Qantas says it's ready to begin direct flights from Australia to Taiwan in early 2021 should a COVID-safe corridor open between the two countries, to tap into pent-up travel demand among Australians after almost a year of nation-wide lockdown.
However, it'll face sharp competition from incumbent Taiwanese carriers China Airlines and EVA Air: both of which had been flying from Taipei to Australia for years prior to COVID-19, most recently with their best inflight product.
Here’s how the three airlines compare for business class flyers.
Business class seats: Qantas vs China Airlines, EVA Air
Qantas, China Airlines and EVA Air all put their best foot forward in business class with fully-flat beds in a 1-2-1 seating layout, guaranteeing direct aisle access at every seat throughout the nine hour flight.
Qantas Airbus A330, Boeing 787 business class
Qantas would fly either its Airbus A330 or Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner between Australia and Taiwan.
Both offer the airline’s Business Suites in business class – which typically include mattress pads and pyjamas for added comfort on overnight flights.
Most travellers would be hard-pressed to notice any difference between the Airbus A330 and Boeing 787-9 seats, except for couples and pairs jetting away together in the centre seats.
On the Airbus A330, the centre divider (doubling as a storage shelf) is fixed in place, while on the Boeing 787, this can be partially retracted to make conversation easier with a seatmate.
China Airlines Airbus A350, Boeing 777 business class
Prior to COVID-19, China Airlines flew both the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777 to Australia: typically using the Boeing 777 over the busier Australian summer months on selected routes, including Brisbane-Taipei, and the A350 at all other times.
Much like Qantas, China Airlines provides the same business class experience on both aircraft, taking considerable effort with the design of the cabin.
Darker tones, wood-patterned accents and brass fixtures create an atmosphere not unlike a private club.
That’s because all are highly customised versions of the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seat, with China Airlines choosing to tweak its product to have firmer cushioning than some other carriers, which some travellers may prefer, but others may not find as comfortable: especially with no mattress topper or pyjamas.
ET review: China Airlines Airbus A350 business class
EVA Air Boeing 787-10 business class
While EVA Air flew its Airbus A330s to Australia for a number of years – which came with dated, angled-flat beds in business class – these were replaced by the Boeing 787-10 in 2019, and the airline’s latest business class seats.
EVA’s Dreamliner cabin is strikingly modern and highly refined, with every aspect thoughtfully considered.
This staggered layout places some passengers closer to the aisle, and others further away from it, with those sitting in the centre pair able to open a privacy divider to converse (pictured in foreground): or equally, to keep it shut during the flight for added privacy (shown in background).
Mattress pads aren’t normally offered on EVA Air – a trick being to drape your blanket over the seat to help soften it – although pyjamas come standard on overnight flights.
ET review: EVA Air Boeing 787-10 business class
Inflight WiFi: Qantas vs China Airlines, EVA Air
With both China Airlines and EVA Air offering inflight WiFi on international routes, this places Qantas at a disadvantage for tech-toting travellers, given the airline’s choice not to offer this on international Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 flights.
China Airlines provides free and unlimited WiFi on paid business class fares, as well as for China Airlines’ own Gold, Emerald and Paragon frequent flyers who booked or upgraded to business class using miles.
For all other business class travellers, such as those who booked their ticket using Qantas Points or miles from various SkyTeam programs, prices start at US$3.25 (A$4.60) for 15MB at low speed, through to 650TWD (A$32) for unlimited data at the highest available speed.
EVA Air similarly offers free WiFi to business class guests, but with data capped at 50-100MB. Book a Business Class Up fare and get the full 100MB, while a Standard fare provides 75MB.
Business Class Basic nets 50MB, while those travelling on frequent flyer reward bookings, upgraded fares, and those who exceed any free allowance, can pay US$4.95 (A$6.95) for 30MB of messaging, through to US$29.95 (A$42) for 300MB of data.
(While EVA Air’s complimentary access for business class passengers is currently via a ‘promotion’ expiring on December 31 2020, this has previously been extended and is likely to be continued once again, to remain competitive with China Airlines, which also provided access via a similar ‘promotion’, that became an ongoing feature of business class.)
Taipei lounges: Qantas vs China Airlines, EVA Air
While the airport lounges available in Australia will be familiar to many Aussie travellers, lounges in Taipei may be less so, and this is another point of difference between the trio.
(In Australia, Qantas uses its own-brand international lounges in Sydney (business and first), Melbourne (business and first) and Brisbane (business); EVA Air uses Brisbane’s Plaza Premium Lounge: as does China Airlines, as well as the SkyTeam Lounge in Sydney and the Marhaba Lounge in Melbourne.)
Qantas business class lounge options in Taipei
Without an own-brand lounge at Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport, Qantas would rely either on a partner airline lounge or a third-party facility, which may depend on which terminal any Qantas flights would operate from.
In Terminal 1, Qantas’ Oneworld alliance partner Cathay Pacific provides a business class lounge in its latest ‘home away from home’ style created by London-based Studioilse.
With space for 245 passengers and Cathay Pacific’s signature Noodle Bar, travellers would be able to eat before their flight – particularly handy if Qantas’ return flights operate overnight, as is most often the case – although showers are absent.
Alternatively, Japan Airlines operates a lounge in Terminal 2, with third-party provider Plaza Premium also running lounges in both terminals: giving Qantas options when it comes to choosing a ‘default’, if its Taipei route eventuates.
China Airlines business class lounges in Taipei
Being China Airlines’ home hub, the carrier offers five lounges across Taipei’s two terminals – and of course, these are linked by airside train, in a similar fashion to Singapore Changi’s T1/T2/T3.
Its flagship business class lounge can be found in Terminal 1, on the ‘A side’: and like its business class cabin, the business class lounge similarly makes use of a dark colour palette with wooden accents.
Dining is normally buffet-style – although that’s with assisted service due to COVID-19 – as well as offering a noodle bar with cooked-to-order dishes, and self-serve alcohol.
China Airlines also operates a separate ‘exclusive lounge’ for its high-tiered Paragon and Emerald members (that’s China Airlines Dynasty Emerald, not Oneworld Emerald), which a business class ticket alone doesn’t provide access to: nor does it get you into the President of Taiwan’s private lounge next door.
EVA Air business class lounges in Taipei
Also being the home hub of EVA Air, the carrier operates four own-brand lounges here, with ‘The Infinity’ the best choice for most business class flyers.
Divided into zones tailored to working, dining and relaxing, The Infinity goes strong on mood lighting in the latter, which certainly makes a fresh change from the bright fluorescent lighting of many other lounges, particularly in the lead-up to an evening departure.
There’s no noodle bar, but the buffet options are normally extensive with a variety of hot and cold dishes, as well as self-serve alcohol and ice cream: but again, due to COVID-19, staff are on-hand to assist.
Like China Airlines, EVA Air also provides a better-than-business-class lounge for its highest-tiered travellers, with Infinity MileageLands Diamond cardholders gaining entry into ‘The Garden’ lounge next door, which adds bartender service and cooked-to-order dishes to the mix.
An EVA business class ticket also gets you into the airline’s The Star and The Club lounges – which are considered lower in the lounge ranks – as well as to the adjacent Singapore Airlines lounge, but that closes well before Australian-bound passengers would check-in with EVA Air.
Qantas vs China Airlines vs EVA Air
There’s no doubt that when Qantas, China Airlines and EVA Air are compared head-to-head, the competition is fierce.
Qantas likely edges in front with its seat, given the presence of mattress pads and pyjamas on overnight flights, although without inflight WiFi on its international jets, some travellers may prefer China Airlines and EVA Air to remain connected, where required.
On the lounge stakes, how Qantas stacks up would largely depend on which facility it preferences in Taipei.
In any case, Qantas still needs to pull the trigger on Taiwan flights – which would only be possible after the opening of a ‘travel corridor’ or ‘travel bubble’ – but when Australia finally makes progress in this area, many Australians can look forward to a long overdue international holiday, in places like Taiwan.