I recently flew my first-ever return flight in EVA Air’s Elite (Premium Economy) cabin and had a fantastic experience. Seriously, I think I’ve found my new favourite ride from YYZ to Asia and back.
For the past five years the girlfriend and I have been making our annual trek to Hong Kong exclusively on Cathay Pacific—mostly because of the Marco Polo Gold status via AMEX Platinum, a perk which was finally removed from my account last summer. But that’s not the only reason we wanted to move on from Cathay; on our last CX flight (also in PE) my SO’s IFE screen wouldn’t turn off and had to be taped up with cardboard, and on the flight before that she had hot water spilled on her while taking delivery of an in-flight instant noodle soup.
So for our first experience with EVA Air the proverbial bar was actually set pretty low. But BR did great.
I had previously posted concerns to FlyerTalk about transferring bags in Taipei to an onwards flight to Osaka on Japan Airlines. That transfer turned out to be a non-issue. When we checked in for our BR flight and presented our JL boarding passes a supervisor was immediately summoned; after a minute or two of doing something on his computer he nodded and said: “Okay, your bags are checked through to Japan”. This meant that upon landing in Taipei some 15 hours later we didn’t have to go through Taiwan immigration to fetch our bags, and instead went through a quick security check at a transfer gate and onto a refreshing shower and breakfast at an airport lounge.
Was CX willing to do the same when we transferred to BR at TPE on the way back? Nope, and we spent more than an hour queuing for immigration in Taipei as a result.
Unlike Cathay’s boarding procedure, which at YYZ is usually a bit of a disaster, BR had lots of staff on hand to facilitate an orderly boarding process through zones—Zone 1 for Business, 2 for PE and 3 for Economy. To be fair CX has also done this at their home base in Hong Kong. Maybe they can’t do the same at YYZ because of the limited space in Terminal 3—whereas BR flies out of a more spacious International Departures Hall in Terminal 1.
Cabin & Seat
Photos of BR’s PE cabin don’t do it justice, in my opinion. In pictures it looked beige and drab but once we boarded we were pleasantly surprised to find it neat, tidy and modern. The IFE screens are significantly better than the ones in CX’s PE cabin—and, for that matter, also better than those in CX’s Regional Business Class. CX may have more available content, but BR has content in HD—plus you don’t have to sit through five minutes of advertising before your movie starts.
I had zero complaints about BR’s exceptionally comfortable PE seat—though I’m pretty sure one of the reasons I was able to sleep so well was because the FAs weren’t constantly pestering everyone to put on their seat belts when the signs lit up. They were busy cleaning the washrooms instead.
My god, the washrooms… Maybe it’s because their flights out of YYZ don’t have a dedicated PE washroom, but on CX the toilets become immediately filthy shortly after takeoff and stay that way for the duration of the flight. You may think I’m exaggerating but more than once I’ve seen shoe marks on the seat like someone used it as a squat toilet. On BR it’s the exact opposite. I almost wept with joy the first time I visited the washroom; not only was it kept spotless the entire way, but it was stocked with useful supplies—including eye masks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, even a facial mist as good as the one I had brought with me on my carry-on.
And where CX buries a pair of socks in your PE amenity kit, too thin to protect you from the bio-hazard waiting for you in the bathroom, BR puts a pair of comfy slippers right in your seatback pocket. Another win for EVA!
This is maybe one area where BR’s PE service falls a bit short. On CX PE meals are served on plates with (mostly) metal cutlery. On BR it seems like you get the same meal service as Economy. The food itself isn’t bad, but for one of my meals the entrée was lukewarm by the time the cart got to me. This of course can be fixed by pre-ordering a special meal online in advance of your flight, something we might try next time.
And there will definitely be a next time. If anyone’s thinking about trying EVA Air’s Elite cabin I can say with confidence that you won’t be disappointed. We found it better than Cathay Pacific in almost every way, and the tickets were cheaper, too!