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Transport : Airlines

In January 7th 2018, I reviewed Business Class in an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner from Vienna (Austria) to Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) with a layover at Ethiopian Airlines’ hub in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). Both flight legs were operated by modern B787 Dreamliner aircraft with fully lie-flat seats in Business Class (called Cloud Nine).

Ethiopian’s oldest B787s are still flying around with angled lie-flat seats, so this check which Business Class seat you are booking into before you fly. The experience was good, albeit not mindblowing, but did indeed exceed my expectations.

During this flight, I had a layover in Ethiopian Airlines’ Cloud Nine Lounge At Addis Ababa Airport which I reviewed separately.

Ethiopian Airlines is the largest, fastest growing and only consistently profitable airline in Africa, registering an average growth of 25% in the past seven years.

Most of Ethiopian’s longhaul aircraft feature lie-flat seats, except for the oldest ten B787s. The carrier finished the retrofit its B767 and B777 fleet – with instalments of flatbed seats last year, so these older B787 should be the next aircraft to undergo a retrofit.

Business Class Cabin Review

Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliner features just one large Business Class cabin, located in the aircraft’s nose section. There are 24 seats, spread over 4 rows, in a 2-2-2 layout (see seat map), with the seats on the side slightly angled towards the windows, away from the aisle.

All seats face forward and have aisle access, except for the window seats (where you have to climb over the legs of your neighbour to reach the aisle). Paired seats are staggered by a couple of inches (cm), which, together with a small partition, adds some privacy while allowing enough interaction when you are travelling with a companion.

This is the same Business Class layout which you find on other airlines, such as KLM’s B777, United Airlines’ B787s, and Qatar Airlines’ A330s.

Business Class Seat Review

Not all of Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliners feature lie-flat seats. The first ten Dreamliner aircraft were delivered with an older Business Class product with angled lie-flat seats (170 degrees recline), while the newer Dreamliners have all been delivered with fully flat beds (180 degrees recline).

When you’re booked on one of Ethiopian’s B787s, there’s no way to know upfront which kind of Business Class product you will get (angled versus full lie-flat seat). This review only covers the fully lie-flat Business Class seat, which is identical to the one that is installed on United Airlines B787s and Qatar Airways’ A330 planes.

The soft cushioned seat has a pitch of 78 inch (195 cm), which is defined as the space between one point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it. The seat width is 22 inch (56 cm), which is comfortable but not among the widest in the industry.

Each seat features its own 15,4 inch HD TV, which can be controlled by either a handset in the armrest or by directly touching the screen. Below the TV monitor, you find a drawer which is large enough to store your laptop, and a footrest which becomes part of the flatbed once the seat is fully reclined.

The size of this footrest differs dramatically depending upon the row: the bulkhead seats in row 1 offer a much larger ottoman as compared to the cramp footrests of all the other Business Class seats (so choose a seat in the first row if you can).

The armrest that is shared between paired seats features a small shared table (for drinks and snacks), the seat controls, and the remote control for the entertainment system. It also houses a fold-out tray table which needs to be pulled out for any use. On the other side of the seat, behind the headrest, is a small, difficult to reach storage compartment, where you find a universal AC power outlet and a USB port.

The seat goes fully flat (180 degrees recline), but again, your sleep comfort will depend on the seat you choose: except for the bulkhead seats in row 1 (which come with large ottomans), the footrests are too narrow for a good night’s rest.

What are the best Business Class seats on Ethiopian’s B787s?

All seats in the cabin are excellent for those travelling with a companion because of the 2-2-2 layout.

The bulkhead seats in row 1 feature a much larger footrest as compared to all other seats, so these are the seats you want to fly (and sleep) in, although proximity to the galley and lavatory may cause some light noise disturbance from time to time.

What are the worst Business Class seats on Ethiopian’s B787s?

The 2-2-2 Business Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travellers, since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. Window seats also don’t offer direct aisle access.

Amenities

Business Class passengers receive a decent pillow, a scratchy blanket and an amenity kit.

On intercontinental flights, the amenity kit has the form of a pouch bag (with hook) and contains an eye mask, ear plugs, socks, pen, toothpick, toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, and lip balm.

On flights within Africa, the amenity kit is a small bag, with an eye mask, ear plugs, socks, toothpaste and toothbrush.

Food On Ethiopian Airlines

On the Vienna to Addis Ababa red-eye flight, both dinner and breakfast were served, although it was only a 6-hour flight.

I choose the following selection from the dinner menu:

Cold canapés: duck roll toast; salmon & Philadelphia toast with dill; and chicken curry toast with parsley sprig.
Starter: marinated octopus with red peppers, black olive, artichoke and olive oil with lemon juice.
Main dish: Grilled Beef Tenderloin with truffle sauce and potato gratin and grilled zucchini (my travel companion had the Ricotta ravioli with sautéed spinach, roasted cherry tomato, and parmesan cheese).
Dessert: tropezienne cake stuffed with vanilla custard (although I just had a kiwi because I am on a diet since the start of 2018).
I skipped the breakfast service since I wanted to sleep as long as possible on this flight, and leave some room for a meal on the second flight from Addis Ababa to Dar Es Salaam. The latter was only a short trip (2.5 hours) and one lunch was served:
Main dish: choice of orecchiette with beef Carbonara, or lentil with spinach and blood orange (both dishes served with a pesto salad).
Dessert: dark chocolate brownie.

Ethiopian coffee and tea was served on both flights.

Overall, the food was acceptable but uninspiring.

Entertainment

Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliners feature a modern in-flight entertainment system with a high-resolution 15,4 inches screen in front of each seat and in-seat power outlets (the inflight audio and video entertainments are accessible with your own mobile devices /tablets). The entertainment selection is more limited as compared with other carriers, but enough to keep you entertained during a few hours. Noise-cancelling headphones are offered as well.

Ethiopian Airlines does currently not offer wireless internet on any of its aircraft.

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Review by my friends at Luxury Travel Expert