Despite being Taiwan’s largest carrier, China Airlines used to be known as the country’s second-best airline, hidden under EVA shadow for quite some time. In mid 2016, CI launched their latest premium product which seems to have helped improve their brand image since. I had the opportunity to fly them this summer and it was interesting to see how they fare against their younger sibling.
- CI161 in Premium Business Class
- Seoul (ICN) to Taipei (TPE)
- 12:35 departure – 14:10 arrival (2hr 35min flight)
CI offers a fully lie-flat seat in a 1-2-1 layout in their business cabin, which is similar to EVA and many other airlines. However, CI opted to use B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat which has more storage space and foot rest room (matters when you sleep) compared to EVA Cirrus seat. On top of that, I think CI seat has the most beautiful finishes between any airlines using the same product and their overall cabin design is just gorgeous. The branding is consistent throughout the airline’s home station as you will get the same feel and look in their flagship Dynasty Lounge in TPE – definitely more aesthetically pleasing than EVA lounges. The bedding provided was also top notch; with suede pillow and thick blanket, it’s easily one of my favourite. All in all, a very comfortable seat.
On the other hand, I think CI is still behind EVA in terms of meal quality. While their lounge food options were more than decent, their onboard vegetarian meal was disappointing (this coming from someone who loves Taiwanese vegetarian food). And although not a deal breaker, their non-alcoholic beverage options were not as extensive as EVA. Also not sure why I wasn’t offered dessert like other passengers – did they know I’ve had enough in the lounge?
The same also applies when comparing in-flight entertainment options. While the 18” screen was very crisp and the system was easy to operate, I just did not find enough interesting contents so that might be an issue for a long haul flight.
While I would probably still choose EVA over CI, I think CI has made a great improvement since I last flew them 6 years ago and their hard product is tough to beat. Their cabin crews were all nice and, once they knew I don’t speak Mandarin, spoke fluent English. A better meal and IFE offering will be appreciated but overall, this was one of the better intra-Asia flight experience.
Just be informed that CI has not installed their new product in the majority of their planes. I flew in one of their old non-premium business cabin recently and the seat felt cramped with limited storage space. So look out for the aircraft type and adjust your expectation accordingly.