Ethiopian Airlines B737 & B787 Business Class Flight Reviews

Reviews : Transport

I have reviewed a number of my flights on Ethiopian Airlines on their B737 MAX and B787 Dreamliner planes in Business Class to and from Addis Abeba from Europe, Vienna (Austria) and to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. Ethiopian Airlines have also recently launched new A350 planes to their fleet but I have yet to fly on these.

Ethiopian Airlines Fleet

Ethiopian Airlines still flies about old B787s with angled lie-flat seats, so check which Business Class seat you are booking before you fly as to get a lie-flat seat, you need to be on the newer B787 Dreamliner.

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 long haul aircraft DO 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 planes should be the next aircraft to undergo a retrofit.

Ethiopian Airlines Impression

I always feel that Ethiopian Airlines the airline does a good job adhering to regulations, sometimes a bit too much. The ground operations and crew operate more like a Chinese airline with complete adherence to rules. This is very different from most airlines in Sub-Saharan Africa. However (justified or not) I never felt that the crew had an enormous amount of experience. I always felt they were eager and disciplined but might not possess the years of knowledge that, say, a British Airways pilot has in flying a plane.

Here is a good Youtube clip that shows young Ethiopian Airlines pilots at work:

My experiences with Ethiopian have been very good, although not the best in the skies. You may find that your flight on Ethiopian exceeds your expectations due to its comparatively new fleet, kind staff and decent Business Class offering. It is certainly one of the best airline choices in Africa.

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Ethiopian Airlines Addis Ababa Lounge

If you fly Ethiopian, you are likely to have access to Ethiopian Airlines’ Cloud Nine Lounge At Addis Ababa Airport which I reviewed in full separately complete with a number of photographs I took.

This Star Alliance Gold Lounge is designated for use by Star Alliance Gold members, including ShebaMiles Gold members (ShebaMiles is Ethiopian’s frequent flyer program). The ShebaMiles Silver Lounge, located on the inside corridor away from the gates in the departure hall, is only accessible to passengers with ShebaMiles Silver status (silver is the tier one step above regular).

The Cloud Nine Lounge can be used by passengers flying Ethiopian Airlines’ Business Class who don’t have Star Alliance Gold or ShebaMiles status. In fact, it’s called Cloud Nine Lounge 2 because this is the lounge in Terminal 2 and there’s another Cloud Nine Lounge located in Terminal 1.

Since I don’t have status anymore with Star Alliance, I spent my layover in the Cloud Nine 2 Lounge. The lounge is quite large and features several separate seating areas with tons of comfortable loungers in addition to a corner with a few dining tables. It’s a pretty ugly lounge with birght colours and not the best food offering. The room’s walls and the seats are all red, reflecting one of Ethiopian’s 3 signature colours (the other two are green and yellow). At the end of the colourful and busy lounge is a quiet room where cell phone conversations are not allowed and where you can relax in a few seats with built-in massage functions.

The Cloud Nine 2 Lounge features a fairly large bar area as well as a buffet station, which offers a variety of refreshments, cold and hot snacks, including Ethiopian dishes and international dishes from the East and West. There’s also a traditional Ethiopian coffee station, which is the highlight of the lounge experience since Ethiopian coffee is terrific.

The lounge provides complimentary and fast WiFi, which is great since Ethiopian Airlines does not offer internet on its aircraft, so it’s the only place to check your emails while on route. You do not need to worry when to board your flights as Ethiopian Airlines staff members walk around the lounge and personally come to announce the departure time for each flight.

B787 Business Class Cabin Review B787

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, 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.

B787 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.

B737 MAX Regional Flight from Antananarivo to Addis Abeba: Business Class

This plane had just been delivered a few weeks before my flight and was in mint condition without any scrapes or paint issues (Ethiopian Airlines’ planes age rapidly typically). I was hoping that Ethiopian would add a ‘lie-flat’ Business Class, but the company decided to install a ‘standard’ regional Business Class outfit despite this rather long flight at almost 5 hours.

The flight attendants spoke fluent English and were quite warm and helpful. Take-off was towards the East and we made an immediate steep turn to the West. The fate of Lion Air JT610 crash was something I definitely had in mind during takeoff making me grip the edges of the seat. Nothing happened though and our flight was fine and comfortable, despite a few takeoff bumps.

Food On Ethiopian Airlines

You may be surprised by how good the catering and drinks menu and service has become on Ethiopian Airlines. The food and the ‘airplane coffee’ on my regions B737 MAX flights were downright delicious (and I’m definitely a picky eater and coffee drinker). On the B787 Vienna to Addis Ababa red-eye flight, both dinner and breakfast were served, although it was only a 6-hour flight. Both were decent and you can see my photographs in my full flight review below.

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.

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, on both regional and international flights, but it was enough to keep entertained during a few hours. Noise-cancelling headphones are offered as well. Worth noting, there is no satellite WiFi installed on Ethiopian (yet).

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.

My Conclusion

I have to admit I was pretty worried flying the B373 MAX plane that day because of the Lion Air news just in before my flight. I felt there is something wrong with this plane and inexperienced pilots would have had a harder time handling it than others. That said, assuming Boeing fix the problem with this plane effectively, I would happily fly Ethiopian again. Certainly, the food, staff and plane quality in terms of cleanliness and cabin experience was very decent on Ethiopian and while this is not my favourite airline in the world, it’s Business Class stands up well as a solid choice when compared to Business Class on other airlines. You can read my Business Class flight reviews in full below:

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