Interview: EVA Air Eyes New Aircraft, Destinations

DALLAS — Taiwanese carrier, EVA Air (BR) has been in the airline business since 1989 and remains one of the most prominent carriers in the Asia Pacific region, known very well for its service excellence.

Through 2022, EVA managed to post an average load factor of nearly 61% given that much of Asia lagged in terms of easing restrictions and allowing capacity. Key emphasizes lies in how the Boeing 787 is proving to be a perfect fit for the airline, allowing immense flexibility in network optimization and growth.

Holding a fair share in the Trans-Pacific market, would EVA penetrate further into the North American continent as momentum gains in the global recovery in the aviation industry? Clay Sun, EVA Air Vice President sits down with Airways to dive deep into what the post-pandemic world at EVA Air looks like.

Siddarth Ganesh: The Boeing 787 is proving to be a promising fit for EVA. The mix of the 787 -9 and -10 variants would allow you to deploy the type to Europe, North America, and ASEAN countries – a lot of flexibility there. Comment?

Clay Sun: EVA will use our B787-9 Dreamliners on routes to Europe and North America because of their longer-range capability. Now, these aircraft are configured with Royal Laurel and Economy Class cabins. Starting in mid-2024, we will roll out our latest Premium Economy cabin on the 787-9s and our passengers will be able to choose from all three cabins.

We will retain our two-cabin configuration on our B787-10s. While the 787-10s can comfortably carry more passengers, they have limited flying range. We will continue using them within Asia.

EVA is recognized as a Five Star Airline by SKYTRAX. We earned a Five Star Global Airline rating for 2023 from
the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and have been ranked both among the Top 20 Best Airlines in the World for 2023. We have also developed a wide network between Asia and both Europe and North America. And we are competitive.

Clay Sun, EVA Air Vice President

And how does the Boeing 777-300ER fit as your 787 fleet continues to grow? What’s the EVA wide-body fleet to look like in 5–6 years?

We will start retiring our older B777-300ERs in 2024 and plan a bigger role in our future fleet for the wide-body B787-9s with our three-cabin layout. We’re also in the preliminary stages of evaluating next-generation wide-body replacement aircraft, including Boeing’s 777X and Airbus’s A350. In the meantime, we’re continuing to deliver the high standard of service we’re known for on our major long-haul routes to North America with B777-300ERs.

For the short to medium haul, are you happy with the A321 CEOs, or are you already looking at a new type? Would you consider the 737 MAX?

We leased all of our A321ceos and began to return some as they came out of lease in late 2022. Now, we’re looking for the next-generation narrow-body replacement
such as the A321neo or 737MAX. Both of these aircraft are, at a minimum, 15% more fuel efficient than our current narrow-body fleet.

EVA Air is known for its service excellence, even so within the region – what’s the open secret, and where do you think you could improve even further?

We built service quality and safety into our core, even before we took our first flight in 1991. Service quality and safety, with careful attention to detail, are woven into our foundation. That’s our secret and our advantage. We have also developed a wide network between Asia and both Europe and North America. And we are competitive.

Before the end of Q2 2023, we expect to have reopened all our routes and ramped frequencies back up to 80 percent of our pre-pandemic levels.

Our goal for this year is to fully restore our transpacific network.

Clay Sun, EVA Air Vice President

Until recent times, it was EVA and China Airlines, but now with another Taiwanese carrier joining and its rapid growth and having an overlapping market presence, how do you see the market share for EVA span out or as a matter of fact for the trio of Taiwan? And how can you stay competitive today?

EVA is an international airline. We have been cultivating the North American market for 30 years and a Star Alliance member for 10, giving us the dual advantages of longtime passenger loyalty and those who fly with us through affiliations with other alliance members. Our alliance membership makes us very competitive on a large scale through the breadth of its transit network, especially in North America and Asia.

We have also strengthened our European routes by launching flights to Milan and Munich, extending our own network and giving us a presence in significant regions. The added gateways are boosting passenger flow for our overall network and strengthening our operational resilience.

Our future plans are to make our network more efficient by continuing to expand to new destinations and increase the number of flights to those we currently serve. We’re
also upgrading and enhancing our fleet by replacing older aircraft and elevating cabins and services. Our aim is always to provide our passengers with the most convenient and comfortable flights possible.

Clay Sun, Eva Air Vice President. Photo: EVA Air

Linked to the previous question, is there enough room for three prominent carriers in Taiwan, or is consolidation to some extent a better option? Comment?

Taiwan’s strategic location within the Asia-Pacific region makes it an ideal transportation hub and gives it geographical advantages. For example, from Taoyuan International Airport (TPE), several major Asian cities are within four hours of flight time. TPE is an efficient, modern international airport that makes onward connections
comparatively fast and easy.

Pre-pandemic 2019 data reported approximately 7.25 million international passengers traveled between North America and the Asia-Pacific region. As economic exchanges have increased, demand for international air travel has grown.

Clay Sun, EVA Air Vice President

We are continuously assessing potential markets, regularly opening new gateways, and strengthening our transpacific and Eurasian networks. Our key strategic priorities are to fortify our established hub-and-spoke aviation network, continually enhance our operational flexibility and adapt to changing market dynamics.

One of EVA Air’s best assets is its secondary hub and market at Bangkok (BKK) – are you at the maximum limit of EVA flights as per traffic rights? Do you have new plans in Bangkok as your fleet changes gradually?

Thailand is a globally beloved tourist destination. Naturally, we are very interested in expanding our network there. But securing time slots at Thailand’s main international airport, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, is a well-known challenge. We are in regular contact with authorities there and hope to have more time slots soon.

EVA Air 777-300ER Economy cabin. Photo: EVA Air

Pioneers in Premium Economy -EVA was the first airline to introduce this back in 1992 and is the trendsetter. What are your views in the present day on cabin product offerings, is there something you’re working on at this moment?

We continue to be honored and proud to have been an industry pioneer when we launched premium economy service on our maiden flight to Los Angeles on December 12, 1992, using a brand-new Boeing 747-400. To uphold our high service quality, we plan to introduce our next-generation premium economy in Q2 of next year.

We are designing our new premium economy with improved features such as more privacy, an expanded amenity stowage area, more comfortable personal space, and added features to elevate our passengers’ inflight environment

The Transpacific market – how much more can you grow there? Would you deploy two more 777-300ERs to Los Angeles (LAX) if you had the chance?

EVA is continuously evaluating market demand and, at the same time, considering factors such as fleet load potential and availability of good time slots.

Any new destinations you’re considering in the North American market?

We operate a dense, established network of international connecting flights and we are eager to grow our presence in the North American and Asian markets. After launching our first new European routes in 25 years last year, Milan and Munich, and adding our latest gateway in March, Clark International Airport in the Philippines.

We are considering Boston, Washington DC, and Dallas-Fort Worth in North America. Flight to these major cities will broaden our service network and strengthen our operational resilience.

Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

The iconic partnership with “Hello Kitty”, how has it evolved over the years, and what has it taught EVA?

We teamed up with Sanrio in 2005 to create the world’s first EVA Air Hello Kitty Jet and launched the colorful plane on our Japan routes. When we celebrated our 20th
anniversary in 2011, we worked with Sanrio again to launch our second generation of Hello Kitty Jets.

This partnership grew to include co-branded merchandise, onboard
service products, and airport operational equipment. The EVA Air-Sanrio collaboration has grown stronger over time, benefiting both our companies and promoting our
respective markets, resulting in a win-win dynamic.

Our long-standing collaboration with Sanrio has given us valuable insights into gaining competitive advantages by leveraging brand marketing and giving passengers
unique flying experiences. This partnership laid a solid foundation for cross-domain cooperation, positively impacting our own brand development and market position.

Just as every airline across the globe faces some challenge(s), what’s it for EVA?

The pandemic has had deep and long-term impacts on the global aviation industry. Changes in our operating environment and aviation manpower shortages are affecting network deployment and increasing operational challenges.

Raw materials cost more and the US dollar has sharply appreciated, amplifying cost pressures. Add geopolitics and extreme weather events to the many challenges we face.

These issues and more demand our full attention for EVA to continue to thrive while we give our passengers the extraordinary service and high safety standards they have come to count on.

Featured image: Max Langley/Airways

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