The Tai­wan Link

EVA Air’s EVP of Cor­po­rate Plan­ning Al­bert Liao talks North Amer­i­can growth plans and the air­line’s new SKYTRAX rat­ing

Business Traveler (USA) - - UPFRONT -

BT: Ear­lier this year, EVA Air re­ceived the high­est five-star rat­ing from SKYTRAX. What steps were taken to achieve that?

LIAO: Of the list of fives­tar air­lines, al­most all of them are in Asia putting us in good com­pany. We had to look at ev­ery part of the travel ex­pe­ri­ence. For ex­am­ple, busi­ness class ser­vice with­out trays; in­stead we serve meals restau­rant-style. We also of­fer three meal choices for econ­omy class. We fo­cus on the de­tails like pro­vid­ing cot­ton fab­ric bags for small items that need to be stowed at take­off and ad­dress­ing pas­sen­gers by name. Typ­i­cally, Tai­wanese peo­ple are rather shy, and we had to ed­u­cate our staff on how to in­ter­act more with in­ter­na­tional pas­sen­gers. We in­stalled WiFi on our long-haul Air­bus A330s and Boe­ing 777s. Pas­sen­gers tell us it works quite well on long flights.

BT: EVA Air is known for pi­o­neer­ing the pre­mium econ­omy prod­uct. How did that idea come about?

LIAO: We launched “Econ­omy Deluxe”in 1992 on the Los An­ge­les route. To­day, we call it Elite Class and is one of the best in the in­dus­try with large seats, ex­tra legroom and lug­gage al­lowance, and up­graded meals and amenity kits. We of­fer it on all of our long-haul Boe­ing 777 and 747 air­craft although we will be phas­ing out the jumbo jets soon. Our Elite Class prod­uct is ideal for price-sen­si­tive cus­tomers who want added com­fort.

BT: EVA re­cently launched ad­di­tional fre­quen­cies from JFK and LAX de­part­ing mid­day to com­ple­ment the mid­night de­par­tures from most gate­ways. What made you de­cide to launch new day­time fre­quen­cies from the US to Taipei?

LIAO: The mid­day de­par­tures are timed to con­nect well with our late af­ter­noon, south­east Asian bank in­clud­ing cities like Bangkok, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City. We will soon add Jakarta and Sin­ga­pore. This is a big mar­ket for North Amer­i­can trav­el­ers, and this mid­day de­par­ture gives peo­ple added flex­i­bil­ity. Taipei is per­fectly po­si­tioned to carry pas­sen­gers from North Amer­ica to all of Asia in the most time-ef­fi­cient sched­ule. While our mid­day flights will take some time to be­come pop­u­lar since they are so new, we are con­fi­dent they will suc­ceed. Our mid­night de­par­tures are al­ready fa­vored by many busi­ness fliers be­cause they can rest in­flight and land in Taipei around 6 in the morn­ing for the start of the work day.

BT: Tell us about your fo­cus on North Amer­ica and po­ten­tial route ex­pan­sion.

LIAO: North Amer­ica is a huge mar­ket for EVA. We added Hous­ton last year us­ing one of our Hello Kitty jets. This year, we added Chicago. Both cities are hubs for our Star Al­liance part­ner, United, mak­ing them key gate­ways for con­nect­ing pas­sen­gers. San Fran­cisco is also one of our most im­por­tant gate­ways be­cause of the strong con­nec­tions be­tween the tech in­dus­tries in Sil­i­con Val­ley and Tai­wan. We are also look­ing at sev­eral more cities in­clud­ing Bos­ton, Dal­las/Ft. Worth, Honolulu and Wash­ing­ton, DC.

BT: Hello Kitty planes are a hall­mark of EVA liv­ery. Have you found that Amer­i­cans get as ex­cited when it comes to the Hello Kitty flights?

LIAO: Yes, we have great de­mand for our Hello Kitty flights. We op­er­ate our Hello Kitty jets on ded­i­cated routes in­clud­ing Hous­ton in North Amer­ica, Paris in Europe, and Bangkok and Tokyo in Asia. Some pas­sen­gers go out of their way to book these flights specif­i­cally be­cause they love how the Hello Kitty brand­ing is part of the ex­pe­ri­ence from check-in kiosks to the meal ser­vice – and even the bath­room toi­let pa­per! We of­fered Hello Kitty flights from LAX for just over a year, but we only have a lim­ited num­ber of air­craft. We de­cided to in­vest that unique prod­uct in Hous­ton be­cause it was a new mar­ket for us.

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