- Ethiopian Airlines’ business class offers a seamless and comfortable experience, with customized check-in counters, a relaxing lounge, and priority boarding.
- The business class cabin on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is spacious, with adjustable seats that convert into fully flat beds.
- The in-flight dining experience is excellent, with a three-course meal and a selection of fine wines. However, the inflight entertainment options are limited.
While traveling on a round trip between my home city Johannesburg and Addis Ababa, I chose to review Ethiopian Airlines’ business class product onboard one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners. I chose the return leg to get an excellent feel of what it is like flying out of the airline’s hub at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD). I’ve also included some images and remarks from my JNB-ADD trip.
Arriving at the airport
While in Addis Ababa, I stayed at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel, a two-minute drive from the airport. Being that close to the airport and having checked in online 24 hours before my flight, I dragged my stay in Addis as much as possible.
The Skylight Hotel is owned by the Ethiopian Airlines Group and is now the largest hotel in Africa.
I arrived at the airport about two hours before my flight. One of the downsides of ADD is the numerous security checkpoints, but I was able to cruise through some points through the premium class lanes.
I proceeded to check my luggage, and this was a seamless experience as the counters were customized for premium travelers. With about an hour before boarding, I got a chance to sit in the Cloud Nine Lounge, located at the Departure Hall of Terminal 2.
It was a very relaxing environment, with comfortable seats and various snacks and refreshments. It accommodates Ethiopian Airlines business class passengers and other airlines, so I caught up with some industry colleagues who departed on Emirates a few minutes after my flight.
The lounge was opposite the boarding gate, so I had no trouble traveling through the airport. With priority boarding, I got onto the aircraft hassle-free and made my way to the business class cabin right at the front of the plane.
The cabin configuration on the first flight. Photo: Tatenda Karuwa | Simple Flying
I was welcomed by an amiable crew, who took my jacket and stored it in one of the onboard cabinets. Once I got comfortable, I was offered complimentary champagne, which I thought was a touch of class. Other complimentary refreshments include fruit juices, soft drinks, and water.
Inside the cabin
This 787 had a 2-2-2 cabin configuration. Although I felt like it was a bit cramped up compared to my other flight, the front seats had plenty of legroom. ET’s business class seats are adjustable to one’s preferred position and recline into fully flat beds. While the window seat is the most private, the armrest can be extended upwards to offer even more privacy. The windows have an incredible dimming feature which you can read about here.
The cabin and lavatories were also quite clean, highlighting that the crew had thoroughly prepared for the flight. While powerpoints to charge devices were available, one demerit on the flight was the lack of free WiFi, which was only available for purchase. The packages are as follows:
- US$5: 1-hour pass with full internet access.
- US$9: 2-hour pass with full internet access
- US$25: Full flight pass with full internet access.
Although some may choose to spend the entire flight without connectivity, the tray tables are big enough to accommodate a laptop and other items for those looking to catch up on some work. Amenity kits were also available with items including lip balm, socks, toothbrush and toothpaste, and a mask, to mention a few. ET also provided me with a blanket which was pretty valuable as we are currently in the southern winter season.
After a well-deserved rest, it was time to have some food, and the cabin crew set up the table for me to create a fine dining experience. They served a three-course meal with various options, including beef, chicken, and fish for the main.
The JNB-ADD menu differs from the ADD-JNB menu as ET tries to cater to passengers from both destinations.
On the first leg of the flight, I had salmon for the starter, a nice beef steak for the main, and some fruit for dessert. A fine Portuguese dessert wine accompanied this, but other selections include cheese, cake, and various savories. One thing that stood out for me was the careful selection of some of South Africa’s finest wines. I’m not sure if this is available on other routes.
Ethiopian cuisine (completely different from South Africa’s) is also available onboard. Throughout the rest of the flight, the crew serves various snacks and refreshments as promised, finishing off with a small box of chocolates just before landing.
While the food was fantastic, Inflight Entertainment (IFE) was pretty basic. The airline can do with a broader selection of entertainment, especially with its films and music. ET’s website says Wireless Streaming from personal devices is available on selected aircraft, but this Dreamliner was not among those.
Landing and disembarking
The flight lasted about four hours, and it was already dark by the time we began our descent. Upon landing, we taxied for a few minutes and didn’t take too long to disembark.
Photo: maurodopereira / Shutterstock
Once we could leave, I exercised my premium class privilege to leave first. I was in a rush as OR Tambo International (JNB) can get packed. On the first leg trip, upon landing in ADD, I had priority baggage and lanes, so the whole process was seamless. However, upon landing at JNB, those privileges didn’t exist, so I had to wait about 30 minutes to an hour to get my passport stamped and collect my bag.
The aircraft I flew on was a ten-year-old Dreamliner. ET’s newer aircraft have a different setup, with some cabins configured in a 1-2-1 formation. All in all, I think Ethiopian Airlines’ business class product on this particular aircraft was great, but it could do with a few touch-ups.
Have you flown Ethiopian Airlines business class before? Please tell us about your experience in the comments!