Flight Review: EVA Air New York JFK-Taipei Royal Laurel Class Using United Miles and $24

Nov 15, 2013

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If you’ve been following me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, you probably know by now that I was just in the Maldives before heading to India. My itinerary was taking me from New York to Taipei, then on to Singapore and finally to Male before hopping a short flight to the Conrad Maldives. Needless to say, my trip involves a lot of flight time on different airlines!

To start off with, I was really looking forward to experiencing Premium Royal Laurel Class on Eva Air’s Boeing 777-300ER for the first time, as the airline is a fairly recent addition to the Star Alliance. My flight from New York to Taipei was the first leg of my long, three-flight journey to the Maldives.

Starting off with JFK-Taipei on Eva Air Royal Laurel Class.
Starting off with from JFK-Taipei on EVA Air Royal Laurel Class.

I reserved the trip using 60,000 United miles and $24.20 each for two people for the one way flight. My trip continued on to India after Maldives, so I used different miles for the flights home (more on that later). Note: after the impending February United devaluation this trip will cost 80,000 miles one-way- a 33% increase. A better option would be to use US Airways miles (while they are still in Star Alliance pre-American merger) for 80,000 miles roundtrip for economy, 120,000 in business and 160,000 in first class. Just note- US Airways does not currently offer one-way awards at half the price of roundtrip and you can’t change travel once you begin. US Airways “sells” miles routinely for 1.1-1.9 cents a piece, so buying 120,000 miles would cost ~$2,300, which is still a great deal since business class tickets to the Maldives can easily cost more than $6,000.

I was seated in 10D and my friend in 10G. These seats were in the middle section in the rear premium cabin, which was actually pretty nice because it’s smaller and quieter than the front part, which has double the amount of seats.

The layout of Royal Laurel class is 38 seats in 9 rows of four seats each (and one mini-row with just the 2 middle seats)  in a 1 x 2 x 1 reverse herringbone configuration like the new American 777-300 business class, or Cathay Pacific’s business class, which I really like for the privacy the outside seats afford, or the way the inside seats face each other if you’re traveling with someone else. There are 2 cabins, one with 5 rows (and the mini-row) up at the very front, and then another smaller 4-row cabin just behind it separated by lavatories and the galley.

Just a quick video of me boarding the aircraft…waiting for my pre-flight drink!

I was excited to drink some champagne on this flight.
I was excited to drink some champagne on this flight.

Upon boarding, I was particularly looking forward to having a drink, as I know they serve Dom Perignon Champagne! They don’t serve alcohol on the ground, so I had to wait until after takeoff for my expensive in-flight bev. After two glasses I had already recouped the $24 in taxes I paid for the ticket!

The Seat

The Royal Laurel Class Cabin.
The Royal Laurel Class Cabin.

My seat, 10D had a retractable armrest, which is nice, and multiple port connectors like A/V, USB and iPod so I could stay charged during the flight. Seats also come with a personal 15.4-inch TV with handset controller and noise-cancelling headphones (though I always bring my own). The tray table can fold out to double the size of a normal tray table, and it was helpful having that extra space for my iPad and phone, etc., to be able to spread out a little. There was also a large storage space for shoes, a book, or really for whatever you needed to keep at your side.

My seat.
My seat had a pitch of 62 inches.

The seats have a decent 61-62-inches pitch, and they are fully-lie flat seats that recline to 180 degrees. When fully reclined it’s just shy of 80 inches, so right about my height.  I’m 6’7″ and actually fit in them quite comfortably, which was perfect so I could get some sleep (which I did get… unfortunately all the way through dinner! But I’ll get to that below).

menu drinks
A shot looking down the length of the seat reclined into bed posture.

The pillow and light blanket they gave passengers were actually really comfortable too – so much so that I ended up sleeping most of the flight!  I slept about 11 out of 14.5 hours of it, which refreshed me for the rest of the long journey I was going to continue having with two more flights and a long layover in Singapore.

This amenity kit by Rimowa is shaped like a suitcase!
This amenity kit by Rimowa is shaped like a suitcase.

The amenity kits were by Rimowa – which is starting to become something of an obsession for milers these days as they collect them from various airlines including Lufthansa and Thai – and contained the usual eye-shades, socks, toothpaste and a toothbrush, lip balm, and body cream in a hard case that looks like a miniature suitcase.

Meal Service

The dinner menu looked fairly appetizing as it had three different options you could choose from: Healthy Dining, Royal Laurel Dining (American option) or Star Special (Asian Option).

Dinner Options.
There was a wide range of dinner options.

Healthy Option: Goose Liver Terrine with Walnut, Port Wine Jelly and Caramelized Apple for an appetizer. Chilean Sea Bass with Wolfberry (no idea what that was) and Spinach Sauce, Seasonal Vegetables and Multi-grain Rice as a main course, with fruit and sweets (Godiva chocolate!) and coffee for dessert.

Royal Laurel Option: Goose Liver Terrine with Walnut, Port Wine Jelly and Caramelized Apple for an appetizer. Ricotta-stuffed Chicken Breast with Chicken Jus, Seasonal Vegetables and Chive Mashed Potato as a main course, with fruit and sweets (Godiva chocolate again) and coffee for dessert.

Star Special Option: Pick either Stir-fried Chicken Julianne with celery or Stir-fried Mushrooms in Fish Sauce for an appetizer, and Noodle Soup with Braised Beef Brisket for main course. Fruit and sweets (you guessed it, Godiva) and coffee for dessert.

After all that hype looking at the dinner menu, I actually fell asleep through dinner service and missed it! Oh well, I am sure it was good. I’ll just have to fly them again…I just need to book it before United award redemption levels go up in February.

When the flight cabin lights were dimmed (of course, I was waking up from my missing-dinner nap at this point) the cabin had a ceiling made to look like the night sky, with stars and everything. I thought it was cool.

Sky interior lighting.
The star-lit interior lighting.

In general, the dimmed cabin just had some calming mood lighting, which was relaxing and tranquil, and thanks to it, I was able to go right back to sleep!

Mood lightening.
Mood lightening lulled me to sleep.

Mid-flight, they served some snacks, which I was dying for since I was starving due to sleeping through the meal service earlier in the flight. I was able to chow down on some noodle soup with chicken and beef lasagna, which was quite good, or maybe I was just really hungry!

Noodle Soup with Chicken Snack.
Noodle Soup with Chicken.

When I woke up, I was a bit hungry, though, so I ordered some noodle soup with chicken to tide me over till the next meal. They also offered lasagna on the anytime menu, so I asked for that as well, just to try, and it was decent – not too mushy. And, well, while I was at it, I figured I might as well have a little more Dom to wash it down.

Beef Lasagna Snack
Beef Lasagna.

I snoozed for another few hours and then about 90 minutes out of Taipei, the cabin crew began to come through serving breakfast. There was no way I was missing another meal, so I made sure to ask them to wake me up!

I had the Asian option, which is called the Royal Laurel Special, and my friend opted for the American option.

Royal Laurel Special: Egg Pancake with chopped gammon and beef, stir-fried assorted vegetables, and red bean and barley lily bulb with sweet Glutinous Rice Congee, fruit. It was really good and got me back in the mood for having savory Asian breakfasts, which I ended up doing the entire trip!

The Royal Laurel Special Breakfast.
The Royal Laurel Special Breakfast.

American Breakfast: fruit, bread, cereal, yogurt, spinach fritatta.

The Spinach Frittata part of the American breakfast.
The spinach frittata was part of the American breakfast.

I started with the fruit, cereal and yogurt, and then demolished the quiche-like fritatta, which came with tomato, potato, asparagus and a slab of ham.

After breakfast, we landed in Taipei and my friend and I headed to the lounge to wash up and refresh before our  next flight from Taipei to Singapore, which I will review shortly! All in all I felt this was a great flight, I found the flight attendants to be kind and helpful, and what I was awake to eat was pretty tasty.

Here is a sneak peak of my Maldives trip, but stay tuned for more updates and reviews.

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