With a great deal of fanfare and a cargo load of cuteness, EVA Airways' new specially painted Boeing 777-300ER landed at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport late last month, with the carrier's Chairman K.W. Chang serving as captain.
This was no ordinary paint job, and no ordinary plane.
Named the Hello Kitty Shining Star Jet, the plane's exterior features Little Twin Stars Kiki and Lala, Hello Kitty and My Melody—the Taiwanese carrier's seventh Hello Kitty-themed aircraft. Six other Hello Kitty Jets fly from Taiwan to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, mainland China, Guam and Paris.
The new plane flies EVA's new route between Bush Intercontinental (IAH) and Taiwan's Taoyuan International Airport three times a week. A fourth flight, using a Boeing 777-300ER with a standard EVA livery, also takes the route once.
Following are images from the welcome party for the plane in Houston, and some of the special Hello Kitty-themed amenities offered on board.
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—By Harriet Baskas, special to CNBC. Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at @CNBCtravel.
Posted 11 July 2015
EVA Air's Hello Kitty Shining Star Jet arrives for the first time in Houston. "We believe our new service will be a Texas-size success," said EVA Air chairman K.W. Chang, who initiated the Hello Kitty plane concept "to make flying fun." The carrier spends approximately $300,000 to paint each Hello Kitty-themed jet.
The city of Houston has many reasons to celebrate EVA Airways' service into Bush Intercontinental Airport. "The Asian community in Houston is growing at a faster rate than any other demographic group in the city," said Houston Mayor Annise Parker in a statement. "That's just one of the many reasons why it's imperative that we establish and maintain strong air service throughout the Asian region. The arrival of EVA Airways is a tremendous step forward in meeting that vital goal."
In a ceremony welcoming the Hello Kitty plane and EVA Air service to Houston, Mario Diaz, chairman of the City of Houston Department of Aviation, presented EVA's Chang with a welcome gift with a decidedly Texas twist: a classic Stetson hat.
Houston's welcome party for the Hello Kitty Shining Star Jet included an appearance by Hello Kitty herself, who emerged from the plane dressed in a spacesuit—a nod to the fact that Houston is home to NASA's Johnson Space Center.
The Hello Kitty family of characters isn't present only on the outside of the new plane. As with EVA Air's other Hello Kitty-themed planes, more than 100 items inside the plane—from headrest covers to meals—have received the Hello Kitty treatment, as well.
Flight attendants on the Hello Kitty plane wear Hello Kitty-themed aprons and serve meals with Hello Kitty-themed food to passengers in the Royal Laurel, Elite Class and Economy class cabins. Cutlery, baby bottles, napkins and toothpicks with dental floss are tricked out with the character, as well.
EVA's premium Royal Laurel class service cabin isn't as heavily branded as the rest of the airplane, but there's no missing the fact that this is a very special plane.
Restrooms on the Hello Kitty-themed planes get the treatment, too. Because so many passengers like to take home extra souvenirs, each lavatory is equipped with two rolls of Kitty-branded toilet paper (yes, really).
The sheer number of Hello Kitty items on the plane can be overwhelming. Take, for instance, this almost too-cute-to-use air sickness bag in the lavatory.
While the Hello Kitty theme is charming, it's also good for business. EVA offers a wide selection of exclusive duty-free items to passengers on all these special planes.
Products range from puzzles, pillowcases and perfume to aircraft models and watches that sell for over $300. The carrier reports sales revenue from its Hello Kitty duty-free items at $3 million for 2014, with an expected 10 percent growth for 2015.
Even the foods served at the welcome party for EVA's service to Houston had a Hello Kitty theme.