here on EVA Air) – an absolute must-try when flying on the premium Asian airlines, as far as I’m concerned – to keep me occupied. I ordered a steamed taro cake with soy paste dressing, as well as a portion of instant noodles served in a premium bowl. Delicious stuff all around, although I must say I was getting pretty stuffed to the brim by this point!
A mug of 1837 Black Tea by renowned Singaporean tea house TWG Tea washed it all down…
…and that was followed about an hour later by a glass of orange juice and UCC iced coffee, the latter hitting the spot just right prior to our morning arrival in Europe.
A fruit plate kicked off the final meal service of the flight, along with my choice of cereal and muesli. I selected the muesli, which was delivered alongside a self-serve milk pitcher – another thoughtful service touch that few other airlines around the world offer in business class.
Finally, it was time for the third and last pre-ordered meal to be served on this EVA Air extravaganza: smoked salmon French toast casserole, with apple slices. To be honest, this was probably my least favourite dish out of the three: while the casserole square was flavourful, I felt that the various ingredients clashed with each other a little aggressively.
A top-up to my iced coffee was the final installment to the seemingly endless sequence of food and drink on this flight, and I took great pleasure in sitting back and allowing my stomach to settle as the captain announced our descent into Vienna International Airport.
The sun had just about risen fully by this point, so I brightened my electronic window shades and watched our touchdown all the way into a gloomy Central European morning, savouring the final moments of a flight from which I had expected 17 hours of pure bliss and ultimately received nothing less.
After being extremely impressed by both of my previous flights on EVA Air’s 777s, I had lofty expectations for the premium cabin experience on the Taipei-based airline’s new Dreamliner service, and I’m happy to say that those expectations were met very comprehensively.
The new hard product on the 787 is exceedingly well-designed, harmonizing all of the important elements of a business class seat into a unified whole, and in my view makes for an even better experience than the reverse herringbone seats on the 777s.
Moreover, EVA Air’s in-flight service principles are among the world’s best, and the two crews working this flight were consistently friendly and attentive in taking care of me, both during the meal services and in checking up on me throughout the flight. Despite one significant service mishap – when my appetizer preference wasn’t registered during the second meal – I still walked away from the flight feeling very well looked after.
Like one of my two previous flights on EVA Air, the food quality was one relative weak point compared to everything else about the flight. While I appreciate the ability to pre-order meals from a wide-ranging menu, I wasn’t too blown away by the meals at the beginning and end, and only the lobster dish in the middle felt on par with the overall quality that EVA Air is striving for.
Ultimately, there are very few business class products in the world I’d rather fly than EVA Air, and that impression would only be amplified if the airline does improve its hit-or-miss catering in the future. I’d highly encourage you to give EVA Air 787 business class a try if you get the chance – you won’t regret it.