For anyone travelling, long-term or short, vacations or lengthy odysseys, the single most expensive aspect of the trip is typically the flight. It pains me to fork out such a sum for several hours of sitting uncomfortably.
Yet, it’s essential if we want to travel and so, unless you are hacking and taking advantage of air-miles and travel credit cards, it’s often an unavoidable cost of wanderlust.
Flying anything more than economy class is out of the price bracket of the average person most days. But sometimes, there is the chance that you can strike lucky and get a free upgrade to premium class. I’m not sure how the system works exactly but I wasn’t going to question it when my lucky day arrived.
The two weeks in Taiwan had been wonderful but like all vacations, time had escaped us too quickly.
It was time for me to return home to Korea and so my girlfriend Diana and I had to part ways once again.
I arrived at Taoyuan Airport in Taipei with bags of time (and bags of clothes too) and walked up to the check-in counter just as it opened.
Handing my passport to the staff member at the check-in counter, I watched as she consulted with a male colleague. I wondered was there an issue with my passport or some confusion about my Korean residency status.
A moment later, all was revealed. Apparently, there were no more economy seats available on the flight.
This surprised me as I booked several months prior and the check-in desk had just opened as I arrived. It’s not like I was one of the last passengers to check-in. But, as I say, I wasn’t about to throw a spanner in the works.
With a great big smile, the lady explained the situation and presented me with my premium class ticket. I took it and thanked her gleefully. In that moment, possibly the best flight experience of my life to date unfolded.
Before venturing through to the departure area, I needed sustenance.
I had been searching in vain for beef noodle soup since reading it was one of Taiwan’s famous dishes.
Sadly, it had eluded me. Until now.
It only seemed fitting that my last meal in the country should be this. I cared not that it was barely midday, this was a breakfast fit for any high-flyer.
Of course, I had to wash it down with a Taiwanese beer, because I was still on vacation, obviously. For a bowl of delicious beef noodle soup and a Taiwan beer, it cost NT$200. (About $8 US)
All I can say is, if the airport beef noodles are this good, then Taiwan is a lucky country. Anybody who goes there should make a point to hunt some down.
The usual mundane routine of an airport journey followed and before long it was time to go.
But this time it was different than ever before.
The velvet ropes divided the business class clients from the economy class. Two doors awaited to enter the corridor to the plane. The rich and the poor. The privileged and the paupers. The pompous and the peasants.
I stood near to the left, watching as the poor economy class passengers queued up, sixty yards of weary eyes, looking towards the lucky minority that strutted in the open space near the shiny, business class sign. Some confused and envious eyes considered me among the Arabian family and middle-aged Chinese couples.
What was that guy with the lumberjack shirt and scruffy beard doing over there? Didn’t he hear them make the announcement for economy-class?
Soon, they realized the truth.
The velvet rope was lifted and a suited security guard nodded to us important people. We strolled through, chest out proud. Flashing the ticket on the way, I managed to suppress a grin from spreading on my face as I followed the signs for premium class.
I was expecting the security to rush after me and tell me there had been a mistake. But amazingly, I made it on to the front of the plane without reproach.
Now, at this point, I can tell you that premium class with Eva Air is not exactly champagne and truffles in a room fit for royalty or even top rock-stars. There are undoubtedly higher-levels, maybe even within Eva Air.
However, flying premium class for the first time was surely a step up from the usual budget airline experience.
For a start, I had enough leg room to lie a small calf down in front of me.
The air stewards on Eva Air were fantastic, hospitable to the verge of harassment.
I got more hot towels than I cared to count and had chilled water on tap to keep the thirst off me.
Oh, and the food! Let me tell you about that!
Some economy airlines serve up grub that resembles a vulcanized lizard’s tongue but on Eva Air premium class I felt like I was fine-dining. Certainly as far as airport food goes, it was the finest.
To begin, I had the marinated octopus and citrus herb duck liver pate.
Just saying that is a ridiculous mouthful. Who eats that? Important business clients who fly premium class, that’s who.
The pan-fried pork patty followed and it was divine. I almost asked the pilot for the recipe.
A bread basket followed, then some fruit and a dessert of some kind, which I was too busy eating to photograph or remember.
I’ve never had an airplane meal quite like it and the coffee flowed like wine. There was also wine.
Throughout the short flight to Seoul, approximately two and half hours, I watched the new Bourne movie. Sadly, I only got half-way as the constant service meant I had to keep pausing the movie.
Regardless, I enjoyed it through some incredible headphones. They were so good that I couldn’t heard the stewards call for my attention. Luckily, they had enough room to stand in front of me. Did I mention the legroom?
Near the end of the flight, I discovered a ridiculous amount of buttons under one of the armrests. I set to work in transforming my seat into a bed or some form of spaceship. I can’t be too sure with all the noises it made but I’m positive there were lasers involved.
Regrettably, so engrossed in the movie and flow of comestible treats was I that I did not discover the controls in time to fully enjoy the wonders of the super-chair.
No sooner had my seat began to take me to heaven than a steward appeared to command me back to the default position.
We were descending, the movie was stopped, the wonder-throne turned off and the restaurant closed.
It was over, just as suddenly as it had started.
If you’re visiting Taiwan, it may be a smart idea to go with Eva Air.
You can be sure of great service and who knows, your lucky day may be next. Their premium class service is a pleasure. Just remember to play with the chair early.