Taiwan-based EVA AIR upgrades business class amid airline industry push to improve service and profits

Taiwanese airline EVA AIR, one of Silicon Valley’s popular cross-Pacific commuter services, has upgraded its business-class cabin to include lie-flat seats.

The $100 million upgrade to front-of-the plane cabins, dubbed Royal Laurel Class, on the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER fleet comes as EVA prepares to join the Star Alliance, which is expected to occur later this year. Alliance members, which includes United Airlines, share mileage programs and others services.

The new upgrade begins Sunday on select flights on EVA’s daily San Francisco-Taipei route with flight BR 17 at 12:05 a.m. All planes will have the new business class by March.

Analysts say EVA is the latest carrier to upgrade its service as airlines work hard for sustainable growth.

“We need to start making the airline industry better versus making it cheaper,” said Robert Herbst, an aviation industry consultant who operates AirlineFinancials.com. In the last year-and-a-half, carriers have been focusing more on providing better service, he said. U.S. carriers, facing increased pressure from overseas competitors flying new aircraft, are ordering new planes.

Airlines, Herbst said, are “working much more on the product and profit instead of just getting more people to fly.”

EVA’s new 38-seat business class cabin is configured in a way that allows passengers near windows to gaze outside without turning their heads. Each seat also comes with panels that allow passengers to create private spaces and is equipped with 15.4-inch touch screens.

The airline’s daily San Francisco-Taipei route is a favorite among many in the valley’s tech industry, who travel regularly to Taiwan and China.

EVA is also remodeling one of its three lounges at home base Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei.

The new service first appeared on EVA’s New York-Taipei route in June. EVA also plans to provide in-flight mobile and WiFi communications on some flights in 2014.

Last month, the airline announced the appoint of Kuo-Wei Chang as chairman. Chang, who was previously president, is also a pilot for the airline.






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