I was recently down in Houston to welcome EVA Air’s first flight, a Boeing 777-300ER, with a new Hello Kitty livery. After all the hoopla for the inaugural, I had a few hours before flying to Taipei, in Royal Laurel (aka business class) and I was excited. The Hello Kitty theme runs much deeper than just the fancy livery, and wanted to see what the full flight experience would be like.
By the time I arrived back at the airport, at about 10:30 pm, I had last showered at about 6:00 am and was about to take a 15hr 40min flight. My goal was to shower before departure — not just for me, but for those who would be flying around me.
Those in business class have access to the Executive Club in Terminal D, which was recently renovated, but it was lacking showers. However, since I had a business class ticket on a Star Alliance airline, I also had access to any of the United Club lounges. I looked online and saw that the United terminal E lounge was open until 11:30 pm and had showers — awesome!
Keep reading to learn how you can win a model of the EVA Air Boeing 777-300ER with Shining Star Hello Kitty livery…
The EVA Air Houston Airport Experience
The woman at the United Club check-in counter was a bit excited that I was her first-ever EVA passenger and got a kick out of my Hello Kitty-themed ticket. Her positive attitude didn’t help too much though when I was told that the showers closed at 9:30 pm. Ugh.
I headed to the restroom and did a sink-shower and changed clothes in the very small stalls. It did not feel much like a premium experience, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!
Since I was there, I decided to try the lounge for a bit. I was unimpressed with the food and drink options (cheese/crackers, soup, skittles, had to go to the bar just to get a soda, and self-serve coffee in paper cups), so I decided to head over to the Executive Club to see if it fared any better — it did. There were hot food options, better beverages, and I think a nicer atmosphere. However, still no showers.
The flight was a little delayed (likely from the media event) and during boarding, EVA employees were running around a bit chaotically. It was a bit disorganized, but I am sure it improved quickly with experience.
I was surprised that after the HUGE Hello Kitty event just a few hours earlier, there was nothing at the gate to celebrate the inaugural and I didn’t see pink or Hello Kitty anywhere. However, as we boarded, each passenger was given a paper Hello Kitty “777” to commemorate the event.
The Hello Kitty EVA Air Royal Laurel Experience
As passengers boarded, it became pretty obvious this was a special plane. Although I had already done a quick tour of the 777 previously, this time I was able to really enjoy some of the details.
The Hello Kitty images cycling on the main IFE screen and also on my remote were, at first, pretty cute. But by the 50th time, with the music in the background, I was kind of ready for it to stop. I wasn’t able to turn it off or access any other part of the IFE while on the ground.
Trying to avoid the IFE, I started to notice the smaller Hello Kitty details. The menu, the barf bag, and the safety information card was all customized in pink and Hello Kitty. I couldn’t help but smile. I was digging the Hello Kitty theme, but I am not going to lie, I was relieved when I saw my PJs were standard brown and not pink.
Even going to the bathroom, you couldn’t escape the cuteness. The toilet paper, lotions/potions, mini-cups, and wall air freshener all had the special theme. Earlier that day, EVA explained that the Hello Kitty flights have to stock twice the amount of toilet paper, since so much of it vanishes. Sadly, I had forgotten to grab some.
Before taking my flight, I had read that EVA was serving Krug champagne in business. I didn’t think of it at the time, but none of it was offered, however I did get some pretty good apple juice instead. Also, I was a bit disappointed to be given a cold towel in a plastic wrapper versus a hot one directly handed to me. Not a biggie, but it just didn’t feel as premium.
What was premium was my Rimowa amenity kit, which came stock with no special Hello Kitty additions. Inside I found a toothbrush, lotions, eye mask, socks, comb, chap-stick, glasses/camera cloth, and of course the really cool hard case.
Hello Kitty or not, EVA has an impressive hard product in business class. The seats are configured in a 1-2-1 layout, which means that everyone has access to the aisle. The window seats are slightly angled towards the window, which really gave me a sense of privacy — I felt like I was in my own little world, especially being at the bulkhead.
The large counter space, by the window, was helpful storing all my stuff within easy reach. The overall storage was ample, but there were a few times I was hoping for a bit more. Access to power, USB plugs (there were two), light, and remote was easy. The remote didn’t need to be used, since the main screen was touch-screen. It was nice having the map running on the remote, while doing other things on the main IFE.
The IFE screen is not only touch, but you are also able to swipe, like on many smart phones. The entertainment options were as one would expect, but I was a bit annoyed that the map was not interactive and had ads.
I really didn’t get to use the IFE much (I only got though 1.5 movies) — my main entertainment was the in-flight WiFi. The cost was very reasonable at only $21 for 24 hours of access. The speeds varied from 0.86 to 2.89 mbps for downloads and 0.02 to 1.17 mbps for uploads — not bad. It worked almost the entire flight, but our flight plan kept us pretty far south, improving reception.
Shortly after take off, dinner was served. The meal started out with lobster salad with fennel slaw. I thought there would be little pieces of lobster that you couldn’t barely see, but no… this was a whole tail.
Next, I had a choice between steak or shrimp. Since I already had a bit of seafood, I went with the steak, which was served with madeira sauce, mixed vegetables, and gnocchi. The food was better than average and if you looked closely, you could see some Hello Kitty influence. The meals in economy were a bit more obvious.
After dinner, I was quite tired (it was about 3:00 am Houston time) and was ready for some sleep; with one hit of the button, my seat folded flat. Even at 6’1″ and 250lbs, I had plenty of room to sleep comfortably. During my five hours of rest, I was able to find many comfortable positions, where with most lie-flat seats that I have experienced, there might be one, maybe two really comfy positions and the rest isn’t so great.
With leaving at around 2:00 am and arriving at about 6:00 am local time, the lighting in the cabin stayed in sleep mode for about 13 hours. That is a lot of darkness and inability to open the window — but I get it. The breakfast service was scheduled to start about two hours before landing, but I got hungry before then.
I asked about my options and even though there were some interesting Asian choices, I decided to go with a cheeseburger. It quickly came out and had a Hello Kitty bow in the middle. The burger lacked a little flavor, but wow, how did they make the fries so good, 11 hours into the flight, at 37,000 feet?
Yes, the seat, the food, the IFE, and the WiFi were great, but all that can be ruined by lack of service. That was very much not the case with EVA. With all my experiences I had with EVA (two flights, tours, media events, hotel, ground transportation, etc.) I really came away seeing that they are genuine and have an amazing attention to detail.
EVA obviously trains their people well, but there just seems to be more there than just providing good service because it is their job — it genuinely felt like the flight attendants cared. They were attentive and professional, but not overwhelming. With having such a long sleep cycle, they weren’t walking through the cabin often, disturbing people sleeping. But quite a few times, I wanted a ginger ale, water, or coffee and hit the call button. The longest I had to wait was 13 seconds (yup, I was timing) for someone to be at my seat and whatever drink I asked for was there in less than a minute.
IAH-TPE was my third-longest flight that I have flown (after completing the world’s two longest flights previously), but wow did it go fast. With the comfortable seat, delicious food, Hello Kitty distractions, WiFi, five hours of sleep, IFE, and high-end service I was shocked when we were about to land. Even in a premium product, I am normally okay with landing after 13 hours, but I felt I could have comfortably done a few more.
So, what was it like flying on the Hello Kitty plane? It is kind of what you want to make of it. If you don’t care and just want a premium product and service, it is not too much in your-face. If you are looking to live the Hello Kitty dream, you can make it enjoyable as well. But if you want a real-deal Hello Kitty experience, you are best to actually fly in economy. For me, not being a huge fan, but enjoying a special theme, the business class experience was perfect.
I am not the only one who enjoyed the experience — these Hello Kitty flights are big for EVA. They see a higher load factor on the flights and created a separate EVA Air Hello Kitty website to learn more and book your flight on one of the seven themed planes.
The Hello Kitty 777 Model Contest: OVER
Thanks to everyone who participated. The winner was Lisa H. Congrats and look forward to our next contest! The comments will be closed for a while and then re-opened for discussion on the story.
Okay, okay, so you read the story, now how do you win yourself a Hello Kitty Shining Star Boeing 777-300ER model (1:200 by hogan)? It is easy.
At 5:00 pm PDT on July 21, 2015, we will close the comments, and randomly select a winner. GOOD LUCK!