Which Taiwanese Airline Has The Better Business Class Product?

Taiwan has two great airlines — China Airlines and EVA Air. They didn’t used to be nearly as good as they are now (in particular China Airlines), though they’ve really put an effort into their product, and now both offer among the best business class products out there.

I’ve also reviewed both airlines in the past several months on the same route on the same plane:

EVA-Air-Business-Class-777 - 1

Several readers have asked if I could do a side-by-side comparison of the two airlines, which seemed like a cool idea. Before I do so, let me add the disclaimer that this is based on my firsthand experience only, and of course your experience may differ from flight to flight.

Here are comparisons of a few major aspects of their products, in no particular order:

Seats & cabin

Both airlines have reverse herringbone seats in business class. The two airlines have slightly different versions of the seat — China Airlines has the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond reverse herringbone seat, which I slightly prefer to the one offered by EVA Air.

Also, personally I far prefer the finishes that China Airlines uses for their cabins. China Airlines’ 777 business class cabin is stunning; I love everything about the cabin.

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While EVA Air’s 777 cabin is extremely comfortable, I can’t say that the design is my favorite.

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China Airlines also has a cute walk-up bar on the 777, with snacks, drinks, etc.

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While EVA Air also has a small selection of snacks, the design certainly isn’t as nice as China Airlines’.

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Winner: China Airlines

Service

I’ve consistently found EVA Air flight attendants to be friendly, charming, and personable. I also haven’t found there to be much of a language barrier on EVA.

Meanwhile I’ve found China Airlines flight attendants to be well intentioned, though they’re generally not quite as polished as on EVA Air, and I’ve also found there to be more of a communication barrier. On the plus side, they have futuristic uniforms.

Winner: EVA Air

Wifi

Both airlines have among the best wifi offered by any international carrier. On EVA Air you can buy wifi without data caps for 24 hours for $21.95:

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The pricing is identical on China Airlines:

China-Airlines-Wifi

So they both have fantastic wifi offerings.

Winner: Tie

Drinks

Both airlines have fantastic champagne offerings. Actually, I’d say EVA Air and China Airlines have the two best champagne offerings of any airline in business class.

At the moment EVA Air is pouring Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006 on many routes.

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Meanwhile China Airlines is pouring Pol Roger 2004.

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While both of those are excellent champagne options, EVA Air’s great drink selection goes beyond alcohol. They have Fiji water, iced coffee, etc.

EVA-Air-Business-Class-777 - 65

Winner: EVA Air 

Food

Both airlines have above average food offerings. On my recent EVA Air flight I was offered a foie gras appetizer, soup, salad, a main course consisting of incredible miso seabeass, a fruit and cheese plate, and then dessert.

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On China Airlines I was offered caviar blinis and soup to start, then filet mignon as the main course, and fruit and ice cream for dessert.

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In fairness, my EVA Air flight departed at 11AM, while my China Airlines flight departed after midnight, so that may have factored into what was being offered. However, I found the food quality on EVA Air to be a bit better.

Winner: EVA Air

Amenities

EVA Air has Rimowa amenity kits in business class, which are unbeatable.

EVA-Air-Business-Class-777 - 18

They also offer pajamas.

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The pillow and blanket are also among the best offered by any airline in business class.

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Meanwhile China Airlines offers a nice ACCA KAPPA amenity kit, though that’s not quite to the same level as the Rimowa one offered by EVA Air.

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They also have a decent pillow and blanket, though it’s not as comfortable as what’s offered by EVA Air.

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China Airlines doesn’t offer pajamas in business class.

Winner: EVA Air

Bottom line

Using my general categories above, China Airlines wins in one area, EVA Air wins in four areas, and it’s a tie in one area. However, I really can’t emphasize enough how both of these are top notch business class products, and I’d recommend them both in a heartbeat.

For example, China Airlines “lost” the drink category despite serving the second best business class champagne offered by any airline, so that shows you just how competitive these airlines are.

China Airlines has gorgeous cabins, while EVA Air has a fantastic soft product. I can’t recommend either airline enough.

If you’ve flown both EVA Air and China Airlines, which did you prefer?

Comments

  1. very excited to fly 2x on eva’s 777 en route to vietnam this weekend in biz! curious how the shorthaul soft product (TPE – SGN) will differ from the longhaul (ORD – SGN).

  2. wow. Wikileaks has a lot of new and disclosed CIA travel info. Like secondary screening guides, airport info.

    Check it out.

  3. Well, first it is CI (CAL) not CA, just for correction from comment above.
    For seats, CI’s seat has a major problem: while you sleep your knee will actually hit tray table with very limited space to move. While BR is more comfortable to move if you recline fully.
    For interior, CI’s interior is one of the worst to maintain and all crews complains about how hard to operate.

    Although CI now fly 359, their 359 cabin lack storage space in business class (same as CI’s 343), you may want to try and see the huge design problem.

    I think the major issues for CI is to ask an designer who actually not fly often, for both A/C cabin and lounge. Both designs are not practical.

    Rice

  4. As a Taiwanese, I feel compelled to say that you would not recommend EVA if you knew how the company treats its employees. Most notably, EVA Air bans its employees from joining labor unions.

  5. I’m looking to fly EVA to TPE in J with Aeroplan points, one-way 75k. It appears that they fly the same equipment (777) from all North American gateways. Flying from Seattle makes most sense to me as it’s my home airport, but I was wondering whether the soft product varies from route to route. For example, is there a different champagne served on the SEA route vs. the SFO or YVR route, etc.

    I’m also curious whether EVA charges a fee for an infant flying in business on an adult’s redemption ticket.

  6. I avoid China Airlines at ALL cost.
    My parent come from taiwan, and also know many friends that either worked at CI as mechanics, flight attendants, minority owners… they are advise to avoid flying CI if you have a choice.
    Eva usually rank at the top on safety record, and CI usually last or second to last.

  7. The seats on CI have one MAJOR problem: the position of the tray.
    The tray is positioned below the monitor and not beside/next to the monitor.
    This means you end up hitting the table with your knees when you try to move a bit while lying down.
    I am actually really surprised you prefer the seats on CI over BR…I’d think the majority of people would prefer the seats on BR over CI.

  8. Hi lucky,
    I’m Taiwanese and have taken over 150+ flights on both Airlines (mostly CA), just thought I would chime in with some info.
    China Airlines used to be own by the government (largely subsidized), one thing you wouldn’t know is if you look at business class, you’ll see a lot of old people between the age of 45-70, many of them pay very little for these seats as there are quite a lot of backdoor channels for that. Many of them are retired and very, very wealthy people from the government.

    Eva Air focuses more on the “present/future” by paying more attention to their international image through buying new planes at a faster rate and having promotions such as Hello Kitty planes. While China Airlines still focuses on appeasing the older rich generation, as you can probably see from the lounge and business class seat-designs (everything is more traditional and elegant).

    I would say within the pool of wealthy people, the younger generation mostly fly -and have status, with Eva, while China Airlines still have most of the older generations. For China Airlines, getting status often isn’t by how much you fly, but more of who you know. My grandparents have the highest FF status with CA, so “naturally” my parents and I do too. Hope this makes sense.

    Just thought you would like to know.

    Regards,
    Eddie

  9. @Grant

    Correction. EVA and CI both fly the 744 to YVR which contains a very outdated hard product. Besides that EVA flies the 777W on all other North American routes.

    Personally I will never fly CI but I am biased: I was one of the passengers that was on CAL120….

  10. Lucky,

    As a Taiwanese living in America, how on earth would you judge that Eva Air has no language barriers comparing to China Airlines? In my opinion from all the years that I have sat with them both, Chinese & Taiwanese are more of a forte comparing to English, because it is considered international law to learn the language as part of the requirements for their job and it is not the countries primary language. Most of them learned it from the so-called crash course language schools, so it is not that good as most of the westerners would have spoken otherwise.

  11. QR on NYC-DOH (both directions) had 2006 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, which id take over either of these offerings.

  12. i have flown both and for some reason remember china airlines seat to be a bit more spacious. i think the footwell was slightly larger or at least seemed to have more wiggle room.

  13. I’ve flown via EVA air from Taiwan to Los Angeles and back. The 777 jet experience (though I’m in the coach class) was comfortable and above par than other airlines. Albeit, even the embarkation and disembarkation was quite smooth and easy.

  14. I think comparing the two airlines based on just one plane is a limited experience.
    The CI B777 Business Class looks nice – but almost 80% of their wide-body fleet has recliner or angled flat seats in Business Class, ie on B747, A340. Many of them are old and a far cry from their new B777 product.
    In comparison, Eva has lie-flat seats in the majority of their wide-body planes.
    I’ve flown CI US-Asia and within Asia in Business Class, got stuck on their old planes and was very disappointed. I’d rather fly Eva and know that I have a much higher probability of being in a nice cabin on all flights.
    I also had very mixed service experience on China Air, ranging from friendly with great English to outright rude – they made United look good!
    I’m actively avoiding CI until they offer a more consistent product…

  15. @Grant I honestly can’t believe somebody would make an extra stop to fly the same seat/aircfat simply to get a more expensive (though not necessarily objectively better since tastes are personal) champagne.

  16. Although it is subjective in nature, I do agree largely with the “scorecard” in the article. CI had a spotty safety record from the 80s to early 2000. But I think great progress had been made to improve not just its passenger experience but also safety. With that said, I still prefer BR over CI for both the Business Class and Premium Econ products.

  17. I am now a little bit suspected your taste and review. As a Taiwanese, we all think China Airlines new uniforms are super ugly. China Airline was good 20 years ago when EVA was just established. At that age, China airlines have the most beautiful crews. But they are getting worse and worse with many air incidents and flight crashed. Until last year their new business class and A350 made them looks new and comparable. EVA is always very nice with great services. They were even awarded 5 stars airlines last year. Obviously, EVA is much better than China airline. Though EVA still have some problems with their taste levels. Ugly seat colors I agree. Both airlines are very local and lack of international view. Finally you are right, the winner should be EVA, no doubt.

  18. Lol as if Ben would care about an airline’s labour relations in deciding which was the “best”.

  19. China Airlines is competitive with its A350 and 777. Compared to EVA, it wins in cabin decor and its Premium Economy cabin which have much better seats than EVA’s. But for most of the readers here who mainly fly in Business Class, EVA wins in almost every category except its cabin decor. EVA provides pajamas, Rimowa amenity kits, Hello Kitty planes, Din Tai Fung snacks, Krug and Veuve La Grande Dame (both which I find better than Pol Roger), and it’s Star Alliance membership is also arguably better. Their Economy product appears to be the same level.

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