Chasing Cathay Downmarket: Taipei Taoyuan to Hong Kong, EVA Air flight BR851, economy class

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Although I complain about Cathay cutting service on their Taipei flights, while continuing to charge handsomely in many cases, the same seems to be true of EVA Air.

Checkin

I had been checked in for this as part of a longer EVA itinerary. The boarding pass states a boarding time but not a departure time in addition – really annoying since the boarding time is not necessarily the actual boarding time for many airlines alas, and the transfer displays were arranged by departure time not boarding time. In any case, the displays were too small so I ended up asking the EVA Air transfer desk for the gate number.  The ground agent was helpful and wrote the boarding gate on the pass.

At the airport

The flight left from gate B6. Taoyuan has a wide variety of themed departure gates. We previously covered the Hello Kitty gate. This one was less fully decorated, but I do appreciate how this gives each gate more character.

Equipment

The flight was operated by an Airbus A321-200 (registration B-16206). It was painted in the rather pedestrian Star Alliance livery.

This plane was fairly basic – the seats had no adjustable headrests, there was no personal screen but just communal overhead screens whose advertising noise one could not block out (hello Spring Airlines…), no USBs and no power point. I was surprised since the plane was in good condition and felt new. Indeed it was only four years old. So why is it kitted out in a way which makes it uncompetitive versus what Cathay and others fly on this route?


Flight

The plane was around two thirds full, and the seat beside me was empty.

We boarded on time and pushed back a few minutes after schedule. But for some unexplained reason, by the time we arrived at the gate (the far flung 69) in Hong Kong at 10:26 we were a little over twenty minutes late.

A beautiful view over Hong Kong island and up over Kowloon side

At one point the screen showed the luggage had all arrived and I did not see mine, so I went to Jardines to ask about it. But they said that the sign was wrong and to wait. It came onto the carousel over fifty minutes after landing – a tedious wait.

Service

EVA crews are usually well attired and so was this one. The crew was friendly and efficient in their service. After the seatbelt sign was turned off, they did one quick combined snack and drink service.

Food and Drink

Cathay downgraded meal service in economy class on the Taipei route, as we have previously discussed, although after intense customer dissatisfaction they have now reintroduced meals on some of their Taipei flights. EVA’s meals on this route used to be a bit stodgy, but  they were at least meals. Apparently emboldened by Cathay’s cost cutting despite how it damaged Cathay’s brand, EVA also announced a few months ago that they were moving to a snack service on this and some other routes (discussed in this Flyertalk thread if you want more detail).

On this flight the snack was a cold pastry with thin meat and veg filling (I think), a pastry dessert and a tumbler of water. The metal cutlery was welcome but felt unnecessary. Cabin crew came around with hot tea or coffee, and that was your lot. This paltry cold offering was well below what I would expect from a premium airline. I’ve had great meals on other EVA flights and know they can do them but they seem not to bother now for Hong Kong.

Conclusion

What’s going on with EVA on this route? The plane was basic, the meal was rubbish, there was a delay and the bags took ages to come. Based on this I would think twice about flying EVA between Hong Kong and Taipei in the future.

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