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Wednesday 8 July 2015

EVA Air Hello Kitty Experience On Shining Star, B-16722 (Part 2)


Choosing the return flight on the Hello Kitty flight was an easy decision. I could have done one-way Hello Kitty and the return on a normal flight, but as you know aircraft changes can take place any time, so to play safe, I chose Hello Kitty flights on both ways and it turns out to be a very good decision. Do read on to find out why. 

Taipei is one of my favourite cities in the world, I would love to spend a longer period in the city if given a chance. What makes me fall in love with the city? I can't explain, to be honest, but I only know one thing, I love the food and the people over there. 

Leaving Taipei after a day of stay was hard, but I knew I would be back in less than 2 months and I had to go back to work and settle some outstanding issues. So with that, let's begin my trip report. 

For part 1, click here.

*Photos of the aircraft are credited to the respective photographers on airliners.net and jetphotos.

Photo of B-16722 without the Hello Kitty livery

Photo: Jason Cheng

B-16722 in golden light, do you like the livery?

Photo: Joost De Wit

History of EVA Air 

EVA Air is also known as E-V-A Airways, was set up in 1989 as an affiliate of shipping conglomerate Evergreen Group. This airline is a Taiwanese carrier based in Taoyuan, Taipei and is largely privately owned and is considered to be the 2nd biggest airline in Taiwan, behind China Airlines who is the number 1. EVA Air Cargo was also set up to handle the air cargo with a fleet of MD-11F and Boeing 747-400F, soon the Boeing 777 Freighter will join the fleet, replacing the MD-11 type. Its domestic and regional subsidiary, Uni Air operates on domestic and international small markets with a fleet of MD-90 (To be phased out in May 2016), Airbus A321 and ATR 72-600 series. 

The airline is currently operating a fleet of Airbus A321, Airbus A330-200, Airbus A330-300, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777-300ER and MD-90. The airline is currently (July 2015) discussing on the airline's Airbus A330 replacement and expansion and it is highly believed to be Boeing 787-9 and Boeing 787-10 to be replacing them. The Boeing 747-400 will be replaced eventually probably by the incoming Boeing 777-300ER which is a favourite aircraft type with the management. 

The airline has recently acted aggressively to attract more passengers to fly with the airline by promoting 'Hello Kitty' together with Sanrio company which is based in Japan. For more info on the hello kitty, check out the airline's website

Photos below credit to EVA Air's website.

The airline has recently been updating its in-flight products; Royal Laurel, Elite Class, and Economy Class. They have new cabins on the newest batch of Boeing 777-300ER (77A) series and I am lucky to be able to experience them. I have flown on the Airbus A330, Boeing 747 Combi and Boeing 777-300ER (77N) and I have to say its certainly an improvement over the cabins of these aircraft. Of course, the Boeing 747 Combi have already been retired, now leaving the Boeing 747-400 still flying to a few cities like Vancouver and Jakarta at this period. 

A few days before my flight

The airline will send out an email a day or two before your flight departure, to give you some travelling tips which may be useful for you. However, it doesn't remind you to do the online check-in, so remember to do so (For EVA Air, its 24 hours before your flight) as early as possible to obtain the best seat for yourself and your partners. 

Online check-in

This is available 24 hours before departure. I usually do it early to get the good seats. After waking up, the first thing I did was to check-in, using the mobile app. 

What caught my eye was my assigned seat, 65A was changed to 24K. Immediately at once, I knew I was upgraded to Elite Class. Did a check on the seat map, I was pleased with the upgrade, not to mention this happening on my favourite airline makes it even sweeter. 

Checking the seat map, I decided to sit on the left side of the aircraft, so I picked 21A as B was opened and hopefully no one was sitting beside me. 

That night, I did a check on the airline's website, to my horror, row 21 and 24 are windowless! I quickly tried to change my seat, but by then all the seats except 21B were unavailable. I shouldn't have changed my seat if I had known. 

I didn't use the e-boarding pass as I got the proper one at the airport. The good thing is the airport staff won't tear off the portion of it, you can keep the whole boarding pass unlike in the past.

The website version shows you which seats are windowless. Next time, I will use the website's version to check.

My time in Taipei 

Chocolate Banana with ice cream on shaved ice - delicious

Chocolate waffle - I like the way it was made. 

Strawberry Mango with shaved ice 

I went to the Taipei World Trade Centre to attend the monthly Yelp Elite Event. Yelp is a program that allows you to explore new places in cities, checking out the nearby restaurants, dessert places, places of interests and others. 

Group photo: The Yelpers in Taipei - For all ages!

Its a pretty cool app, Yelp has improved my social life as I made some good friends. Try it! For more information, click here.

The booth at the exhibition hall. 

Some photos of the exhibition

This festival is an annual event, and the next one will be on August 2016.

Danshui Old Street - not as crowded as before. 

Valentine's bridge 


Yongkang Street - popular for its food, do try its beef noodles. 

I had this beef noodles at Shida Night Market.

My short stay had come to an end so quickly, met some new friends along the way. It was a fruitful trip, can't wait to return a month later. I went home early on the last day as my flight was in the morning. 

On the day of departure

I didn't manage to sleep much, so I decided to leave earlier for the airport. I went to the bus stop just outside Sheraton Taipei Hotel and took the bus 1961 to Terminal 2 of Taoyuan Airport. The ride cost NT$90 and it took around an hour to get there. 

Once I was there, the airport at that time was very crowded so I went quickly to EVA Air's Hello Kitty Check-in counter to get my boarding pass. Here are the photos. 

China Airlines uses Terminal 2 now, previously it was based at Terminal 1. 

Checking my flight, it was to depart on time. 

Making my way to row 8. 

Here I am, the start of my Hello Kitty return flight experience. 

The queues were pretty long and I waited for 15 minutes before my turn came. 

There is a separate queue for the non-Hello Kitty flights.  

The check-in counters for the premium classes. 

My boarding pass - definitely a collectable's item. 

In the past, EVA Air's aircraft parked at Charlie gates, this time I would be departing from B7 which is a Terminal 1 gate, the first time for me. 

The Hello Kitty Check-in Counters only applies to Hello Kitty flights like mine.

Fascinating, right? No one else along with Japanese Airlines, in my opinion, does this better. 

Some of the little ones were checking it out. I didn't see anyone using the check-in machines at that time.

Several families were there to take photos. 

I was tempted to print myself another boarding pass, maybe I should have tried. 

These are the flights applicable for Self Hello Kitty Check-in. 

This is the entire Hello Kitty collection for you to grab hold of. 

Once I was done, I made my way to the airside. 

The airport's free WiFi is available but at certain parts of the terminal. 

EVA Air has flights located at both Gate B and C. 

Lots of duty-free shops around, so you won't get bored. Just don't forget your boarding time. Do reach there at least 15 minutes before the gate closes. It's better to find out the location of the gate, as it may be the furthest away from the shopping area. 

While walking around, I did some plane spotting. 

EVA Air's Boeing 777-300ER B-16706 (77N) 

Can you spot B-16722 and B-16703 in this photo?

Finally, I spotted B-16703 after many attempts. I still prefer B-16722's livery. 

This is the Sanrio's family livery. 

Hello Kitty 'Around the World' livery, unfortunately, this is the best shot I can get. 

Hello Kitty's Airbus A330-200 'Speed Puff' livery 

My ride, Shining star B-16722. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the full frame of the aircraft. 

EVA Air's Boeing 747-400 B-16410 being prepared for departure to Jakarta. 

I went for a walk after a brief plane spotting session. Terminal 1 and 2 gates are connected and you can tell the difference between the two terminals, with terminal 2 being newer. 

I came here for a nice breakfast. 

A nice bowl of Taiwanese noodles got my morning going.

Sanrio shop and the Hello kitty Gate (Gate C3) This is located at terminal 2. You know where to go, Hello Kitty fans! 

Here is the Hello Kitty gate, still the same since my last visit. 

Even non-Hello Kitty flights use this gate. 

Looks beautiful, right?

Hello, Kitty Clocks around the world! 

This gate gets the most attention from passers-by. Even the cleaners appreciate its appearance. 

Walking further down to my gate, it takes around 15 minutes to walk from the immigration counter to my gate. 

Another gate that caught my attention. I must say I like what the Airport is doing.

Sitting on a "hot-air" balloon and plane spotting at the same time, that fits me perfectly.

Entering terminal 1, you can see the difference between both terminals. Terminal 1 is older. 

This is terminal 1, it's not as nice as terminal 2.  

There are still plenty of duty-free shops over here. 

Quite some passengers waiting for their flights. What I like about Taiwanese airports is there are no holding rooms like Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur Airport. You can hang out at these areas until boarding is called. 

Boarding EVA Air flight from Terminal 1, it was a surreal feeling. First time for me! 

The interior is very pretty at gate B6.

This is where my flight was departing from. While waiting at my seat, a Singapore aviation enthusiast, Vernon Loh appeared in front of me. I was pleasantly surprised to see him. He was also in Taipei just to catch the Hello Kitty aircraft. 

My ride was being prepared for the flight to Singapore. Lots of attention was on her, unfortunately, it wasn't really photography friendly. 

Flight route: TPE-SIN

Miles: 1996 

My ride: B-16722 (Photos credit to the respective photographers from airliners.net)

Date: 19th July 2015
Airline: EVA Air
Flight: BR215 / SQ5803
Route: TPE-SIN
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Registration: B-16722
Delivered: 27th May 2015
Configuration: 77A (C38, W64, Y211)
Leased by GECAS
Line number: 1302
Engines: 2 X GE90-115B
Seat: 65A (Originally) changed to 21A 
Gate: B7
Scheduled departure: 0925
Boarding: 0905
Push back: 0936
Take off: 1005 
Duration: 4 hours 
FL: 320 
Load: 100% in Elite class
Scheduled arrival: 1350 
Actual arrival: 1405
Departure runway: 24
Arrival runway: 20R

Getting ready to board B-16722 for my 2nd time. Usually, I feel disappointed to be flying on an aircraft for the 2nd time or more, but not for this case. 

Boarding took place 15 minutes later, not sure of the reason. Zones were called and I boarded the aircraft when Zone 2 was announced. I wanted to snap as many photos of the vacant seats before more passengers boarded. 

By the time I reached my seat, my seatmate was there and instead of having a window at my seat, I see a wall instead, fortunately, there is a window just behind the front seat, I managed to take some decent window shot photos. 

More photos of Premium Laurel (Business Class)

The more I look at the seats, the more I like it. There are positive reviews on this product so trying this is definitely on my agenda. 

The controls seen here is easily accessible for the passenger. From the look at the layout, it looks pretty user-friendly. 

Definitely not ideal for window shot photos. For that, it's better to fly on the Elite Class.

 If you are travelling in a couple, you can have a conversation with one another, otherwise, there is a divider for privacy if you are sitting with a stranger. 

A Hello Kitty Picture featuring 'Shining Star' theme on the wall. The Premium cabins (J and W Class) don't have much 'Hello Kitty' feeling which may be a good thing for some. 

I sat down to have a feel of it.

Are you impressed with the herringbone style Business Class seats? I haven't tried this before, perhaps soon. 

Photos of Elite Class cabin

As you can see, the Hello Kitty video was played on this leg. 

Legroom space is 38' inch, quite comfortable for long haul flights. 

My seatmate thought that this was his seat and he asked the crew about it and the crew told him I was in the correct seat. My gosh! 

Every aviation enthusiast's nightmare - Windowless Seat! However, I managed to cope with it, so it didn't turn out too bad. 

The seat width is smaller than the old Elite Class but it is comfortable for me. 

The remote control is at the side of the seat. 

You have your powerpoint, USB port and earplug point over here. 

Leg rest is available but I have no use for it. 

This is the row in front of me, the bulkhead row. I wanted this seat, but it was occupied when I did my online check-in. 

The Elite Class Cabin in the 2-4-2 layout. 

The generous seat pitch may be worth paying for on long haul flights.

Even when the seat in front is in the reclined mode, it isn't that bad. 

Seat belt sign was left on throughout the flight even during smooth air. 

A few photos of this cabin after arrival. 

It was a pleasure enjoying the comfort of Elite Class on my return leg. 

Since my friend, Vernon was sitting at the Economy Class, I went to visit him and we took a few photos of the cabin while catching up on our trips. For photos of the Economy Class seats, do check my part 1 for photos.  

I checked out the toilet at the Elite Class, its similar to the Economy Class in terms of decoration, except for the wooden flooring. 

What's on the seat? 

The seat cushion. Lovely, right?

A better quality headset for the Elite Class passengers, sound quality is decent. 

Just after an hour of flying, in-flight snack and drink were served. 

I had tomato juice for my drink. 

Managed to get some poker cards from the cabin crew. 

A flight menu was served to each passenger in Elite Class.

The food selection is different from Economy Class. 

You can view the choices of meal on the IFE system but the meal selection is different from the menu card.

Interesting choices of beverages. 

 My seatmate requested for a drink from this menu, and the cabin crew wasn't happy about it, her facial expression gave it away. At least she served him the drink after everyone got their meals. 

The foldable tray from the hand rest area. It wasn't too difficult to take it out.

Inflight meal: Wok-Fried Pork with Scallop in Light Soya Sauce

It's pretty decent for an airline meal. Taipei's catering is nothing to shout about. I have flown out of Taipei several times, I have yet to experience an excellent meal. 

Enjoying a Japanese beer this time around. 

The food tray has the Hello kitty Theme on it. You can keep the utensils for collection and I did just that. 

In-flight experience 

The ride was smooth for most parts of it. There was turbulence at certain points of the journey, but it wasn't bad. Seat belt sign was left on all the time, so some of the passengers like myself didn't know whether it was advisable to use the toilet. 

I asked the crew for permission just to play safe and the others follow suit, disregarding the fasten seat belt sign. Maybe the flight crew could have forgotten to switch off the seat belt sign? Just like my previous flight, the Captain came on the speaker just once and briefly described the flight and that was it. It would be nice if they interact with the passengers more.

In-flight service 

This seat of the crew was definitely not as good as my previous flight. They seemed stress and tired, but still not an excuse to be slightly rude - this was the case with one of the crew serving my aisle. This crew wasn't very pleasant, she doesn't seem to be happy working on board, so why bother? However, some were courteous and professional especially the one who came to me to confirm my duty-free order which I did it online. She was friendly and repeatedly thank me for purchasing the items. This crew was definitely one of the better ones on this flight. While walking around the cabin, the crew were seen quite busy, hardly a smile from them when walking past them. Overall, the service was a disappointment. 

Window shot photos 

Even though my seat is windowless, fortunately, there is a window that I can stick my camera out to snap some of these photos. 

The view of the wing and the engine - GE90-115B, currently the biggest engine and most powerful type in today's civil aviation. 

Aircraft is pushing back and starting up. 

Once our engines were stabilized, we taxied to the active runway, the only one in use so the delay in take-off is not a surprise.

Spotting TigerAir Taiwan and V-Air for my first time. I will be flying on V-Air soon, stay tuned for my trip report on that airline. 

Spotted the airline's MD-90 heading for the runway. Catch this while you can, it will be retired in May 2016.

Passing by China Airlines' territory. 

China Airlines Airbus A330-300 and Boeing 777-300ER (In the hanger) were spotted. 

We were soon at the runway for taking off. I was expecting a bumpy take-off, looking at the weather. 

Starting our roll. 

Off we went, the takeoff was slightly bumpy.

Going through the clouds at this point, it wasn't too bad. 

Not long after, we were out of the grey clouds. 

This is why I love flying! 

Enjoying the calm roar of the GE-90 engines while we were flying over the South China Sea.

Our 4 hours flight came to an end very quickly and soon we started our descend and were on the final preparation for arrival. 

Just a few turns along the way. 

Traffic was pretty light at that time, so we were not placed on a holding pattern, just a direct route to runway 20R. 

On final approach to runway 20R. I decided not to take a video of it since I have taken plenty before. 

Changi Coastal Road insight, we were seconds from touch down.

The sight of cargo terminal appeared which means runway 20R arrival. 

Almost there now. 

The holding point of runway 20R, no aircraft in sight as taking offs usually take place on the other runway, runway 20C. 

2 Aircraft at the Cargo Terminal, Asiana's Boeing 747-400F, and Singapore Airlines' Airbus A380 resting. Why is the passenger jet parked at the cargo terminal? Due to lack of parking lot space in terminal 3.

We touched down smoothly and using the reverse thrust, we slowed down to taxiing speed within seconds. 

This is it, the end of my flight. This trip went past too quickly for my liking.

This is what you can get while flying this Hello Kitty Jet 

You have to ask the cabin crew for the poker cards. 

My rating:

On ground crew (TPE): 8/10
Hello Kitty Experience: 7/10
In-flight service: 5/10
Seat comfort: 7/10
Cabin interior: 9/10
Cleanliness: 10/10
Punctuality: 7/10 (We departed and landed late, but I didn't mind at all) 
Aircraft condition: 10/10
IFE System: 7/10 
In-flight meal: 6/10
Overall rating: 76/100


EVA Air and Sanrio have done well to create a unique experience not just for the Hello Kitty fans, also the neutrals like myself to experience something that other airlines would probably not do. The experience isn't too much for me, in fact, I enjoyed the experience on both flights. After trying out both Economy and Premium Economy (Elite Class) classes, I am impressed with both cabins. These cabin products are definitely an improvement over the older cabin (77A, Airbus A330-200/300 and Boeing 747-400). I like the Economy Class seats, in particular, I find it to be one of the best out there especially with the 3-3-3 seating configuration on the Boeing 777. Hopefully, EVA Air will stick to this configuration for its future (most probably I think) order of the next generation of Boeing 777-8 or -9. Meanwhile, the future looks bright for this star alliance member, it has improved by leaps and bounds, thanks to the vision of the current management. 

I recommend EVA Air to anyone who wishes to fly on it and for more trip reports on this airline, check out my links. 

Thanks for reading my part 2 of my EVA Air Hello Kitty experience. 

For my part 1 of my Economy Class experience.


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