Airline: EVA Air | Aircraft: 777-300ER | Class: Royal Laurel (Business) | Flight: BR226 (SIN-TPE)
On my latest trip to Taipei in April 2017, I tried out the famous Royal Laurel Class on EVA Air - this is essentially the airline's signature business class cabin. Ever since the devaluation of KrisFlyer Miles in March 2017, redeeming KrisFlyer Miles for partner airlines seem to make more sense as it allows you to try a different product without any penalty (you used to be able to save 15% off required miles for redemption on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir metal). Since Singapore Airlines operate the A330-300 (with a 2-2-2 arrangement) from Singapore to Taipei, I have decided to redeem my KrisFlyer Miles on EVA Air's Royal Laurel Class (1-2-1 arrangement) instead (find out how ExpertFlyer can help you find award space effectively).
Since EVA Air does not have a dedicated lounge in Changi Airport, passengers travelling in Royal Laurel Class will have access to the SilverKris Lounge in the airport (in fact, you will actually receive a physical separate lounge invitation card together with your boarding pass) - check out my recent review of the SilverKris Lounge (Terminal 3) in Changi Airport! Passengers traveling in Royal Laurel class will be amongst the first to board the plane - do note that champagne is not served on the ground and only after takeoff. You may however opt for one of their cold-pressed pineapple juices if you would like something special.
Shortly after Royal Laurel (Business) passengers have finished boarding, the Elite Class (Premium Economy) passengers will proceed to board - it is to my knowledge that some Elite Class passengers will pass through the Royal Laurel cabin so it does get a little crowded and rowdy for a little while (this is also the case on-board Singapore Airlines' Business Class on the A380-800's upper deck). The Royal Laurel Class on EVA Air is no doubt a solid product and it definitely puts the Singapore Airlines' A330-300 to shame. There are 38 Royal Laurel Class seats on-board the EVA Air's 777-300ER (22 in the main cabin and 16 in the smaller cabin). I have preselected Seat 10K as I generally prefer the smaller cabins since they tend to offer greater service (since there are less passengers to take care of).
The Royal Laurel seats are beautiful and they offer 26 inches in width, at least 81 inches in pitch and the flat bed offers 78 inches in bed length (enough to fit adults up to 1.9m very comfortably). In fact, while I was seated, my feet could barely touch the foot rest in front - the pitch is that wide! In comparison, Singapore Airlines only offers 24.5 inches in width and 60 inches in pitch on-board the A330-300. Without the 15% off miles now, there is little to no reason as to why I should pick Singapore Airlines over EVA Air.
All seats in the Royal Laurel Class comes with a power port and various connectivity options which I am not sure if anyone actually uses. The USB port is perfect for charging your mobile phone or iPad and EVA Air actually provides inflight WiFi at a reasonable rate from just USD 11.95. For your reference this is how much WiFi costs on-board the 777-300ER:
- 1-hour at USD 11.95
- 3-hours at USD 16.95
- 24-hours at USD 21.95
You will also receive a 12% discount when you purchase EVA Wi-Fi passes online prior to boarding.
Once the plane took off, Japanese rice crackers and drinks were served - I have opted for the Champagne since EVA Air serves Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006 in Royal Laurel - this is a vintage Champagne and Singapore Airlines does not serve vintage in Business Class. In fact, on long-haul flights, EVA Air offers Krug (and even Krug Rosé) on Royal Laurel! As a point of reference, Millésima sells a bottle of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006 for S$261 so you are definitely getting great Champagne from a dollar standpoint.
I generally prefer brut over rosé and therefore I am very happy with the Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006 - if you do happen to take BR216 (which is the unfortunately Hello Kitty plane which I personally do not have any interest in), it will be replaced with a less-attractive Collet Brut Rosé so make sure you pick wisely!
Headphones in Royal Laurel class are provided by Thunder by EVA Air - they are placed inside this beautiful hard case and when I got to my seat there was a brand new one already. They also gave out new headphones during the flight so for some reason only my seat had one prior to boarding which was strange. I also found a pair of used slippers deep inside the foot rest area of my seat. I guess it is easy to miss them since the pitch is so wide but the crew should probably do a better job at checking (especially since there are only 38 seats altogether).
While the Thunder by EVA Air Headphones look rather dubious, they do not actually sound bad at all - they are adjustable and they fit comfortably on my ears. The sound quality is decent and the noise-isolation is not exceedingly uncomfortable (it does not create that somewhat uncomfortable vacuum that is commonly associated with higher-priced noise-cancelling headphones). Obviously it poses no competition to the Bose QC25 on-board the Singapore Airlines' Suites Class but compared to the Phitek-branded ones on Singapore Airlines Business Class, these were certainly much better.
Lunch service began shortly after the plane took off - the appetiser was a Tuna Tartar and Seared Sesame Tuna with Avocado. Generally, I think that the catering on-board Royal Laurel Class has room for improvement - the presentation and plates used are a lot more homely and less classy but the dishes were quite delicious in terms of taste. While the seared sesame tuna looked like a pile of grey sludge, it actually tasted alright - I did wish I had a piece of brioche to spread it all over though.
Bread was also served during lunch service (strange how it isn't reflected in the menu though!) - I opted for the Garlic Bread since I was actually thinking of the ones from Singapore Airlines but the friendly air stewardess suggested me to try the special black sesame one instead. One thing that I notice on EVA Air is that the air stewardesses do not rush from passenger to passenger - they take their time (in a great way) with each passenger and make sure they are done before moving on to the next.
Despite multiple disappointments over the years, I have once again opted for the beef on-board EVA Air's Royal Laurel Class. It is worth noting that EVA Air has a 'Book the Cook' equivalent and there were six dishes that I could select from prior to the flight (three of which are actually available on the flight and three more are special dishes). I have pre-selected the Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Madeira Sauce, Mixed Vegetables and Polenta Cake (which was also offered on the flight) for my flight to Taipei and while the taste was quite decent, the beef was absolutely overcooked. Perhaps I will finally learn my lesson and go for a simpler dish like chicken or fish instead next time.
Sliced fruits were also served towards the end of the meal - I received a mixed plate of kiwi, watermelon, dragonfruit and pineapple during my flight.
For dessert, a White Chocolate and Yuzu Crémeux Cake was served. The only choice you get during the meal service is the main course - appetisers, fruits and desserts are all standardised across all passengers in the Royal Laurel cabin. This is unlike Business Class on Singapore Airlines where you are usually able to select an appetiser and dessert of choice.
To end off lunch service, I ordered a double espresso - EVA Air serves illy espressos on-board the Royal Laurel Class and since I did not actually have coffee in the SilverKris Lounge, I decided that it was a great time to have it on the plane. Call me pedantic but I would have actually preferred it if the double espresso was served in a proper cup (not a giant mug). If you are a whisky-drinker, you will be able to select from eight different whisky types on-board the Royal Laurel class (including a KAVALAN Single Malt Whisky).
Most passengers went to sleep after lunch service and the lights in the cabins were dimmed to facilitate that. Since I was feeling rather restless (and excited about my vacation), I decided to watch a movie on the plane and snap more photos of the Royal Laurel class instead. Seat 8K was not taken during the flight and since it was in pristine condition, I decided that it would be a greater idea to take a photo of it rather than 10K which I was in. As you can tell, the seats are extremely comfortable and wide - honestly, taking a long-haul flight in these seats are a dream.
Altogether, the service onboard EVA Air's Royal Laurel cabin feels a lot more genuine that what I have gotten on Singapore Airlines. Don't get me wrong though, Singapore Airlines isn't bad but they do have a highly standardised operation average that tends to feel cold after a while - EVA Air on the other hand feels a lot more warm and honest (especially if you do speak in their native tongue).
The devaluation of KrisFlyer Miles has definitely sent travellers from Singapore to look for alternatives on partner and codeshare airlines. It is definitely not a bad thing since we are now more motivated to look for better flights that are not necessarily on Singapore Airlines or SilkAir. I do not think the devaluation is terrible and it is not sufficient to force me to switch to another frequent flyer program but on mid-haul routes where the A330-300 is operated, I will definitely look at alliance partners for better alternatives. I have to say my first experience with the Royal Laurel product on EVA Air has got me hooked - I will definitely be flying with EVA Air again in the near future.