Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. I plan to share a series of flights that ticked off a couple of boxes on my airline nerd wish list. The first objective was to visit the second United Polaris Lounge to open, this time in SFO. Was United able to capture the excellent qualities of the ORD lounge in their second offering? The second objective was to experience The new Delta A350-900 and specifically the Delta One Suite product. Is a suite in J class a gimmick or substantive. With the goals in place let's have a quick discussion on how to accomplish them.
My trip on the Delta A350 would be of the NRSA variety so availability would dictate my route. At the time of this trip you could experience the A350 on DTW-NRT-DTW, DTW-ICN-DTW, DTW-PVG_DTW, DTW-PEK-DTW, and ATL-ICN-ATL. I honed in on the PEK route spotting good availability for a Saturday PEK departure. With this flight in mind I set about on getting to PEK, preferably on a Star carrier via SFO. The Polaris Lounge is available to United Business and First Class customers as well as those of Star Alliance members. As much as I enjoy a good lounge the idea of a TPAC flight in UA J was not a desirable one so I turned to the Star Alliance partners for help. I had United Miles to invest in this leg of the trip so I limited the scope of my search to J class as I don't find the UA F mileage redemption to be as good of a value. Of the Star carriers I would rank BR as my preferred J carrier with SQ and ANA coming in just behind. I located the BR space I needed to PEK but could only find it via LAX (although it was the Kitty flight so i was tempted). I set Expert flyer to watch the early morning SFO departures and 3 days before departure the email arrived that space was available on BR27. I quickly booked via united.com and prepared a whirlwind trip.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
United Airlines - SNA-SFO - CRJ700 - Economy - No Lounge - United Mileageplus (No Report) EVA Airways - SFO-TPE - 777-300ER - Business - United Polaris Lounge - United Mileageplus EVA Airways - TPE-PEK - 777-300ER - Business - EVA The Infinity and The Star - United Mileageplus (This Report) Delta Air Lines - PEK-DTW - A350-900 - Business - Air China First And Business Class Lounge T2 - NRSA - (Coming Soon) Delta Air Lines - DTW-ORD - 717-200 - Economy - No Lounge - NRSA (No Report) American Airlines - ORD-LAX - A321-200 - First - No Lounge - AAdvantage (No Report)
EVA The Infinity and The Star Lounges - TPE
Transit security was extremely fast. I found it interesting that the BR signage through transit security was in Chinese characters, English, and Vietnamese. Gives you an isea of the traffic they're carrying over TPE. IT was a 5 minute walk to the lounges from the security point.
In addition to the bevy of smiling and helpful humans there is a robotic greeter stationed at the entrance to the lounges.
One your credentials are verified you can proceed right and be a "Star" or make a left to "Infinity." The lounge concepts are projected ont he floor from a ceiling mounted light projector.
I surmised that a lounge called Infinity would be substantial in size so I ventured there first. I was disappointed when I reached the end after only a short walk.
It appears infinity has been remodeled more recently and has some nice seating options.
There is an ample food and beverage offering as well. The buffet is in a side room that is rather cramped so the traffic flow is restricted. I had to wait in a 4 deep line at the coffee machine at one point.
Salad and packaged snacks.
Soy milk…from lactating beans.
There was dim sum and a variety of hot dishes on the center island. It was too crowded to do any detailed picture taking.
Perhaps the best feature was the self serve Movenpick
I availed myself some soup noodles and added a duck egg.
I inquired about a shower at the main desk in between the lounges and was handed a pager that would let me know when one was available. This gave me an opportunity to visit The Star.
The Star had, what appeared to me, the same offerings as The Infinity. I believe the ice cream station was Haagen-Dazs though.
Star alcohol selection.
My pager alerted me to my bathing opportunity and I was given an access card to the "Metro Forest" shower room.
It's a very well appointed shower experience and the room maintained a reasonable temperature without getting too warm and reversing any benefit of having bathed.
As boarding time arrived I left the lounge t make the 7 minute walk to gate C7 and promptly found a delay. It was only about 15 minutes.
The boarding area is on floor below the main terminal so I took some pictures from up there before descending into the holding area. It's not a sterile hold in that you can go back upstairs any time you wish. The tint on the window provides an unwelcome filter.
Down at gate level offers a different view of the aircraft although the same window tint is present.
Boarding commenced and I was greeted with a newer cabin than the inbound 777. 6K is a great seat in that it's got good wing and engine views but also had 2 windows unlike 7A/7K which is missing a window.
Again the service was excellent right away with offers for beverages and friendly welcoming. My was used when I was addressed by not only the FA in my section but the Purser too.
Meal and Beverage menus were distributed on the ground. I had per-ordered my main online about 72 hours earlier.
Departure only took a slight delay and soon we were off. Boarding was efficient and judging by the number of passengers int he waiting area the flight was not anywhere close to capacity.
I opted to make use of the IFE and donned the Thunder headphones. Not an audiophile bay any stretch I found the quality to be good.
The moving map is among my favorite IFE selections and the ability to have it on the handset or the main screen is a plus.
Leaving the island.
Slippers were provisioned for the flight which I promptly donned.
Service was quick to start on this 3 hour flight. No fancy tablecloth this time and trays were used in lieu setting the table and hand delivering courses. Perfectly reasonable to me for a flight of this duration.
The salmon and halibut starter was first and perfectly nice. I asked for an "Evergreen Special" cocktail with soda water. The Sprite v. soda water choice was an attempt at tempering sweetness however the drink was far to cloying for my palate.
A soup was offered next, a double boiled pork broth with ginseng and red date. The broth was very clean yet flavorful. Bread was passed and I selected garlic.
The main course was delivered promptly after finishing the soup and was exceptional. It was a braised beef with tendon and tripe over noodles. It was beautifully aromatic and the had great herbal and spice flavor. I requested a side of chili sauce as the menu suggested was possible. I also enjoyed a glass of Chateau Haut-Pezat 2014. The Saint-Emilion Grand Cru of Bordeaux was wonderful.
Continuing the great flow of the meal service i was offered fruit and dessert as my main tray was cleared. I oped for both and they were delivered directly. The bread pudding was excellent but very rich so I only managed a bite or two. The fruit was perfectly ripe and always a treat in this part of the world.
The remainder of the flight was uneventful and I slept through the film I was trying to watch. I was jarred awake with the announcement to return seats to upright, etc. The normal Bejing smog was mixed with clouds on this day.
The line at immigration was a horrific as always but I was off on the bus to T2 with enough time to make my connection.
EVA Air / The Infinity
Taipei - TPE
Beijing - PEK
The Ground Service: The transit security was fast and easy. There was no wait and I was airside again in less than 5 minutes. That's a great transit.
The Lounge: The Infinity and The Star were both nice enough. Oddly, they were a major step down the the United lounge in SFO. I never thought I would type such a sentence. The food and beverage were ample but the crowding and overall run down appearance of The Star made it a unmemorable lounge visit. I think there were other EVA lounges available but i didn't venture out past these two. Next time.
The Cabin: One of the best J products around, in my opinion. This cabmin was a newer verson of the seat than the inbound TPE aircraft and the updates including the touch screen IFE controller were nice. The seat color palate was more to my liking as well.
The Crew: I was again impressed with the caring and precise service provided. I was addressed by name and always greeted with a smile. These woman they are all strikingly beautiful so that certainly colors my perspective I'm sure.
The Food and Beverage: Really positive marks here again. This is a short 3 hour regional flight yet a 4 course meal was presented. The main dish was the highlight to me and very memorable for J catering.
Overall: My praise of EVA Air grows with each encounter.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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