I often fly EVA (www.evaair.com), a Taiwanese carrier, to Bangkok and other Asian destinations from San Francisco. EVA is one of my secret finds that flies you in comfort while still saving you considerable bucks. It offers service from major cities around the world (including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Newark and Paris) and is known for the excellent luxury-coach section of the plane. Trust me on this: Taipei is a great city for making connections, and EVA has the best value in the skies.
My recent EVA flights from SFO to BKK were, uh, a breeze… I left SFO after midnight (good for sleeping in flight), made a quick connection in Taipei, and then arrived at BKK midday which allowed me to avoid the early morning crowds and clear immigration quickly.
A promotional business class ticket purchased online runs about $4,000 round-trip and for about half that, you can fly in Premium Laurel (executive coach class). A round-trip coach ticket from Los Angeles or San Francisco to most Asian destinations is usually in the $1000 range, at least $200 less than United’s best price. You'll have ample leg room in coach (33 inch pitch) and if you arrive at the airport early, you may be able to grab an exit row seat; these seats cannot be reserved in advance and are first come, first served at check-in. Plus, for my money, if you are not on a nonstop to HKG, Taipei is the best hub city in Asia.
EVA has a fleet of various planes including 747s, brand-new 777s and Airbuses. A few years back, they launched a campaign with Japanese company Sanrio to create the "Hello Kitty Jet," featuring the popular Japanese feline. Using the airline's A330-200, the exterior adopted a livery of Hello Kitty characters to promote interest in Japanese tourism. There are now five or six of these planes flying to Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, China and Guam; three-day-per-week service from Taipei to Los Angeles launches September 18, and Hello Kitty service to Europe is in the works.
EVA recently joined Star Alliance, so you can earn United miles for your flights.