t World Adventures, we thrive on adventure travel, but we usually prefer our adventures to begin and end on the ground! Flying halfway around the world is no picnic. As anyone who has done it knows, those 12+ hour flights can be grueling. So when I heard about EVA Airway's Evergreen Deluxe Class, a unique class of service somewhere between coach and business, I decided to check it out.
If money is no object, or your company is willing to pick up the tab for business class, read no further. Book your flight, tip generously and call me if you need a writer. Fortunately for the rest of us, EVA's Evergreen Deluxe Class offers a reasonably-priced alternative to coach.
Owned by Evergreen International, a Taiwan-based shipping conglomerate, EVA Airlines inaugurated passenger service in 1991. EVA boasts one of the most modern fleets of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas aircraft in the world. They serve cities in the United States, Latin America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and throughout Asia.
EVA offers Evergreen Deluxe Class on all it's long-haul routes. Unlike conventional wide-body aircraft configured for three classes of service, EVA's aircraft are configured for four. On 747's both first and business class are located on the upper deck, leaving the front of the plane available for Evergreen Deluxe Class. Seating is 2-4-2, compared to 3-4-3 in coach. Similar to domestic first class seats, each 2-seat pair (even the center 4 are actually in pairs!) is divided by a wide armrest/beverage tray. Seat width and pitch are a generous 18.5 and 38 inches respectively.
I recently flew Evergreen Deluxe Class from Los Angeles to Vietnam. The fare was only about 30% more than I usually pay for a coach class ticket, and about half the cost of a business class ticket. Best of all, I was able to reserve a seat assignment at the time of booking. (Versus having to check-in at the airport hours early or risk being stuck in the dreaded middle seat!)
12:20 am, Los Angeles International Airport:
Boarding begins for the 12:40 am departure. First and business class passengers are invited to board first. Moments later, general boarding begins. At 12:30, the last passenger in line passes through the gate. I've never seen a 747 board so fast! (Later I would learn that many of EVA's planes are specially-configured to carry cargo, and therefore carry 100 or so fewer passengers.)
I pick up my bag, hand my boarding pass to the attendant and head straight down the jetway. Five rows from the nose of the aircraft, my seat is comfortable and the extra-wide armrest gives me and my seat mate a little breathing room. It feels like business class; the flight attendant even offers to hang up my sport coat. The plane pushes back promptly at 12:40. We're in the air by 1:00am. Only thirteen more hours to go!
1:30 am, Over The Northern California Coast:
Cabin service starts promptly with a decent selection of complementary beer, wine and liquor. The "light meal" menu offers a choice of prawns in tomato sauce or beef goulash. I choose the prawns to go with the 1994 Cotes du Rhone. The meal is not served on china, but at least the dishes are not plastic. Dessert is a Snicker's bar. I eye the stairs and wonder what's being served on the upper deck.
The food is cleared promptly and coffee is served. I recline my seat, extend the footrest and put on the lightweight, stereo headphones. Each seat is equipped with a personal TV screen with 6 channels of video entertainment, including CNN, feature films and American sitcoms. Languages include English, French, German and Chinese. The 8 audio channels feature classical, jazz and new age music as well as Japanese, Chinese, European and American Pop. I dose off waiting for a movie to begin.
6:30 am, Somewhere Over The Pacific:
I awake and look at my watch. It's dark. A few TVs cast a glow about the cabin. My coffee sits on the armrest tray, untouched from 5 hours earlier. My seat mate is awake and watching a movie. I excuse myself and head to the galley for some fresh java.
There are three flight attendants on duty (a ratio of 29:1, versus 32:1 for coach and 8:1 for business and first class). I'm told the cabin has four lavatories for 86 passengers (a ratio of 22:1, versus 40:1 for coach and 16:1 for business and first class). All I know is there's never a line!
The Taiwan-based attendants are friendly and eager to be of service. They answer all my questions. They're curious why I'm writing an article, so I answer all their questions too. This is an easy flight for them. There are only two light meals and most of the passengers sleep. Snacks are available throughout the flight; although, the choice is limited to a bag of Combos or instant noodle soup. I go for the soup.
As long as I'm up and about, I decide to freshen up. The small overnight kit distributed to all passengers contains a toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, shaving cream, razor, comb and moist towellettes. Everything is perfect, except for the comb which is too small; good thing I have a crew cut! I stash the moist towellettes in my camera bag, figuring they'll come in handy over the next couple weeks.
11:00 am, Still Over The Pacific: