Bali 2014 – Aeroplan Sale: EVA Airways Royal Laurel TPE-SFO, Centurion Lounge SFO, and being detained because of EBOLA! – PART 5 of 5
Originally I was scheduled to fly on TPE-SEA on EVA’s 747, which only has Premium Laurel, not their more premium business class product, Royal Laurel. I really wanted to switch to a flight that had Royal Laurel, like TPE-LAX/TPE-SFO/TPE-YYZ/TPE-JFK. I checked Aeroplan availability and it existed on TPE-SFO onward to YOW on United in economy ( 🙁 ). Honestly, I rather do the long segment on Royal Laurel and the rest in economy than fly Premium Laurel for 11 hours, which has an angled product instead of a lie-flat.
Unfortunately, on this Aeroplan Sale, no changes were allowed. My motto is “always ask, the worst they can say is no.” I started off by telling the agent I flew half of an Aeroplan sale ticket and would like to make a change. She said OK. She grabbed my flights and went on hold to reissue the tickets. She then comes back and says because the system didn’t originally charge the right amount of miles originally, they can’t make the change. She then tried to fix the ticket back to the original. For some reason, she couldn’t. Back on hold (for a long time). She comes back and says because they can’t get the old itinerary, they’ll make this change. Yay!
My new itinerary was DPS-TPE on EVA Economy, TPE-SFO in EVA Business (Royal Laurel), SFO-ORD-YOW on United Economy. I’ll detail my experiences with EVA Economy/Business and the Centurion Lounge. I won’t detail the UA flights because they weren’t at all special (and, as you’ll find out later in the trip report, I was more-or-less unconscious for those flights).
Premier Lounge and Denpasar to Taipei on EVA Economy
Denpasar airport is really nice. Extremely modern and well designed, with free WiFi. As a Star Alliance Gold passenger, I had access to the Premier Lounge. There is also another lounge, the Prada Lounge, but I’ve heard it’s terrible and avoided it.
The Premier Lounge is the general lounge for most airlines, and is available for Priority Pass holders. It’s a pretty decent lounge. Comfy chairs, hot food, decent alcohol, and was bright and airy. There weren’t any showers, and the bathrooms were located just outside the lounge. However, because Denpasar airport is extremely nice, those bathrooms were extremely clean and airy, nicer than most in-lounge bathrooms I’ve been to.
After an hour, boarding was called. Boarding was extremely efficient, and from the time I boarded (which was early, being Star Alliance Gold) and the time the plane door closed couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes.
It wasn’t a very full flight today. Probably about half empty, with the glut of economy passengers at the back of the plane. I was at the front which was pretty empty. I grabbed a dozen pillows from empty seats and made myself a pillow fort. I’ve done this once before on an empty KLM 747 flight, and it was equally as great this time. I was extremely comfortable. EVA has a pretty decent IFE, the only problem being that there is no option to remove Chinese subtitles from the movies/TV shows. There was a meal service, which I declined. However, I did enjoy a couple G&Ts from the frequent complimentary drink service.
EVA Infinity Lounge in Taipei
I’ve been to this lounge before, and it’s pretty nice. I was warmly greeted into the lounge, and I asked for a shower. I was brought to a shower area (with shower rooms that had rather interesting names). The shower rooms were very well designed, with nice amenities and a ToTo HEATED toilet <3
After the shower I explored the food/beverage offerings. They had a decent selection of Asian hot food offerings, and a delicious Mövenpick Ice Cream bar. Guess what I indulged in? After that I did some work and headed to my gate just before boarding.
EVA Taipei to San Francisco, Royal Laurel
This was the worst flight I’ve ever taken.
Boarding was done very efficiently, and I was warmly greeted by the purser. Immediately after boarding I was asked for my pre-departure drink order, and I asked for champagne. Like many airlines, they reserve their nice champagne, which in this case was Veuve Cliquot la Grand Dame, until after departure. The reason is that any alcohol opened while on the ground will cost the airline duty charges, whereas if they are opened in the air they are considered as duty free. I don’t know what this cheaper pre-departure champagne was, but it was quite decent.
The seat was a pod, similar to Air Canada’s Executive Class. It’s pretty comfortable and is fully lie flat. There’s decent storage and plenty of counter space.
EVA is the only airline that offers Rimowa amenity kits for their business class passengers, and they’re well stocked and very nice. Further, they provide pyjamas (which were quite comfortable), Fiji Water, and a very fluffy duvet. All in all, they have a very good hard product.
The customer service throughout the flight was excellent. They were attentive, frequently passed by for drink service, and were warm and friendly.
With EVA, you can preorder your meal online. Unfortunately, as I changed my ticket the day of departure, it was too late to preselect my meal. EVA meal service is pretty ‘meh.’ The quality isn’t very good, and if you don’t like Chinese style cooking, you’re out of luck. The meal started with a duck liver terrine, which was OK, and the main was a beef dish that was pretty bland. For dessert there was a gelatin substance, which was disgusting and I sent back. I asked for some ice cream instead (which is on their menu), but they said it wasn’t loaded.
I then went to bed. That is when the worst flight of my life began. About 5 hours before landing, I woke up and puked all over myself. All over the duvet, the seat, and the screen. And I puked again. And again. It was draining out my nose, covered in my hair, dripping down my shirt, and I trailed it from my seat all over the carpet to the bathroom. I was that guy who ruined the cabin. I woke everybody up and folks were clearly upset by the smell. Luckily, I was cuddling the toilet for the rest of the flight, alternating between puking in it and sitting on it (crying, among other things…), not noticing their anger. The flight attendants were really wonderful though, and they stopped by as often as they could to give me wet towels, new pyjamas and water. I think I went through 4 pairs of pyjamas. I was sick until the end of the flight. Yay, food poisoning.
I deplaned in relative stability (I was empty) and made it to the customs hall until I puked again. I then went to the Global Entry kiosk (which you can get with NEXUS) to answer the immigration questions. Since the recent ebola scare, they’ve added two new questions: (1) have you been vomiting, having diarrhea, etc. in the past 48 hours? and (2) have you been to West Africa in the past 21 days? Obviously I had to answer the first question in the affirmative, but the second in the negative. I was immediately sent to secondary. Once in secondary, I was moved to a separate room away from the other passengers. Of course, there was a box of donuts right in front of me. Like any good Canadian, I love donuts. However, when you have food poisoning, the smell of food, especially donuts, isn’t the greatest thing. I had them moved away 😉
At first they asked me some questions about my travels. I kid you not, after I said I was in Indonesia, he asked “Is that in Africa?” My jaw dropped (luckily I didn’t puke on him in the process). After a number of questions they called the freakin’ CDC. THE CDC!!! I wasn’t in West Africa, haven’t been to West Africa, and was clearly suffering from food poisoning. Nonetheless, they called the CDC. I got on speaker phone with a CDC agent who questioned me. At the end of the conversation she said I was free to go. SO I HAD BEEN DETAINED BY THE CDC!? Thinking I was free to go, I started to leave. However, CBP had a different idea. They told me to wait as they had to call PAU (Port Authority?) to confirm I wasn’t lying about being to West Africa. After another long wait I was cleared and free to go. Jeeeeeeeeeez.
San Francisco Centurion Lounge
The Centurion lounge just opened at SFO a couple days previous. Not only did I want to try it out, but it was the closest lounge to exiting customs, had a shower (I didn’t know whether the UA lounge had a shower), and a decent rest area. You can access the lounge with a Platinum or Centurion AMEX Card (including a Canadian version), or having any AMEX card and paying $50.
First thing I did when entering the lounge was take a shower, because I smelled like puke. They have one shower room, but it’s quite nice. They use l’Occitane en Provence (again!?) amenities, and have a nice shower facility.
After my shower I walked around and took some photos. Centurion lounges are well known for having high-end cocktails and hot food. Sadly, being sick, I stood clear from that area. I headed directly to some resting seats they have in a dark area at the back of the lounge and slept for 2 hours. I woke up right before my departure and flew my economy flights to Ottawa. Happily I took excessive amounts of dimenhydrinate and loperamide (AKA miracle drugs) and those flights went without incident.