Qantas faces tough competition on flights to Taipei

With Qantas considering flights to Taiwan, incumbents China Airlines and EVA Air will give the Roo a run for its money.

By Chris Chamberlin, October 27 2020
Qantas faces tough competition on flights to Taipei

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.

ET review: Qantas Airbus A330 business class, Qantas Boeing 787 business class

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.

Regular travellers may notice similarities between China Airlines’ seats and those that formerly flew as ‘The Business’ for Virgin Australia, as well as Signature Class for Air Canada, among others.

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.

ET review: Cathay Pacific lounge, Taipei Taoyuan Airport

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.

ET review: China Airlines business class lounge, Taipei T1-A

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.

ET review: EVA Air's The Infinity lounge, Taipei Taoyuan Airport

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.

ET review: EVA Air's The Garden lounge, Taipei Taoyuan Airport

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.

Also read: Breeze through passport control with Taiwan's e-Gates

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas will get most of the 'Australian traveller' market by default, and you have to admit, the A330 or B787 Business Suite plus the Cathay Pacific lounge at Taipei would make this a great route. Most Taipei-bound Australians to date have opted for Qantas or Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and then another CX flight to Taipei, mainly to keep things in the OneWorld family and also because there's usually a good spread of flights from most AU capital cities to HKG. China Airlines really has some very attractive business class pricing however, along with its own great seats and TPE lounges.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1243

CI and BR are leagues ahead of QF.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2020

Total posts 2

I agree with you, I would love to see Qantas travel to Taipei. I go there every year as my partner is from Taiwan and typically you have two real options as you say. Fly Cathay or Qantas via Hong Kong, which is not as enticing at the moment with the politics or fly China Airlines without a codeshare or Qantas Codeshare with China Airlines. I've flown China Airlines and Eva and both are nice airlines although if you are a Qantas Frequent Flyer I suspect you would prefer Qantas without the Codeshare ticket. The Cathay Lounge in Taipei is reasonable too and not too shabby. The problem with the current arrangement for CI Codeshare with QF is that you can't choose seats nor can you elect to upgrade or use points.

The direct flight is preferable rather than the layover in Hong Kong right now.

P1
P1

24 Apr 2017

Total posts 66

Neither the A330 or B787 Business Suite is a patch on China Airlines A350 business class, and they are a direct flight. At least you acknowledge their seats, and the magical lap & sash seat belts!

Qantas won't get any custom on this route with their inferior offerings/planes.


09 Aug 2015

Total posts 55

LOL! "Qantas won't get any custom on this route with their inferior offerings/planes." Yeah, that's right, Qantas might launch a daily Sydney-Taipei flight and it would fly completely empty, not a single passenger, according to you P1.

Plenty of people in this thread agree with you that China Airlines has a great offering, in business class but that doesn't mean Qantas is that 'inferior' and nobody will fly QF. 

China Airlines - Dynasty Flyer

22 Sep 2012

Total posts 74

Qantas will get plenty of passengers to Taipei if it is the first route to open outside of the NZ bubble. We could even maybe see Qantas flying from 3-5 capital cities to Taipei and I would not be suprised if both Eva and China airlines would expand and add routes. This would be all temporary until other places opened up.

Those flying with Qantas would be of course members, those who dont usually travel outside the well heeled routes (of more cautious nature). I see the Australian passenger going approximately 50/50 between Australian and Taiwanese carriers. Taiwanese probably 80 to 90 percent with local carriers.

Taiwan travel market (even more pent up demand to go somewhere off the island). Taiwan will have to do a good job of advertising places of interest. Also they should get their tourism operators (catering for more western comforts like softer bedding as until recently it was catering to more mainland chinese tour grou). And it will definately be in Qantas interest to encourage this.

It probably wont be quite as problematic for taiwanese going to Australia as they will know more about it.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1141

P1 I find the A333 as not too bad and as the only direct oneworld flight and avoiding HK et al transfers in a COVID world sounds good to me.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 367

BR's J seat is basically the same as QF's with different touches. But in terms of soft product QF will have a huge competition. BR offers premium champagne that's comparable to first class. They also give out Ferragamo and Rimowa amenity kits that's again first class, compare with QF's cheap Kmart looking pencil case amenity.

But for English speaking pax, QF may be easier to communicate. Although both CI and BR's FA are suppose to be fluent in English, sometimes I find it hard to understand their English. Best to stick with Mandarin.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1141

The oneworld connection may be high in Qantas thinking are grab some of those who go via Hong Kong and avoid a stopover in a COVID world and related extra hassles.

05 Jul 2013

Total posts 10

Whether A330 or 787, J class would be a major step up since the last time I took a QF nonstop flight from Taipei to Sydney.  It was on a 747SP.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2435

Back in my 'previous life' as a technology journalist/editor, I would be part of the media contingent making at annual pilgrimage to Taipei for the Computex tech show and/or related Intel briefings. We always flew to Taipei via Hong Kong, sometimes it was a Qantas-Cathay Pacific combo but mostly it was CX all the way, especially if the CX fare was more competitive or if the connecting flight from Hong Kong was better-timed against the arrival of the Cathay Pacific flight from Australia. As much as I enjoyed any chance for a Hong Kong stopover, the option to fly straight to Taipei would easily win out these days. I only hope that if Qantas adds Taipei to its map, the route remains for a long time to come so that more Aussies are encouraged to experience Taiwan.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 285

International airlines have a lot of trouble getting access to routes to Australian ports due to protectionism (or whatever level playing field as decided by QF) but sounds like QF doesn’t expect a problem with getting access to Taiwan or south Korea. 

Interesting esp when AFAIK there is no pre exisiting direct QF routes between Oz and ROC in 2019 (there may be some before) so they are expecting to walk into the bubble within 3-6 months without expectations of delays in approval on ROC side? I suppose the Taiwanese should be so grateful the QF is gracing their presence?

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 105

Not sure about that AsiaBizTraveller, depends on the fare, schedule and other matters. Gone are the days when Aussies jump on Qantas because they're the flag carrier. Flew China Airlines back from Europe last year and they were fantastic. That being said, it would be great to see Qantas fly this route and with any luck make it successful and permanent.  

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2435

China Airlines business class seems great for both the product and price, but don't underestimate the fact that Qantas is the default airline of choice for most Australians, even when there may be solid alternatives.

Most ET readers are admittedly a bit more savvy and might shop around, but most people will generally go to Qantas for all sorts of reasons such as the familiarity and comfort factor, that it's 'known' compared to China Airlines or EVA, plus frequent flyer points and status – and if Qantas launches Taipei flights you can bet there'll be a stack of advertising behind it.

As to the schedule, I expect we'll see exactly the same schedule as QF does for Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo – a daytime departure from Sydney or Melbourne with evening arrival into Taipei, and then an overnight back from Taipei.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2020

Total posts 2

This sounds like a great idea. At the moment, if you fly CX you transit through HKG which for some might not be preferable now. Especially with the layover however short or long it is. A direct flight is always preferable but the cost will be interesting to see. 

At the moment, you can book a QF ticket but in a CI plane and this allows Qantas First or Business Lounge access. However under the current arrangement, you can’t choose your seat until check in begins. This is a drawback on the current agreement. I’ve flown in China Airlines and Eva and they both good airlines. However if Qantas does fly, it would be much more convenient for Qantas Frequent Flyers I expect to use points which they can’t with China Airlines. I would love to see Qantas using the 787 though for this route rather than the A330 if possible. 

Twice I've had to visit Taipei for work (IT) and have gone Cathay Pacific all the way. The first time there was a very tight connection but my luggage still got through okay, not sure if that would have happened with Qantas despite the Oneworld connection. The second time I had a longer layover but still plenty of time to arrive into Taipei at a decent hour, and the whole experience was great. But if I had to visit there again and Qantas has direct flights, that would be my choice, I just hope the Qantas First lounge here is open again by the time those flights start!

P1
P1

24 Apr 2017

Total posts 66

Qantas can just give up and go home now. China Airlines A350 are better in every respect.

UA

30 Jun 2015

Total posts 24

Personally I'm a fan of China Air, but the Sydney Sky Team lounge is poor.  Am hoping that Starlux ( the latest Taiwanese carrier) adds Australia to its growing route network.

28 Oct 2020

Total posts 2

For anyone contemplating saving a few dollars in these difficult times and trying China Airlines Economy offering, my suggestion based on a Fukuoka - Taipei - Brisbane trip (A330/A350) last year is 'buyer beware'. It was easily the worst flying experience I have had for very many years (on both flights) and the disorganised and chaotic transfer process at Taipei just topped it off. 'Couldn't care less' flight attendants, woeful entertainment options and barely edible meals were the lowlights. I seldom have ever felt the need to complain directly to flight attendants (as usually whatever it is, isn't their fault) but had to do so and was met with blank stares and pathetic 'cut and paste' excuses. I had flown (Economy again) Kansei - Taipei - Manila - Brisbane (A321/A321neo) with PAL a couple of months earlier and can't speak highly enough of the in flight offerings and service (transfer/transit processes at Taipei and Manila were both pretty ordinary though). Qantas Sydney-Narita were their usual patchy selves and I failed totally, despite efforts, to get a cup of tea the whole way even sitting just in front of the galley but at least they were friendly!

Hi mickg, sounds like a particularly bad flight on that occasion. By contrast, I jumped on China Airlines from Auckland to Brisbane back in January, booked economy also (which happened to be half the price of Qantas, Virgin or AirNZ economy on the same day, but with full service inclusions of seatback entertainment, baggage and quite a tasty hot meal) and found the service excellent, almost to the standard of what I'd expect in business class - and that's as a regular, paying passenger, with no SkyTeam status to speak of. Had it not been for COVID-19, I'd have bashed up a review of that already, but I do hope China Airlines returns to the Brisbane-Auckland leg, as they seemed to be quite the hidden gem for trans-Tasman travel.

15 Feb 2014

Total posts 6

Fiddling while Rome burns? Until and unless Qantas gets back to the big routes (UK USA) they can only noodle around the edges while the big boys get on with flying.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1141

Roz I’m not sure who the big boys are in your mind, hopefully not Qatar and its treatment of women passengers. You’re aware that they are limited to about 40 pax per flight so big subsidies to keep them flying. When the UK and US get COVID-19 under control to the same extent as Australia and a ‘bubble’ can occur then Qantas quite wisely will keep out of it and let them lose money. Not sure which of the ‘big boys’ you are thinking of actually makes money on international flying.

28 Oct 2020

Total posts 2

The flights I was on were also very cheap so I probably got what I paid for! I would imagine that the meals on AKL-BNE were prepared in BNE or AKL. I have also heard good reports of them on the Trans Tasman flights but would be hesitant about trying them again on longer legs (or would take my own food!). A short while after that shocker I flew SYD-BNE with Jetstar and can honestly say that the cabin service and communication from the cabin staff and flight deck was really excellent and more than made up for a flight delay we experienced. So I concede all airlines have good and bad days.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

14 Jul 2017

Total posts 17

I have been a long time QF FF.  I abandoned them years ago when they stopped appreciating their top tier members.  OF just does not cut it now and relies on Australians blind loyalty.  I am now a CI Paragon member.  I love this airline and they reciprocate by treating me as an appreciated individual.  The on board service and food is wonderful in J and the seat is excellent.  I hope QF does come online on the AU-TPE route, I like competition.


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