Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 Grand Finale: Eva Airlines economy class CTS-TPE-HKG

2013 Grand Finale lineup

Eva Airlines economy class CTS-TPE-HKG
Cathay Pacific biz HKG-TPE
Japan Airlines economy class TPE-NRT
American Airlines biz NRT-LAX

As the final frontier of 2013, I embarked on an intra-Asia holiday trip before heading home for Christmas.  With Eva Airlines miles on the verge of expiring, it was the perfect opportunity to use it or lose it, and what better destination in North Asia than HKG?

CTS international terminal

Eva Airlines operates one flight per day during the winter from CTS-TPE.  As Hokkaido is a popular destination for Taiwanese tourists, the A330 is often full of leisure travelers who flood the economy class check-in desk and security line.  Fortunately, as a Star Alliance Gold member with Turkish Airlines, I was able to bypass the long check-in and boarding lines.  Since Eva just joined Star Alliance last July, their system is far from being fully integrated, and there's always the fear that *G benefits aren't properly implemented, which was the case when I flew last November.  Fortunately for this time around, lounge access was no problem in both CTS and TPE, which would prove important with a 2 1/2 hour layover.

1,500 yen in food credit or a subpar lounge?  Depends on whether you had lunch or not.

Since the CTS Royal Lounge is a joke acknowledged even by Eva, you're given the option of either lounge access or 1,500 yen (~$15 USD) in food credit at the food court.  Without a full lunch, I opted for food credit since I can't value this lounge access at 1,500 yen.

Just your average food court selection in Japan: filling but nothing more

Hello Kitty plane

As it would suggest, Taiwanese people think of Japan as the sole home of Hello Kitty such to the extent that one of their flag carriers soups up their planes flying to Japan with the iconic cat.  Even the food items resemble the pink feline.

Nothing like getting an emergency exit seat, but economy will always be economy no matter the carrier or the seat.

A 4 1/2 hour intra-Asia flight is the upper limit where your miseries are yet to set in from a small seat.  But you'll never be able to complain about a mileage redemption flight baring a crash landing.

TPE Eva Airlines biz lounge

As by far the largest airport in Taiwan, TPE is a Skyteam and *A hub.  The airport specializes in duty free stores galore and, of course, Hello Kitty decor.  I headed directly to the Eva biz lounge upon landing for some dinner.

The lounge had what you'd expect out of international hub lounge in Asia: hot buffet food items, ample seating, and a premium alcohol selection.

Although not spectacular, the lounge is acceptable and the food is sufficient.  The best treat is the generous ice cream selection, which most lounges skimp out on or avoid all together.  In comparison, the lounge is equivalent to the Thai Airways lounge: one step ahead of the Korean Airlines lounge and one below the JAL and ANA hub lounges.

As Messi and Kobe would point out in their Turkish Airlines commercial, "Ice cream?" "Si."

Bottom line

Eva Airlines offers a respectable intra-Asian product with a sufficient international hub lounge.  Whereas a lounge shower would have been a good amenity, the lounge is slightly above average, which plain outright destroys any U.S. lounge.  Getting lounge access is important before economy class flights, but not so much for premium class travel as the in-flight experience and food are far better than the ground selection.

Next: Cathay Pacific biz HKG-TPE

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