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EVA business class (Royal Laurel Class) is considered by many avgeeks to be one of the best business class experiences available. The product has got a little bit of everything that a good business class should have: comfort, privacy, good dining and drinks, quality service and more. But is the experience a little bit overrated or does it live up to the hype?
In this detailed review, I’ll cover my latest trip on the EVA 777-300 in business class from IAH to TPE.
The trip routing
This trip holds huge personal significance to me that I’ll get into on a later date but this particular segment to Taipei was part of a mini round the world trip which included the following routes: IAH->TPE->BKK (layover)->FRA->IAH.
- IAH->TPE: EVA 777-300 J
- TPE->BKK: Thai 777-200 J
- BKK->FRA: Thai A350-900 J
- FRA->IAH: Lufthansa A380-800 F
ORD->IAH: United 737-900 F(changed)
I booked this entire round the world trip about 48 hours before I departed, which was the polar opposite of what I’m used to doing since we usually book big trips eight to 12 months out. The last-minute nature of the booking added a level of excitement to the trip. One moment I was psyched about taking off around the globe on such short notice and the next, I was wondering if I had lost my mind.
Here are the details for the flight:
- Route: Houston (IAH) -> Taipei (TPE)
- Flight No: BR 51
- Aircraft: 777-300ER
- Date: June 10, 2019
- Departure Time: 12:58am
- Arrival Time: 5:46 am
- Flight Time: 15 hours, 48 minutes
Booking EVA business class with points
EVA is known for having great availability a week or two before departure. And for this flight, I’d been monitoring the award inventory for quite some time. I found consistent awards open up about seven days prior to departure and decided that I’d jump on one of these when it suddenly occurred to me ready I was ready for this trip.
I booked EVA business class with Air Canada Aeroplan miles that I transferred from my American Express Memberships Rewards account.
From IAH to TPE, the booking required 75,000 miles which was 5,000 fewer miles than United required. Not only that but I only paid $7.50 CAD or about $5.60 in fees since I was able to avoid the United close-in fees. I found these flights for $3,292 in cash, so that’s about 4.4 cents per point for my Aeroplan miles/Membership Rewards which is nice.
As I’m able to travel full time more now for essentially unlimited durations (working remotely), the idea of paying cash for reasonably priced business class tickets to take me somewhere makes more sense and so this 4.4 cent valuation isn’t so “aspirational” as it used to be.
Heading to the airport
On our way to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), a stunning pink sunset stretched along the horizon. It lasted the entire drive and I took it as a sign that this was going to be a great trip. It definitely gave me some good vibes.
Check-in for EVA opened up at 9pm (four hours prior to departure) and I was already in line at about 8:40pm, so I was the very first one to check-in.
At the time of booking online, the seat map showed no open window seats, but at check-in I promptly asked if they had any available bulkheads on the window and the agent told me “yes, we do!” I was pumped about getting a window bulkhead since those are pretty much my favorite business class seats and was stoked I could avoid a middle seat. Once again, I felt even better about the trip.
The lounge experience
Since this was a late flight departing at 1am, I didn’t have the best selection for lounges. I would’ve loved to have gotten to the airport early enough to spend meaningful time at the United Polaris lounge but that wasn’t practical. This flight is the only EVA flight out of IAH and check-in didn’t open until four hours on the dot before departure.
So I checked my one bag at 9pm, got through TSA Pre-Check (lite), and then promptly made my way to Terminal E to check out the Polaris Lounge with about 40 minutes to check it out.
I knew the United Polaris Lounge would be nice but I was even more impressed by it than I thought I would be. It’s just a beautiful place and seems to be on par with some of the high quality business class international lounges I’ve visited. It’s lightyears above a United Club, and I’d prefer it over the Centurion Lounge at IAH.
I didn’t have time to indulge in the dining room, so I was limited to trying out the buffet. Many items were missing or not fresh (understandably given it was so late) but there were some decent items I got to try like the sandwiches and wraps.
There was also a pretty solid line-up of desserts that utterly derailed my plan to eat completely healthy on this trip (I eventually recovered somewhat).
Even though I was disappointed I didn’t get the full dining experience, just checking out the lounge and seeing what it was all about was great. I also took a peak at some of the other amenities like the quiet rooms which looked very comfortable and would be heaven on a long layover.
But before I knew it, I was kicked out since they were closing and so I went next door to the United Club, which pretty much felt like a hospital waiting room compared to the Polaris Lounge.
I sat there until about 11:30pm when they closed and then made my way to the Executive Club, which was the lounge I was given a pass for by EVA. This lounge was located near my gate (D4) and I would’ve gone over there sooner but a United rep told me that lounge had already closed….
Anyway, this little lounge was pretty packed with EVA and Air China passengers. It did offer some okay hot food items (chicken, beef, dips), potato chips, and a bar area, though. It definitely had more to offer than the United Club lounge in terms of food and snacks.
Finally, about 20 minutes prior to boarding, I made my way over to the boarding area where I was the first one awaiting the jet bridge to open. Boarding first is helpful for doing reviews but it also just feels good to be among the first to get on the aircraft. However, just after I showed up, a gentleman came and stood right next to my side as if to challenge my boarding position — he did not prevail.
Boarding was slightly delayed but we ended up departing around the expected departure time (a little early in fact).
I made my way into the business class cabin and then turned left, heading all the way to the front to seat 1K. The cabin filled up very quickly so I wasn’t able to get clean cabin shots but I did get a couple of them.
The business class (Royal Laurel Class) cabin on the EVA 777 is made up of two cabins in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration. SeatGuru generated the seat map below when I input my flight info but there was actually a fourth lavatory on the other side of the bulkhead in front of 1K on my flight.
I loved the hunter green accents in the cabin and the nice photograph of Taipei 101 in the front.
The EVA business class seat
I had heard good things about the EVA business class seat but I still had reservations. I’ve still flown mostly first class versus business class on long-hauls and the biggest thing I love about first class seats is that they usually have much more legroom versus the tight footwells often found in business class (check out: first vs business class).
But in this case, I noticed how deep and wide the footwell was and was pretty impressed. I had plenty of room.
In my opinion, the EVA business class seat is just well designed all the way around.
You’ve got plenty of counter space to put items, including large electronics. At one point, I had my laptop and large DSLR camera on the counter along with a book and my phone and there wasn’t an issue.
I also like how you have two armrests.
There’s also pretty good-sized storage areas you can put things like bottled water in or other items. Below on the side of the seat there’s more storage as well, perhaps best suited for things like shoes and clothes.
The crew was very strict about not having items in the storage areas or loose items on the counter during take-off. I don’t think I ever saw a crew do such a tight sweep for those things before (but it’s not necessarily a bad thing).
If you need to hang any garments they have hooks on the side in front of you that you can use.
I really loved how accessible the ports were, too. You can easily plug into the two USB ports, power outlet (10V power sockets), or headphone jack unlike some of those abominations out there that have you reaching behind your back or under your legs. There’s also a reading light you can turn on as well.
If you’d like you can control your IFE with the handheld controller and even watch media on it. It’s a touch screen but I only used it to turn on the overhead lights or to call a flight attendant over.
The seat controls look a little crazy at first glance. They have quick controls for getting into the main positions like take-off/landing and sleeping but you can also control parts of your seat individually. I go for the simple approach with these type of controls and just stick to the main three types of positions.
All in all, I was instantly pretty comfortable in the seat when reclining. I could tell that this was going to be a comfy flight. As I mentioned, I liked the arm rests on both sides of the seat and it’s nice you can push one side down to open things up a bit.
The only drawback with the design is how difficult it is to get out of the seat, especially if you are reclined a little bit. Unless you are a pygmy, you’ll need to squeeze through which can get a bit annoying.
One of my favorite features of EVA business class on the 777 is the privacy. You can tell from the photo below that I had a lot of privacy in seat 1K. It felt extra private because nobody was in the middle seat next to me (remember, sometimes you have to specifically request bulkhead seats and if the cabin is not full, those can be the most likely seats to be empty).
There was also minimal foot traffic through my aisle which kind of surprised me, so overall I felt like I had a ton of privacy in seat 1K. It definitely felt like I made a good decision on where to sit.
Waiting for me on the seat was a thick pillow, amenity kit, (small) slippers, and headphones.
The staff also came around asking about pajamas and I promptly told them that I would happily be taking pajamas for the flight. They handed me over a sack with “Large” PJs and then dropped me a stick of chocolate, which was promptly devoured. Dark chocolate is a health food, am I right?
The pajamas are made by Jason Wu, the designer of Michelle Obama’s inauguration dresses or something like that.
The amenity kit isn’t the design I really like (which is reserved for flights departing Taipei) but it’s still very nice and comes with a bag within a bag.
The amenity kit came with hand lotion, body lotion, and lip balm from Salvatore Ferragamo. In addition, it had a comb, dental kit, ear plugs, eye mask, sleeping socks, and a glass screen cloth. For a business class flight, this was a high quality amenity kit, as were the pajamas that don’t always get offered on a flight in J.
The headphones were “Thunder” and I thought they were at least decent quality.
The TVs were a perfect size for the distance and came with very responsive touch screens. They are hard to watch (comfortably) when stowed so that can make things tricky when trying to finish up your movies close to landing. the benefit is that the space really opens up when the monitors are stowed.
I found the movie selection to be solid and overall the in-flight entertainment package was very good.
Take off (cabin mood lighting)
For take-off they dimmed the cabin and turned on the ceiling star lighting.
I know a lot of airlines have these star lights now but they never get old to me.
EVA business class wifi
I purchased the most expensive wifi plan at around $30 expecting to get some work done and to stay connected with the hubby. But the connection was weak and I was barely able to get anything done. I tried to test the wifi speed but it didn’t even register. I was pretty bummed about the wifi and that was the one major negative to the flight.
EVA is known for serving up premier champagne like Krug in its business class. I don’t currently drink and it’s been over one year since my last sip of alcohol, so I can’t comment on the quality. (I stopped drinking due to health reasons and just sort of adopted the lifestyle over time.) I was never a huge drinker, and I might make exceptions for champagne in the future but to be honest, it’s been a welcomed change.
Anyway, in case you were wondering the Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006 goes for about $150 per bottle.
EVA business class dining
I pre-ordered a special meal when I booked these tickets and went with the lobster, as I’m sure many people often do but I’ll start with the appetizers. These consisted of smoked salmon with potato and almond and cheese with tomato on a skewer. The almond cheese ball thing was a small ball of heavenly goodness.
After the prelude they came out and set the tray table, which was pretty large.
Next were the hor d’oeuvres. These were marinated herb scallops and shrimp with some sort of sauce on the side. I didn’t care for the bland shrimp but the scallops were a very nice touch.
They then came around offering bread and I obliged to only one of the smaller pieces of bread trying to act in good faith with respect to the diet, which I was mostly successful-ish in doing.
Next, it was time for the main dish. The lobster was a little smaller than I had imagined but what it lacked in size it, well you know the saying… This thing was so soft and buttery, I didn’t even need a utensil. I did my best to savor the bites but it was gone all.too.soon. I chose to forgo the potatoes though I did chomp down the deliciously seasoned asparagus. In terms of business class meals (or even first class meals), this was just a fantastic dish.
I decided to pass on dessert because once again I decided that on this trip I was going to be semi-disciplined when it comes to the diet. Basically, I’m no longer using the “it’s for the blog/readers” to justify my 4,000 calorie meals. (It probably helped dessert was some sort of pistachio mousse cake. I had zero interest in.)
After dinner, it was time to relax and catch up on movies I hadn’t seen. I started with Aquaman and though I’m not a huge super hero type of guy, I loved it.
Eventually, I went to sleep for what had to have been around four to six hours, which is very rare for me and probably only happened because the flight was at 1am. But still, it was great. (More on the sleeping experience below.)
After a few hours of sleep, I requested a snack, which was the stir-fried udon noodles with pork and assorted vegetables. This really hit the spot and I loved how fresh the peppers tasted and how soft the noodles were.
Breakfast was pretty impressive, too. They first brought out a fruit platter and also offered cereal and breads along with orange juice.
It felt like they’d offered me so much to eat already that I honestly thought they had forgotten about the meal I had chosen.
But then a minute later they brought out the caramelized onion and brie cheese omelet. The brie cheese was delicious as were the caramelized onions. The omelet was a bit too spongy for me but I guess they don’t have that much to work with in the sky. The sausage was flavorful but after a couple of bites, I wasn’t into the rubbery texture and left them alone.
Overall, the entire dining experience was impressive. It’s one of the best business class dining experiences I’ve had and I’d say it even competes with some first class flights. Getting lobster in business class is just special and I think EVA really knows what it’s doing when it comes to dining.
EVA business class service
The service from EVA was top-notch. I’d still peg Singapore above EVA but I’d put EVA pretty high. Most of the staff seemed to speak decent English unlike some past flights like Korean Air but not quite as good as Singapore. They were attentive, extremely efficient, and also very warm and nice. I felt at ease with them and they definitely added value to the experience.
EVA business class lavatory
I only used one lavatory the entire flight, located in the very front of the plane (even though there was one right next door to my seat). The lavatory I used was never occupied when I went, which was nice. It was also in an open area where I could stretch out easily and I enjoyed having all that space on this nearly 16 hour journey.
It’s nothing too special in the EVA lavatory but they did have some amenities I used like the facial mist (I highly recommend to freshen up) and I also used the mouthwash that came in a package.
There was also a nice floral touch to the walls in there.
As you can see, nothing too special in there.
EVA business class pajamas & bedding
The EVA pajamas were nice and comfy. My favorite pajamas are still the old Givenchy PJs issued with the old Singapore Suites but these were still quality enough that they were worth keeping (which I did). They’ve got a weird neck button design which you can see in my fantastic bedhead photo below.
The fact that I actually slept should tell you a lot about the EVA bed. At first, I was very suspect because they simply supplied a very thin mattress cover on the seat that provided virtually no padding.
But then I unpacked the comforter which was pretty fluffy and that’s how I really got comfortable.
The flattened armrest area helps to open things up a bit and give you a little bit more room to work with when trying to get comfortable which is really nice.
After wrapping myself up like a taquito, I was able to get comfy on my side easily (the EVA pillow helped a lot, too). I even slept on my stomach for a little while but that got tricky since I’m 6’1″. Overall, I don’t think you should have trouble getting comfortable.
I loved that the cabin temperature was so cool. I can’t stand when cabins are kept warm since it makes sleeping so uncomfortable (lookin’ at you Singapore) but they kept this cabin at the perfect temperature.
Landing in Taipei
After finishing breakfast, I got cleaned up, freshened up, and then prepared myself to land in Taipei. Here are a couple of shots I got coming in to Taipei on a rainy morning.
Our flight touched down around 5:30am and we deplaned from the front of the plane, so I was among the first to exit. Customs and immigration was a little long but I probably got through in about 20 to 30 minutes, so it wasn’t the worst wait.
After making my way through the airport, I was greeted by a W Taipei member who showed me the way to their BMW and just like that, I was on my way to the hotel and ready to explore some of Taipei.
The EVA business class experience on the 777 definitely lived up to the hype. I had high standards for it and it delivered. I’d say the strengths were dining, comfort, and service. I love both the hard and soft product and I think EVA blurs the line between first class and business class with its soft product. I’d have to rank EVA as one of the top business class experiences I’ve ever had, especially considering the amazing value I got for my points that came with only about $5.60 in fees.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the digital smart wallet, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.