The small country of Taiwan is fortunate to be blessed with two superb airlines (China Airlines and EVA Air). Additionally, the relatively young Starlux Airlines positions itself as a premium airline. In short, the competition in Taiwan is fierce, and travellers have a tough choice to make.
Recently, with a Miles&More award ticket, I had the opportunity to test EVA Air’s Royal Laurel Class (business class) on the Taipei – Munich route. So, continue reading to find out to what extent the high expectations were met.
Before delving into the review, let’s take a brief look at the flight details:
- Flight: BR 71 Taipei
- Seat: 2D (changed from 7D)
- Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 B-17882 (Delivered in October 2018)
- Scheduled Departure: 23:25
- Scheduled Arrival: 07:25
- Block Time: 15h 0min
- Travel Date: November 2023
Table of Contents
After a journey through Micronesia, I needed to find my way home. EVA Air, being one of the few Miles&More partners without fuel surcharges, was my first choice. I initially booked a one-way Business Class ticket from Taipei to Amsterdam approximately 3 months before departure for 71,000 miles and around €70 in taxes & fees.
While it would have been a comfortable way home, it wasn’t the optimal connection for several reasons:
- The flight to Amsterdam has a layover in Bangkok, requiring passengers to briefly leave the plane and extending the total travel time to around 20 hours.
- The flight to Amsterdam departs at 08:40 in the morning, making the entire flight a day trip.
- The Amsterdam flight uses a Boeing 777 with an older business class.
About two weeks before departure, a seat on the Taipei – Munich route became available. The €50 cancellation fee with Miles&More was well worth it, especially since the Boeing 787 with a modern cabin would be used for this flight.
In the end, I secured the following ticket for 71,000 miles plus €109 in taxes & fees:
- Taipei – Munich in EVA Air business class (Boeing 787-9)
- Munich – Berlin in Lufthansa business class (Airbus A320)
After booking, I could reserve seats for both flights directly on Lufthansa.com. Unfortunately, there were no window seats available at that time, so I settled for a seat in the middle of the aircraft. In this case, it wasn’t a big deal, as there isn’t much to see on a night flight departing at 23:25 and landing at 7 am.
I attempted to check in online briefly, but the EVA Air booking couldn’t be found. I suspect I would have needed a second PNR for that, which I also couldn’t find on the Lufthansa site.
Since I was travelling with luggage anyway, I didn’t bother figuring it out. The only advantage of online check-in would have been the ability to use the City Check-in directly at Taipei Main Station. Apparently, it’s not a real check-in but only baggage drop-off for passengers already checked in.
So, I had to take the suitcase with me on the airport metro, arriving at Terminal 2 about two and a half hours before departure.
There are separate priority counters for travellers with Star Gold status or business class tickets. It may not be luxurious, but at least there was no waiting time.
At the counter, I inquired again about window seats. In fact, 1A and 1K were still available. Interestingly, the agent at the counter couldn’t change the seats directly in the system but had to make a brief (5-second) phone call for that.
After a closer look at the seat plan (printed out at the counter), I declined and went back to 7D. Both 1A and 1K are located right by the aisle, offering little privacy.
There is no fast track at the security checkpoint in Taipei – at least not in Terminal 2 used by EVA Air. However, everything ran efficiently, and 15 minutes after arrival at TPE, I was already in the lounge.
The signage to the lounges needs improvement after leaving the security checkpoint (as it’s basically non-existent). They are directly above the duty-free shop, so it doesn’t matter which way you go. Then you just need to choose the desired lounge, as EVA Air alone has four:
- The Club – for EVA Air Silver status holders and Star Alliance Gold members
- The Star – for Star Alliance Gold members
- Infinity Lounge – exclusively for business class passengers
- The Garden – exclusively for EVA Air frequent flyers with Diamond status in Infinity MileageLands
The Infinity Lounge is supposedly better than the Star Gold lounges, so I visited this one first. The lounge was comparatively small and was reasonably busy. Nevertheless, I found a seat without any issues (estimated around 20% to 30% of seats were vacant).
There is a small buffet with primarily Asian dishes and a few Western options. I found the hot dog machine interesting, more reminiscent of a 7-Eleven than a business lounge. Still, it’s a funny idea.
Unfortunately, only one type of dumpling (without filling) was hidden in the bamboo baskets; the rest was filled with other foods like bacon. Too bad, as I was looking forward to one last serving of Xiao Long Bao, filled with soup.
There was also a large freezer with Mövenpick ice cream. I would have preferred small packaged cups (for hygiene reasons), but I never say no to ice cream. Besides, this was the good Mövenpick ice cream that tastes like in Switzerland. In comparison, the German Mövenpick ice cream distributed by Schöller is of inferior quality.
After a brief stay in the Infinity Lounge, I also checked out The Star Lounge directly opposite. It is much larger and has plenty of available seats. The food offering was slightly smaller than in the Infinity Lounge. Without a direct comparison, it’s hardly noticeable.
For ice cream enthusiasts, it’s worth visiting both lounges. In The Star Lounge, there was Häagen-Dazs ice cream instead of Mövenpick. According to reports in Flyertalk, it’s often the other way around, so it seems to rotate.
Due to the quieter atmosphere, I preferred The Star Lounge overall. Unfortunately, there is no view of the apron anywhere; at most, you look at the area with the check-in counters.
Showers are available in both the Infinity and The Star Lounge. Additionally, the service deserves a positive mention: used dishes were cleared away in no time.
Overall, the lounge offerings were quite decent. However, from a 5-star airline’s business class lounge, I would expect a bit more. I like to compare it to a Lufthansa Senator Lounge – and in that regard, EVA Air doesn’t stand out much. In principle, it would also be possible to visit the Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge, but it is only open until 6 pm.
Even for long-haul flights, EVA Air sets the boarding time just 30 minutes before departure. It actually started right on the dot. The short boarding window was more than enough
At least a part of the efficiency can certainly be attributed to the fact that the entire process by EVA Air is very well organized. When it started with group 1, an employee in the line checked if everyone was standing correctly, while at the front, the first boarding passes were already being scanned. Another gate agent held up a large sign with a boarding pass clearly depicting the group. It’s hard to go wrong unless you actively try.
The flight, apparently, had almost exclusively been booked by Germans. Judging by the conversations, many of them came via connecting flights from Japan. The airline serves a total of eight airports there, providing several transfer options.
The aircraft, along with the cabin, had already been in service for 5 years at the time of my journey, but everything still looked fresh out of the factory. The initial visual impression was excellent as well: The combination of grey and dark brown tones, along with a few green accents, creates a pleasant atmosphere. And Peer is happy because he doesn’t have to mention a hospital atmosphere again.
While more and more airlines are getting rid of overhead bins in the centre of the cabin, EVA Air has them, and from my perspective, that’s the better decision. Here, functionality (= space for all carry-on luggage) is more important than the slightly better sense of space from higher ceilings.
I was fascinated by the artificial starry sky that was turned on at night. With small white LEDs, a great atmosphere is created, which I had not seen in any other Dreamliner before:
EVA Air uses different business class seats in the long-haul fleet: The Boeing 777 has older Safran Cirrus reverse herringbone seats (also used by airlines like Air France, American Airlines & Avianca). In the Boeing 787-9 and 787-10, the seats are arranged in a staggered configuration. The Vantage XL from Thompson is used there.
In the smaller Dreamliner that operates this flight, there are a total of 26 seats in business class. The staggered 1-2-1 arrangement is easier to understand when you take a look at the seat plan:
The staggered arrangement has some advantages and disadvantages. The seating plan already shows that not all single seats have a view of the window. Every second seat is well shielded from the aisle and has a good view outside. The other seats are close to the aisle, and looking outside is more difficult.
For solo travellers who value privacy, the best choices are seats 2A, 2K, 5A, 5K, 7A, and 7K. Once those are taken, it gets a bit trickier. Either you sit in the middle block (2D, 5D, …), to have distance from the aisle, or you choose the remaining single seats. The latter are hardly shielded from the aisle, but at least you can somehow look outside.
For travel together with a friend, partner, etc., seats D + G are the most obvious option. However, even there, there is still about 80 cm of distance between the heads, making conversations a bit challenging.
Since I booked my flight at short notice, all the window seats were already taken. Therefore, I chose seat 7D. However, on the plane, I spontaneously changed my mind and made myself comfortable in 2D instead. Seats 1A, 2D, 2G, and 1K offer significantly more foot space because the bulkhead is in front of them. But more on that in the Sleeping Comfort section.
I was already familiar with the seat from SAS (here’s the review) and Delta (in the new Delta One Suite). Apart from that, you can find it at Philippine Airlines, LATAM – and even at Lufthansa, as they have taken over some jets from Philippine Air, including the cabin.
However, Vantage XL is not equal to Vantage XL. The concept may always be the same, but there are numerous configuration options, such as storage space, privacy, and table. So let’s take a closer look at what EVA Air’s configuration has to offer.
Storage, Shelves, and Features
The individual seats are easy to find with large, illuminated signs. There are several ways to stow your belongings at the seat. At the start, almost everything has to go up into the overhead bin before you can spread out your laptop, charging cable, etc.
I had expected to find almost the same seat configuration as with SAS, but EVA Air does some things differently. The seat is a bit more angular overall but maximizes the surface area of the side table. There, you can easily place the laptop without it protruding into the seat. And if you’re keen, even the tray from dinner would still fit.
The buttons to control the seat are available twice: once in the large side console and once, slightly lower, directly on the seat (easy to reach when lying down).
Near the control buttons, you’ll also find a power outlet, USB port (only USB-A), and the headphone jack. All are easily accessible, and you don’t have to fumble around for the charging cable.
Moving on to a large storage compartment, initially containing headphones and an amenity kit. Passport, wallet, and leftover charging cables can also be easily stored there, at least if you relocate the amenity kit elsewhere.
Apart from that, there are two more compartments on the side of the bed. The size and shape seem to vary depending on the seat. In my case (2D), the storage space here was enormous. In retrospect, probably a good place for shoes and slippers, but I had just left them standing between the seat and the aisle.
Depending on where you sit, there may be zero or two plastic dividers for additional privacy. At my seat, I could extend one towards the aisle and the other towards the (non-existent) seat neighbour. Both are definitely useful, but the latter seemed relatively small. For other seats, there is a proper plastic wall instead of this semi-transparent divider. Also, EVA Air has found space between the seats for another small table between two passengers. Not bad:
I didn’t test the seats right by the aisle. There, however, you definitely have less privacy, especially since there isn’t even the extendable privacy screen towards the aisle:
This might be one of the few cases where a lockable door in business class really makes sense. Normally, I consider this more of a gimmick since the privacy with the typical reverse herringbone seats is already good enough without a door. Doors wouldn’t be an optimal solution either, though, as they would sacrifice seat width.
The first (or second) row also offers another advantage in terms of storage space: Since there are no further seats in front, you can easily place pillows, food, empty trays, etc., on the large plastic surface without disturbing anyone.
The table can be extended from the armrest. It’s not particularly large but well-built and can be moved sufficiently forward and backwards, allowing you to comfortably eat and work even in the lounge position.
Overall, it seems like they really thought this seat through in every aspect, and there are barely any functions missing.
According to AeroLopa, the seat width is 23″ (58 cm). Interestingly, that’s one inch more than SAS offers in the A350 – and that’s despite the A350 having a wider cabin than the Dreamliner. I couldn’t really believe it at first, but indeed, the seat felt somewhat more spacious than with SAS. I think it’s due to the well-thought-out yet compact arrangement of storage space and controls.
Either way, once you’ve sat down, you don’t want to get up so soon. The seat is well-padded and offers everything you expect from a business seat. The adjustment from the lying to the sitting position worked flawlessly. Everything between the upright and flat position is then the lounge position, where I lingered for eating, working, and watching movies.
During takeoff and landing, a shoulder strap must be worn. This restricts freedom of movement a bit but is by no means as uncomfortable as with Finnair.
Theoretically, there’s also a massage function, but I barely felt it. And anyway, a superior massage is provided by the turbulence somewhere over the South China Sea.
The following items were already at the seat during boarding:
- A medium-sized pillow
- A large, warm blanket
- A pair of slippers (quite tight with shoe size 47)
EVA Air also provides pyjamas to all business class passengers, which can be kept after the flight. The preferred size was asked for while still on the ground, with “only” up to XL available.
The pyjamas are very comfortable and cosy, and fit me just about right, although with a height of 198 cm, I usually wear 2XL. One should not be much larger, though. In any case, it found a place in my closet and is by no means a disposable product.
The departure from Taipei was just before midnight. With takeoff, dining, drinking, etc., about two more hours passed. To cut it short: After eating, I was dead tired and practically fell into bed immediately. While other passengers were still eating, I was already in bed in my pyjamas, and so the crew didn’t get a chance to offer me a turndown service. Later, I found out that there would have been a mattress topper, and the stewardesses would also prepare the bed if you wanted.
I slept like a log and woke up only four hours before landing. The 8 hours in between were highly refreshing, and that says everything you need to know about sleeping comfort. I would have liked to sleep a bit more, but then there wouldn’t have been enough time to write the review.
Especially as an overlong side sleeper, I appreciate the Vantage XL seat for its sleeping comfort. With many seats, I get cramps in my legs after two or three hours because the legs cannot be angled. That’s not a problem here, as there is plenty of space both at the feet and in the knee area. There is also sufficient space upwards since no table or similar blocks it.
Even better is this, of course, in the bulkhead seat I chose. There, the leg rest is not (roughly estimated) 30 but a whopping 50 centimetres wide. The seat itself doesn’t noticeably narrow even towards the feet. So, if you want the best sleeping comfort, you should choose seats 2D or 2G.
Food & Drinks
With a departure close to midnight, it’s not the most suitable time for dinner. Nevertheless, EVA Air fortunately serves a substantial dinner – there’s plenty of time for sleep later on. There were three different options available on my flight.
- Royal Laurel Dining: The Western option with salad, bread, and Chicken Bourguignon (in wine sauce). The tea pudding, however, sounds more Asian.
- Star Special: Classic Taiwanese cuisine with noodles, wontons, and chicken soup. Also described as a time-saving option.
- Nakamura Kyo-Kaiseki Cuisine: The menu here is longer than the cumbersome name. A Japanese multi-course menu with sushi, soba noodles, and more.
Interestingly, the appetizer and dessert also vary depending on the menu. Here’s a complete look at the menu:
I heard once that Taiwan is the country with the best (and cheapest) Japanese food outside of Japan. Since I had already been eating dumplings for several days, I opted for the Japanese menu.
It started with an appetizer from the
kitchen galley – a piece of foie gras and a fried oyster:
Ten minutes later (50 minutes after takeoff), the rest of the meal arrived. I hadn’t really thought about what I had ordered. So, the huge tray was a bit surprising. Also, note how beautifully everything is arranged – the noodles are almost like artwork.
Everything tasted very good. Of course, sushi of similar quality can be found even at the 100-yen kaitensushi (conveyor belt) in Japan, and soba noodles are fresher and better locally. But what EVA Air serves on the plane is quite impressive.
Not shown in the images is the dessert. I skipped it after the extensive main course – and besides, there had already been several servings of ice cream in the lounge.
EVA Air also doesn’t skimp on the drinks. The menu is so extensive that it took me some time to find my usual Coke Zero (middle right). In addition, there were various cocktails with and without alcohol, as well as spirits, champagne, wines, beer, juice, tea, and even two different types of milk, in case Ditmar ever finds himself flying EVA Air. As for the wines, I’ll leave that to the connoisseurs because I only know Perrier as mineral water:
As I transitioned to work after 8 hours of sleep, a slight feeling of hunger began to emerge. There’s, of course, provision for that, and snacks are also part of the menu:
- Stir-fried noodles with pork, egg, and vegetables
- Beef burger
- Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (more like a vegetable casserole?)
- Bean soup
- Garden Salad
- Instant noodles
- Hot chocolate cookies
I must have somehow overlooked the cookies, so I only ordered the burger.
EVA Air had already shown during dinner that they have catering under control. Still, I was surprised at how perfectly the served burger looked:
Apparently, the burger was freshly assembled by the crew. Thus, the bun was crispy, the patty and cheese were warm, and the lettuce and tomato were cold. I’m used to airplane burgers where everything is just thrown into the oven, and the passenger has to take care of the rest.
For those looking for the needle in the haystack, they might notice that the piece of meat more resembled a meatball than a burger patty. But to bridge two hours until breakfast, that’s more than enough. 😉
Shortly after my burger was brought to me, the crew really started preparing for breakfast. I only noticed this because I was already awake and sitting in the first row. There was neither any noise nor were there disturbing lights.
And this consideration lasted until shortly before landing. When the breakfast service started 2 hours before arrival in Munich, all lights remained dimmed. So, if you want to continue sleeping, you can do so without any problems. Most passengers were already awake anyway because it was almost noon according to Taiwanese time.
For breakfast, there was a similar selection as for dinner. Once Chinese, once European, and once… wherever the noodle soup for breakfast comes from:
I’m not a big fan of breakfast anyway and always appreciate it when there are chicken nuggets or chicken wings for breakfast in Asia. The hearty, huge, and also delicious noodle soup was very welcome:
I didn’t touch the side dishes and also skipped the fruit. Probably, you were supposed to somehow put the vegetables into the noodle soup, but the quantity was already more than sufficient. For me, there was also hot chocolate (not shown in the photo). European-Asian fusion cuisine, so to speak.
Only after the flight did I find out that you could have pre-ordered the food. So, there might be additional options for the main course in this way. But it seemed to me that I had already made the best possible choice spontaneously on board.
The service was overall very attentive and friendly, standing up to other airlines in Asia in every way. There were no complaints about the speed either. I was already finished with dinner about an hour and a half after takeoff. The empty plates were then cleared without delay. I also appreciate how considerate the flight attendants were during breakfast to avoid unnecessarily waking anyone up.
Slowly, the review seems to turn into endless praise. Fortunately, EVA Air knows how to counteract this. With just one annoying detail, they manage to unexpectedly disrupt the premium experience significantly.
After the safety video, there was initially an advertisement for luxury watches. Annoying enough, but that also happens with other airlines. However, that was far from everything. In total, I counted nine commercials after the safety video.
One might generously subtract the advertisement for their own onboard product and onboard shopping, but even then, it’s just too much. This is especially true for the business class of a 5-star airline, but it would also lead to deductions elsewhere. I was almost surprised that they didn’t plaster the overhead bins with advertising as well.
If we disregard the disturbing first impression, the entertainment system leaves little to be desired. There’s an 18″ large monitor with (roughly) full HD resolution. Since you sit relatively close to the screen, the size is absolutely sufficient for watching movies.
I also counted the movies this time and came to a little over 100 (including some newer ones). The exact selection on your flight can also be checked online in advance. In addition, entire seasons of various series are available, and there are a total of six games, including Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies.
The entertainment program can also be controlled via the remote control, which has its own small touchscreen. If you like, you can also control the music with it while the main screen displays, e.g. the flight map. And speaking of the flight map… it is, of course, available and can be individually customized.
WiFi is available but is relatively expensive. There are no discounts or free access for business class passengers.
I was offered the following packages:
- Messaging Plan: 30 MB for US$4.95 (~€4.56)
Only for text messages
- Standard Plan: 100 MB for US$14.95 (~€13.79)
- Business Plan: 300 MB for US$29.95 (~€27.62)
- Ultimate Plan: Unlimited for US$39.95 (~€36.84)
The data limitations are a joke (especially at these prices), so practically only the Ultimate package is worth considering. However, it wasn’t worth €36 to me, especially on a night flight. Therefore, I couldn’t test the speeds.
EVA Air provides an Amenity Kit from Giorgio Armani – it’s almost like an “Armanity Kit.” Whether this has anything to do with the fashion brand or if the logo is simply affixed to an inexpensive Chinese product, I don’t know. But the small faux leather case seems well thought out and can be easily repurposed as a cosmetics or cable bag due to its many compartments.
I couldn’t find air vents. However, the cabin was pleasantly tempered, so this didn’t bother me. In general, I prefer it to be a bit too cold on board, as the night is spent under a blanket anyway.
There are a total of three toilets for a maximum of 26 business class passengers in the Boeing 787-9. This is a very good ratio; in the 777, on the other hand, 39 guests have to share the same number of toilets. Additionally, some amenities such as toothbrushes or mouthwash are available there.
First, a brief summary of the pros and cons:
- Spacious seat
- High sleeping comfort, also for side sleepers
- Friendly & attentive service
- Very good food
- Big, high-definition screen
- The lounge is not quite at the 5-star standard
- Too many advertisements
- Expensive wifi
- Check-in & Boarding
- Sleeping Comfort
- Sitting Comfort
- Food & Drinks
- In-Flight Entertainment
Overall, EVA Air left an excellent impression on me. This is certainly partly because I specifically chose the modern Boeing 787-9 with new seats. The Vantage XL seats are extremely comfortable both in lying and sitting positions and leave practically nothing to be desired.
Service and catering also deserve high praise. Only a few minor details result in deductions from the overall rating: the lounge falls slightly behind compared to other airlines, the entertainment system bombards passengers with advertisements right from the start, and, in my opinion, the Wi-Fi is too expensive.
Translated by Ditmar