Here’s a quick trivia question — if you’re redeeming United MileagePlus miles, which airline offers the best business class hard product to Asia? The answer might surprise many of you, but on select flights it’s EVA Airways, the carrier based in Taipei, Taiwan.
A vast majority of people don’t even realize that United partners with EVA. They’re expected to join the Star Alliance in 2013, though for a long time have had a reciprocal mileage agreement with United.
Why’s their business class so great? Well, many of their 777-300ER aircraft feature the new Royal Laurel Class, which is a very similar hard product to Cathay Pacific’s new business class, which I flew from Bangkok to Hong Kong just a few weeks ago.
Cathay Pacific’s new business class
Here’s a video of EVA’s Royal Laurel Class:
With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about redeeming MileagePlus miles on EVA.
EVA’s route network and new business class
EVA’s destinations in North America include Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver. They also offer connecting service from there to all over Asia.
EVA’s destinations in North America (via gcmap.com)
Presently EVA’s routes to New York and Los Angeles feature the new Royal Laurel Class. Always be sure to check the seatmap before making a booking, to ensure it looks like this:
You want to make sure the seatmap doesn’t look like the one below, or else you’ll be flying their old product, which isn’t so great:
Searching EVA award space
Now, you could call United to ask about award space, though as I’ll cover below, that’ll be a pain and I don’t recommend it, since a majority of United agents don’t even realize that EVA is one of their partners. Do the research on your own first.
The first step is to sign up for an Evergreen Club membership, which is free and can be done here. Once you have a membership and are logged into your account, click on “Evergreen Club” along the top menu, and then click on “Redeeming a Ticket Award.”
On the next page click “Redeeming Online.”
On the next page enter your origin, destination, class of service, and desired date(s). Two important things to note here. First of all, don’t check the box by “Open Date,” because that only complicates things and doesn’t make the search any easier. Second of all, if one person is traveling you want to keep the box by “Adult” at zero. That’s just asking if there are any additional passengers.
After you execute the search you’ll be brought to a results page which lists the flights operating that day. Unfortunately you have to specifically choose which flight you want. I’m warning you right now, the search functionality is only getting less user friendly from here. This thing makes tax code look straightforward, so you’ve been warned.
Once you’ve chosen the flight date you’ll be brought to a page which either shows the flight as being available, or has a prompt that pops up and says the flight will be waitlisted. If the prompt shows up saying the flight will be waitlisted you won’t be able to redeem miles for it. If you see availability at the saver level, you should be able to redeem miles for it. The issue is what a pain-in-the-rear the search functionality is. If your date isn’t available it involves a lot of clicking to search days around it.
Booking the ticket
Once you’ve figured out which flights have award availability you can call United to book. It’s important to note that EVA uses different fare codes for their award space than United’s other partners do. For travel on EVA, “I” class is coach award space, and “D” class is business class award space. It’s very important to mention this to the agent, as for most of United’s other partner airlines, “X” class is coach award space, and “I” class is business class award space.
Award tickets on EVA cost the same number of miles as any of United’s other partner airlines, and you can even combine EVA with United or other partner carriers on a single award ticket. As is the case with award redemptions for travel on all of United’s partner airlines, there are no fuel surcharges.
Other awesome things
EVA has a “Hello Kitty” jet with a dedicated website. How cool is that?
EVA can be a useful partner to know about for a couple of reasons. First of all, EVA has an excellent new business class, so if you can find space it’s an option that’s tough to beat. That being said, award availability is extremely limited for their new business class. That being said, award availability is quite good on their old product, so if there are no other options available it’s definitely worth considering. Knowing your options is good, and EVA is one of them.
(Tip of the hat to Pablo)