As airlines go, I have always said the foreign (i.e. non-USA) airlines have always kicked the USA airlines collective asses. From friendliness, service, and comfort, it has not even been close.
I have had the pleasure of flying airlines like Czech Air, Iberia, Aer Lingus, KLM, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic (Shameless Side Note: I try to exclusively fly Virgin America in the USA because they are HANDS DOWN-NO ARGUMENT the best “domestic” carrier…but probably only because it is run by Richard Branson – and its USA HQ is outside of San Francisco – my favorite city in USA).
One of the reasons the service is better on foreign airlines is because working for an airline (flight attendant, etc.) is an honorable profession in other countries – and in some instances, is a very difficult job to get. For example, the staff of Iberia Airlines of Spain are mostly males and their hiring process is very competitive. Also, you still find that many European and Asian flight attendants have been to and/or graduated from University.
Now, there are some positive “exceptions” with the US-based airlines, but overall they suffer from disgruntled and underperforming cabin staff that are too used to the old ways – and too locked into the Union-run environment (Don’t even get me started on labor unions – they were needed in this country 60+ years ago when we had lousy, if any, labor laws, but today they are total consumer-raping bullshit cliques that encourage sloth in workers). Granted, US-based flight attendants have seen their pay and hours decreased over the years, but they still make 2-3 times more money than their superior overseas counterparts. I used to be the biggest defender of one of my favorite US airlines, US Airways, but after the last few flights with grouchy flight attendants who do nothing but complain about co-workers in front of the customers (picture that chain-smoking, grumpy aunt you have), it is getting much harder to defend them. (El Raton jumps off the Soapbox…)
Now, on to my to my new favorite airline – EVA Airways. All I can say is, WOW! EVA Airways is a Taiwan based airline that I flew from San Francisco to Taipei. Since this was my first flight to Asia – and since the fare difference was only $200 US, I decided to bump up to Elite Class – basically like US domestic first class, but with a foot rest that comes up about 40 degrees.
Well, when I checked in for my flight, something went pleasantly wrong. The agent handed me my boarding pass with a seat number different from what I reserved – plus a pass to get into the EVA Airways Lounge at SFO. It was a pleasant surprise, as I had some last-minute business to attend to for my real job and the lounge has free WiFi and food/drinks.
Then, as I boarded the plane and showed the flight attendant my boarding pass – she gracefully led me to one of the nicest seats I have seen – in their Premium Laurel Class!
I double checked my boarding pass and I was indeed in the seat I was assigned – I was now in a seat that costs over $4,000 round-trip for a little more than a coach ticket – SWEET!!!!! In fact, the seat reclined to an almost flat position, which puts it into the Virgin America, $7,000+ R/T ticket category, so $4,000 would be a “relative: bargain. Usually to Europe I would buy coach and upgrade with points, or, years ago, clients would pay for overseas business class (not anymore!), but this was a new level in comfort.
Forget about the reclining bed/seat, the great amenity kit (From La Prairie), the on-demand movies – for me, it was all about the FULL COLOR WINE LIST AND FOOD MENU WITH 3-COURSE MEAL! ARE YOU SERIOUS??? WHO DOES THIS ANYMORE? I lit up the whole cabin with my smile when I saw the really well done wine list (champagne, NZ Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling Spatlese, aged Bordeaux, Sonoma Merlot actually good – yes, mark your calendars, I am praising Cali wine, fino sherry, and Port. Fino Sherry? Had I died and gone to heaven? Well, it was a bit pasada, or unintentionally oxidized, but it was the thought that counts.
The Taiwanese people are not huge drinkers to begin with – let alone wine drinkers, so I am sure the cabin staff and the other passengers were not used to seeing a giddy white boy sample as much of the wine as possible and look extremely impatient while waiting for them to refill my glass! But, I figured that since I would not be drinking a ton of wine while in Taiwan, I better make up for it now!
And the food – pretty good for an airline. I have a photo recap below, but here is the menu:
- Hors D’oeuvre: Salmon with Asparagus Roll and Roast Duck
Course 2: (Choice of the following)
- Seabass with Ginger Garlic Sauce
- Beef Fillet Roulade with Pesto
- Braised Pork Ribs with Spicy Sauce
- Cheese, Fresh Fruit, Pastry
As we descended into Taipei, I thought of how quickly the 13 hours had gone by. A 13+ hour flight seemed daunting before I left, but between the food, the comfortable cabin, and a few hours of sleep – the flight seemed to go by faster than some cross-country USA flights.
What happened that I got the seat? Who knows, maybe they bumped up some people to fill some of the other seats, or maybe it was just blind luck – either way, I am thankful I had the experience.
Well, here’s hoping – stay tuned!