Monday, 29 September 2014

Flying The Golden Route with EVA Air Airbus A321

Welcome to my Trip Report on EVA Air's Airbus A321 Ride ! 


*Aircraft photos are credited to the respective photographers from Airliners.net 

This is my first flight with EVA Air after the airline joining the Star Alliance.


Here are some photos of the airline in the old livery. 

This is EVA Air's Boeing 747-400 Combi


This is the airline's Boeing 747-400F (Freighter) (My photo)


When I decided to fly to TPE (Taipei Taoyuan) from HKG (Hong Kong), I knew EVA Air was once of the airlines I had to fly again. Initially I wanted to do both ways EVA Air, but because flying on China Airlines especially on the Boeing 747-400 was very tempting, I decided to do one way of both airlines on HKG-TPE-HKG which means separate tickets which cost slightly more than EVA Air's special return ticket fare. Flying both ways on China Airlines wasn't exactly appealing to me! (I know, i can be fussy at times) In addition, EVA Air was retiring the MD-90 and it was so happened that this aircraft type was flying on this route so the decision was made then. 

I booked my ticket about a month before the date of departure. About 2 weeks later, the airline informed me by email that there was an aircraft change, from MD-90 to the Airbus A330-200 which I had already flown on and it didn't make sense to fly on it again. A few days later, I went to the office and the nice staff put me on waiting list. Even though the airline flies many flights on HKG-TPE with a mixture of narrow and wide-bodies, the seats filled up so quickly and mind you the airfare on this golden route (popular) is often very expensive. I guess once V air (Taiwanese Low Cost Carrier by TransAsia) and Tigerair Taiwan starts flights on this route, the airfare will dropped and can't wait for that to happen. The current price is overpriced for such a short route. 


    This is the MD-90 in the current livery.


If I have stick to my original flight, I would have gotten this Airbus A330-200: B-16306 which I have not flown before. The A330-200 that I flew was B-16301. 



Unfortunately, I couldn't get the MD-90 flight (first flight of the day), I was instead put on the 2nd flight which was operated by the A321. I didn't mind this type as I had not flown on the airline's. All I need now is to fly the Boeing 747-400 pax version to complete the airline's fleet type. 

Doing the booking with the airline was an easy affair. Both the computer and mobile website have improved a lot. It is much easier to navigate and make the booking. I was delighted with it! Didn't take long for me to do so and I have to say it has one of the best interface among all the airlines' websites. Mobile website is pretty good, it could however make some improvement by showing more information on miles earned with the airline or others. Currently, it just showed you the year, date and the points earned and that's it, you have to refer to the website for more information.


My flight route: HKG-TPE


I stayed at the Hotel Ibis North Point, paid about S$120 per night. Its a pleasant hotel to stay in even through the room is small and sometimes you have to wait for a long time before you lift comes - very frustrating! 



I checked out at 0700 and took the bus A11 to the airport. I was very frustrated to have missed the bus by a minute. As I tagged my luggage towards the bus terminal, the bus left making me wait for 25 minutes for the next one. Fortunately, it didn't downpour otherwise I will be stuck at the bus stop under a mini shelter that wouldn't be much of a help.

The next one came and I reached the airport around 0830, still early even though I preferred to be there earlier. 


Reached terminal 1 (Transport system over here is a lot better than my homeland, Singapore) 



Hong Kong Terminal 1: It was quite busy that morning but immigration and security check took no longer than 20 minutes. 



Checking the board, my aircraft's gate was not allocated but not to worry there were a few others too. 


You can also check here in case you can't remember your flight number. 



At the EVA Air's check-in counter, it took me about 10 minutes to clear. The check-in counter agent did enquire about my return flight and he was the first one (on my trip so far) who asked me to show him the itinerary for the return flight, which I did. When he saw the China Airlines' itinerary, he got shocked but didn't probe further. 



My boarding pass - better than the previous version (Before joining Star Alliance)


During the check-in, I did a check on what aircraft and registration was I flying on. 





Thanks to Flightradar24, I was delighted to be flying on my very first Airbus A321 with sharklets. EVA Air (September 2014) is currently operating 12 of this type and only 7 of them are equipped with the sharklets. 

Once I was at the air side, I went to do some plane spotting. Here are some of the photos! 


Lots of traffic at in the morning, got to see some interesting aircraft such as the photo below.


Orient Thai's Boeing 767-300ER, the airline also operates Boeing 747-300/-400 and the MD-82. 


Might give this airline a try, the next time I come up. Orient Thai operates any aircraft to Hong Kong so its all down to your luck. 

ANA's Boeing 767-300ER


Air Astana's Boeing 757-200


Air India's Boeing 787 Dreamliner


A row of Airbus A320s parking, which is the eye-catching one? Hong Kong Express, do you agree?


United Boeing 777-200ER



Delta Airlines Airbus A330-200



Still no information on my gate status. 



Free wifi at Hong Kong Airport, just one click of the button and you are online, very convenient. Wifi is also available at every part of the airport. 


Hong Kong Airport is very convenient for passengers, there is no need to transfer from one terminal to another. Just take the shuttle train to gates that are further away from here. 



There are playgrounds for children near the gates. 


Checking the gates again, Gate 60 showed up the screen and I made my way there shortly. 


My boarding gate: Prefer this style, you can wonder elsewhere just as long as you keep track of the time. 



My aircraft has arrived, the A321 certainly looks very smart with its sharklets!





No.32 airline
Date: 5th September 2014
9th flight with EVA Air
Flight: BR852
Route: HKG-TPE 
Aircraft: Airbus A321 with sharklets
Registration: B-16208
Configuration: C8Y176 
Engines: 2 X CFM56-5B3/3
Delivered on 21st March 2014
MSN: 6024 
Gate: 60
Seat: 32A
Flight time: 1 hr 20 mins 
Flight Level: 350
Departure time: 1110
Take off: 1125
Arrival: 1250 (on time)
Departure runway: 07R
Arrival runway: 05L

Boarding was in order and it took about 20 minutes to complete. Usually, I try to be one of the first to board. I can understand why some of you prefer to wait last minute then board. For me, I would rather board early to get into my seat (window seat) and put my stuff up the hand carry compartment before the space is taken up and of course spend more time on the aircraft! 

At the door, I was greeted by the Taiwanese crew, they were not very welcoming, just professional and that's about it. At least the rest of the crew had eye contact with me while walking down the aisle. I got to my seat and before my seat mates came, I manage to snap some photos. 


Boarding the aircraft always excite me! 



J class cabin 

This aircraft consists of 2 rows of 2-2 seating configuration which means 8 seats altogether. Looking at the seats, they look more like Premium Economy class instead. For the airfare the airline is charging, I be glad to book myself at the other cabin, not too impressed. 



Y class cabin 



 The new Recaro seats look pretty nice, the seats is comfortable with reasonable legroom space. 


As the A321 aircraft flies on short-medium haul routes, the airline decided not to install In-flight entertainment system on this aircraft, instead drop-down screen is used.


As you can see in this picture below, the drop-down screen which displays not just the airline's program, it also displays the flight map. I wasn't too interested in the program anyway and my only form of entertainment was the window view. 



Seat pitch is acceptable for me, would be even better if the middle seat remains vacant. For flights for more than 3 hours, I would probably select the aisle seat. 


I am on the A321 according to the safety card!


I had a dilemma. Since I was sitting beside 2 medium-built gentlemen, I was thinking whether should I still go ahead and take some cabin photos or just stay in my seat. In the end, I decided to just go ahead because its unlikely I would be flying on this aircraft any time soon. Luckily, they were pretty friendly about it. I always have a feeling of guilt disturbing my neighbours. 

The crew on Taipei-Hong Kong routes are always very busy especially on the bigger aircraft. As this flight's duration is only 1 hour 20 mins or less, hot meals are served can you imagine how stress can that be to served every passenger and hope they finish fast so that the can prepare early for arrival. 


I like the EVA Air's uniform - looks pretty on the ladies. 



Most of them were not watching the program on the IFE. For such a short flight, not many were bothered about it. 


 Some quick photos before I disembarked the aircraft. 

This friendly crew saw me taking photos was very nice to asked me whether I enjoyed the flight. I spoke to her about the company and the aircraft types and she was pleasantly surprised. We couldn't talk long though as the aircraft was being prepared to fly back to Hong Kong not long after. She's probably one of the friendliest EVA Air crew I met so far among all my 9 flights with the airline. 


What's inside the toilet? 




I had to use the toilet even when the seat belt sign was on, fortunately not much turbulence at that time. 


What's inside the seat pocket? 


Headset - didn't use it at all.



I was so tempted to order some plane models but in the end I resisted. 


The safety card.


In-flight magazine 


I can't remember the last time I used this disposal bag, I think probably on my first few flights. 



In-flight meal 


Non-spicy beef with rice (Taiwanese style) with Apple pie, French Fries
 and Apple Juice 

The sauce was saltish but when mixed with rice, it wasn't that bad. Apple pie was nice but I didn't eat the french fries. Wanted to eat it on my way to the hotel but left at the seat pocket after the flight. For 1 hour 20 minutes of flying, to get a hot meal like this is surprisingly. Normally airlines would just offer a snack box consisting a sandwich, cake and a drink.

In-flight service

Among my 9 flights on EVA Air, service on board this flight was slightly better than most of my previous flights. Has things improved since the last time I flew (Before the airline joining the star alliance)? Yes, definitely. However, its still lags behind the likes of Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and All Nippon Airways in terms of quality service especially in Y class. This class is the most challenging as the crew face all kinds of passengers from different countries. Passengers from certain countries can be more difficult to handle and that's where their skills come in. Fortunately for them, all the passengers on this flight were well behaved. The challenging part for this flight was to work fast (due to short flight) and hope the weather is co-operative, single aisle of this aircraft also make it tough for them especially with passengers on the aisle walking to and fro. Credit to the crew for handling the situation well, no sign of frown from them. Glad to hear the voice from the Captain too, he kept us well-updated about our flight's progress. 

Here are some window-shot photos, please enjoy! 


My aircraft was parked beside Cathay Pacific's Boeing 777-300. How do I know its the non-ER version? Look at the engine badge, its Roll Royce. General Electric GE90-115B is the only engine supplier that powers the Boeing 777-300ER. 


Push back and ready to go! 






Weather in Hong Kong was not bad , taxing past some interesting traffic to runway 07R for departure. 







Almost there now! We were around 8 aircraft in the queue when we were near the threshold, so we waited for quite a while before we were given the clearance for take-off. 


EVA 852 maintain runway heading, climb to 7000 feet, clear for take off! 


 A smooth take-off and we were soon out of Hong Kong in no time.




    I wish I was sitting either in front of the engine or behind the wing but this was the only window seat available. Can't complain.  





     After 50 minutes of cruising, we started descending into Taiwan and soon on approach to Taipei Taoyuan Airport. 



The tail of the China Airlines Boeing 747-400 makes the sharklet looks huge in comparison. 







      Uni Air's MD-90! This will probably be my last sight of it! Aircraft is being replaced by Airbus A321 at this time. (September 2014) 



Parked beside Hainan Airlines Boeing 737-800. 



The Sharklet which can be fitted on the Airbus A319 and A320 as well. 


Take off and landing videos




On approach to Taipei Taoyuan was slightly bumpy and its been always been the case for me whenever I fly there. 


My rating: 

Website: 8/10 (Including mobile application)
Hong Kong check-in counter service: 6/10
Hong Kong Airport experience: 8/10
In-flight service: 6/10
Cabin interior: 9/10
Seat comfort: 8/10
Cleanliness: 10/10
In-flight meal: 6/10
Punctuality: 10/10
Aircraft condition: 10/10
Overall rating: 69/90

Conclusion: 

I am delighted that EVA Air has joined the star alliance. As a frequent flyer of this airline, I could now earn my points flying with other members of the alliance which makes the program much more attractive than before. The 'Infinity mileagelands' program is an upgrade over the previous. Flying with this airline is recommended by me especially if you are flying from South-east Asia to US or vice versa. Taipei Taoyuan Airport may not be the newest but its a decent airport for transit. Airline has improved by leaps and bounds. It offers newer products especially in J class (Royal Laurel) which is definitely worth a try. Is this airline better than its fiercest rival, China Airlines? Stay tuned for my trip report. So go ahead and book yourself with EVA Air - a reliable airline that you can depend on. 

Do take note that the airline is the last Asian operator to operate the MD-90, so if you want to fly on this type, now is the best time to do so. (September 2014) Once its retired, you have to head to U.S to catch this aircraft type. 

Thank you for reading my latest trip report!

Feel free to ask any questions. 

Cheers
Charles 


2 comments:

  1. They fly this plane from Surabaya to Taipei and that's like 5 hours! They used to operate with A330 now switched to A321 sigh ... and I haven't try it again ever since they change the equipment. From the look of the cabin, I don't think C class is worth to buy for 5 hours? it looks soo outdated and does that thing even recline properly??

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ary,

      The reason why the airline is using A321 to Surabaya is due to the lack of demand. Pointless to operate the A330 there with many empty seats while they can use it for other routes with more demand. Makes sense for business. While its not as comfortable as flying on a wide-body, I think C class on the A321 isn't too bad. The 2-seater offers good amount of space and yes, it does recline. At least you get Business class service on board!

      Cheers,
      Charles

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