In Another Class

EVA debuts B777 in Los Angeles

By: Fred Gebhart

The familiar green-and-orange EVA logo is showing up on new tails this summer. The Taiwanese carrier introduced its first Boeing 777-200ER to the Los Angeles-Taipei route in late July, an initial step in replacing a dozen B747-400s serving six U.S. and Canadian gateways. The B777’s roomier interior, more comfortable seats and upgraded audio-video on-demand entertainment system gets rave reviews from frequent trans-Pacific fliers.

The best news, at least for this reporter, is the new three-cabin, 316-seat configuration. First class is history, which helps EVA maintain capacity despite moving to a smaller aircraft a B777-200ER carries about a quarter fewer passengers than a 747-400. Passengers on B777 flights out of LAX get 42 seats in Premium Laurel class (business), 63 in Elite (super economy) and 211 in Economy. That compares to 12 first-class seats on B747-400s between the U.S. and Taipei, 32 in business class, 142 in Evergreen Deluxe (super economy) and 222 in Economy.

A second B777 is slated for LAX in November. San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Honolulu and New York will get B777s by 2009. The B747s serving those gateways are being converted to freighters. B777s replaced B747s flying between Taipei, Bangkok and London earlier this year.

EVA staked its claim to fame in 1992 as the first airline in the world to offer a super-economy section, Evergreen Deluxe. It combined Y-class pricing and service with C-class seats. The combination, called Elite class on B777s, remains one of EVA’s strongest sellers. It is especially popular among business travelers, who get more space (and computer power ports) on long-haul flights and a ticket labeled “economy” for easier reimbursement, and leisure travelers willing to spend a few dollars for a major upgrade in comfort.

Restricted Elite fares are comparable to unrestricted Economy fares. Elite prices are about 30 percent above EVA’s lowest Web fares and 65 percent below Business Web fares. That translates into $600 for Economy, $800 for Elite and $2,300 for Premium Laurel for Los Angeles-Taipei and return routes this fall. Onward flights within Asia follow a similar pricing pattern.

The Elite premium buys standard business-class seats with 38-inch pitch in a 2-4-2 configuration. That’s a bit more the 33-inch pitch in Economy and worth every extra dollar. EVA’s aggressive pricing means travel agents can often book clients into Elite class for less than the cost of Economy on more familiar carriers.