Flying the Golden Route with Hello Kitty
THE GOLDEN WAY
There are several airlines plying the Taipei Hong Kong route, an air-lane so profitable, it’s colloquially known as the Golden Route. Operating it are among others: China Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines with multiple timings per day and a multitude of code share options to boot.
This is a similar distance to say London to Scotland yet it’s being flown not by 737’s or A319’s but by 777’s, 747’s and A330’s. In other words BIG planes! The kind that could easily be utilised on much longer routes. There was only one airline I was missing to complete the set… EVA AIR and for no other reason than to renew my visa, on July 30 I finally got my boarding pass.
The moist chocolate eyes of the Macanese had been replaced by the serene greens of its interior and ultra professionalism of the EVA AIR crew. Symphonic music played in cabin; possibly to highlight the seriousness of flight or how the airline sees itself within the aviation business. Speaking of which I catch merely a few seconds of Business Class en route to my familiar residence in economy.
THE WORLD IS A MOSAIC
Strangely, I was not too disappointed with the overall calm cast off by the pale hues of the mosaic pattern seating and the in-flight entertainment system. Although I dare say Business Class would offer an entirely different experience. Their lavish ‘I SEE YOU’ ad campaign has been airing for many months, showcasing stunning photography with clean typography in select locations.
Bearing all of that in mind, there is a flip side to EVA AIR’s modus operandi. Despite being a Taiwanese airline which, because of the cross strait political conundrum, means their aircraft are registered in China (for some reason with a B reg rather than C which would make more sense wouldn’t it). Stranger still, it is Japan’s HELLO KITTY designs which adorn six of their jets.
An incredibly brave move, considering the stuffy attitude of the corporate world though one which perhaps pays off. Even business folk have kids and wouldn’t it be great to fly with an airline that acknowledges the fun and excitement of childhood? EVA is hence a very rare breed; an airline that combines professional attributes with the vision to be playful, thus appealing to the infants of its clientèle (or the big kid in some of us).
EVERYTHING YOUR KITTY HEART DESIRES
Back in the terminal, there are a number of accessories which attract a great deal of attention. A HELLO KITTY CHECK-IN area, HELLO KITTY baby changing room made to look like a Swiss country chalet, albeit a pink one with mock white roof shingles and window shutters. HELLO KITTY phones and of course a shop in which you can purchase a bewildering array of Kitty product.
Shrewd acumen indeed but let’s return to the business end of procedure; the flight itself. For the outgoing journey, I’m aboard the ‘Sanrio Family’ 777, a plane normally deployed between Taipei and LA. For some reason age has presented me with a moderate fear of flying. This is not helped by the fact my interest in aviation merits my watching copious amounts of Aircrash Investigation coupled with probably the worst week for aircraft fatalities since 1985.
Three crashes in a week! Including one in Taiwan and by cruel circumstance the second for Malaysian Airlines in only four months. Thus I cede my normal perching position by the window for an aisle seat. This may have been a mistake in that for the first time the plane would approach HK from the north meaning that the city itself may have been visible prior to landing.
Another factor is not only am I in ‘aisle’ but additionally seated over the wing which means my viewing capacity is slight. The other notable difference is that the taxi phase of the journey is exceptionally bumpy (considering it’s one of the larger craft operating today) and that when we pause I assume it’s behind another plane in line for take off or to allow another to land.
Only a thrust of the engines alerts me that this is not the case and we are in fact on the runway itself! Thundering along for what feels like a long time before that strange feeling when the wheels leave the tarmac and for the next hour or so my life is in the hands of fate.
EVA however are as mentioned skilled in the art of professionalism and highly efficient with it. The journey is smooth, the food appears relatively quickly and is served by consummate staff in deep green pinstripe dresses (often mimicked by HELLO KITTY in EVA’s promo animations) and olive green jackets.
The food is similar to the other airlines I’ve travelled with on said route; in other words it’s a one size fits most (some vegetarian dishes are served) portion of stodgy rice with pork or chicken, warm orange juice (apple on the return), and a dessert. There is also tea or coffee which is ok though nothing to write home about.
Along with seating, the part of nourishment I believe marks a significant component between economy and business or first class. The seating doesn’t bother me for an hour and I don’t expect too much from the food on a level of it being created by a world class Michelin award winning chef, however I do like rice to be a little better than it was and the juice to be chilled.
THERE’S MUSIC IN THE AIR
The only other annoyance was on such a short flight there isn’t much time for entertainment so for it to be constantly interrupted by ‘announcements’ makes viewing impossible. For the return leg a dependable A330 again in HELLO KITTY attire (this time it’s rather aptly the music jet) which guides me to my accidental home of a year.
It leaves about 30 minutes later than scheduled but as it’s been a beautiful afternoon in transit it doesn’t irk me; things happen at busy airports. I am more concerned with the possibility of a thunderstorm in Taipei due to some forecasts I’ve chanced upon online. Fortunately this never eventuates.
Again my seat is in ‘aisle’ and the chance to shoot some photos of the surrounding sunset is lost. Nonetheless my impression of EVA is positive and I’d love to test them out on a long haul flight. Definitely worth investigating further if difficult to believe Kitty and friends are sitting outside a flying symphony.
See more about my plane flights on the Remember That Flight blog.
PLAYLIST AND CREDITS
House of the Blue Danube – Malcolm McLaren
I See You Again – Stina Nordenstam
Blue Skies – Groove Armada
Sweet Disorder – Strawpeople (video shot in HK if you don’t know)