This is the third and final installment of my multi-city trip to Asia last October.
San Francisco to Tokyo
Tokyo to Taipei
Taipei to San Francisco
After 3 weeks in Japan and Taiwan, it was time to head home. Currently, Star Alliance doesn't offer any nonstop flights between Taipei (TPE) and San Francisco, so my option was to either stopover in Narita with United or in Seoul (ICN) with Thai Airways. Because I have yet to fly on Thai Airways and have never been to ICN, I opted for the Seoul stopover.
TPE to ICN on Thai Airways business class
My flight was delayed by 45 minutes, which would cut my connecting flight in ICN very close as I only had a 1 1/2 hour layover. Thai Airways scales down on their hard product for short-haul flights. Whereas long-haul flights from Bangkok to LAX will have premium flatbed seats, 2 1/2 hour flights such as mine were nothing more than large recliner seats.
ICN to SFO on United Airlines business class
Thanks to Thai Airways' delayed flight, I nearly missed my connection and arrived at the gate just minutes before boarding began. This was a bummer as I missed out on Asiana's Lounge at ICN. Surprisingly, United Airlines' business class is one of the better transpacific hard products. The seats were long and offered 180 degrees of true flatbed. The biggest gripe about the seats is the lack of any type of storage. United expects any and all carry-ons to be held in the overhead bins.
I saved the worst for last. If anything, I learned that food and service are more valuable than having a good flatbed seat. Subpar service kills any flight experience, and United really hits the mark on that one. If you're planning on using your award miles for transpacific travel in a premium cabin, go for the legacy Asian carriers as United almost never fails to disappoint. Eva Airlines, which offers nonstop service from TPE to SFO, LAX, and New York, is scheduled to join Star Alliance by mid-2013, and their new business class suites are sure to impress. United Airlines will initiate nonstop service between SFO and TPE in March 2013, but no thanks.