They say getting there is half the fun, but if you’re getting there on one of EVA Air’s Hello Kitty jets you’re setting the fun bar pretty damn high for the other half.
I was never a Hello Kitty fan until I worked with Sanrio (the company that created Kitty) on several video projects. Over the years, Kitty White—that’s her real name, didn’t you know?—hypnotized me with her soulless, unblinking stare. I became studied in the ways of “kawaii,” the Japanese term for “so cute you could explode into a puff of glitter,” and I learned all about her history, her family, her design, and her strategy for global domination. Now I have a shelf in my house dedicated to a modest collection of Sanrio memorabilia and I have a brain full of useless trivia.
Some people were shocked a little while back to discover that Kitty White is not a cat. She’s a girl. I knew that already. After all, she has a pet cat. How can a cat have a pet cat? Did you know that she was born in London, not Japan, and her blood type is A? Yes, she has a blood type. And it’s A. And I even know the reason why. But my point is that when I stumbled into a chance to fly on a Hello Kitty plane, I was more excited than most socially functioning males my age due to an extensive and successful brainwashing campaign.
EVA Air has several Sanrio-branded planes in their fleet. They’re not all “Hello Kitty” planes, necessarily. Sanrio has a catalog of over 400 original characters. One of their jets focuses on a celestial brother and sister pair known as the Little Twin Stars, another honors the naughty penguin Bad Batz-Maru, and another is branded with one of their more recent creations: Gudetama, the lazy egg.
But if you want to fly on any of them you’ve got to head to Taiwan first, and even then you have to make sure you’re flying on the right day at the right time. I have to imagine that most of the flights are populated by businessmen who probably feel a little silly surrounded by all the Hello Kitty ornamentation.
Considering all that, my flight on the “Sanrio Family Hand in Hand” jet was like winning the lottery without realizing I’d bought a ticket.
My wife and I were heading from Los Angeles to Thailand, and we happened to buy flights operated by EVA Air with a layover in Taiwan. Long after our tickets were purchased, EVA Air announced they would be flying their Hello Kitty planes on select routes out of LAX. We checked their website, we checked our reservation…the times and flight numbers matched up…WE WOULD BE FLYING ON THE HELLO KITTY PLANE!
We weren’t even sure if we should get our hopes up because airlines change planes and routes and timetables all the time. But when we arrived at the airport, the signage at the check-in desk and our custom-designed boarding passes told us we were in for a very special ride.
At our gate, we saw it through the window: a Boeing 777 emblazoned with larger-than-life images of Hello Kitty, My Melody, the Little Twin Stars, Kuromi, Keroppi, Pompompurin, Cinnamoroll, Badtz-Maru, Patty and Jimmy, and Dear Daniel. (No, I didn’t need to look any of those names up.)
We boarded to an upbeat soundtrack of original Sanrio-produced tunes and got our first glimpse of the Sanrio headrest covers and character-branded pillows. A cartoon loop of Hello Kitty and her friends greeted us on our seat back monitors as we excavated our seat back pocket to find Sanrio shopping catalogs, an emergency instruction card with a pink bow on it, and—my personal favorite item—Hello Kitty barf bags.
When dinner was served we found they had cut our carrots into little bow shapes, and all the service items featured Kitty in some way, as did the aprons worn by the flight attendants. In the bathroom there was Hello Kitty soap, lotion, and, of course, toilet paper.
The novelty never wore off. The sadness of disembarking the plane was offset slightly by a gift of a deck of Hello Kitty playing cards on the way out, and access to the super kawaii Hello Kitty gate area at the Taipei airport while waiting for our connection.
Our vacation had begun on a delightful high note.
Three weeks later, we flew home on a standard EVA Air jet. Plain green aprons on the flight attendants. Emergency instructions without any flair. Uninspiring barf bags. Standard toilet paper. Boring-ass carrots. On any other day it all would’ve seemed fine, but I couldn’t help but fantasize about what I was missing.
Every plane I’ve been on since that one has made me nostalgic for the Sanrio in-flight experience. But unfortunately EVA Air has since ceased flying their Hello Kitty jets out of LAX. I suppose I will have to find a reason to fly to Taiwan and connect to another city on the Sanrio route, because I simply cannot go back to black-and-white Kansas now that I’ve seen the glorious colors of Oz.