Ethiopian 787 Business Class Cloud Nine Beijing To Addis Ababa

Good morning from Addis Ababa! We just flew from Beijing to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines. On this US Airways 90,000 mile business class award, Ethiopian was probably the airline I was most excited to fly, since it seemed the most “unique.”

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Ethiopian 787

Since I partly review airline products for a living, personally I don’t really care if a flight is great or awful. Great flights are of course great, but awful flights are usually even more interesting to write about.

Well, I’m happy to report that I was actually kind of impressed by Ethiopian Airlines, all things considered. No, they’re not at risk of becoming a Skytrax five star airline, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid them in the future, as I may have done in the past.

Ethiopian 787 business class seat

Ethiopian has 24 angled business class seats on their 787s. They’re spread across four rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.

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Ethiopian 787 seatmap per SeatGuru

It’s kind of disappointing that they’re introducing an angled product on this brand new aircraft, given how outdated angled seats are.

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Ethiopian 787 business class Cloud Nine seats

For what it’s worth, LOT Polish fits a total of 18 business class seats spread across three rows in the same area that Ethiopian fits four. But other than that the seats were about identical to LOT’s – the seat controls, center console, etc., were all the same.

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Ethiopian 787 business class Cloud Nine cabin

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Ethiopian 787 business class Cloud Nine cabin

While the seats are fairly comfortable for lounging, you will be sleeping at an angle, which is less than ideal.

I do have to mention that the cabin was in immaculate condition. I don’t think I saw a single scratch or defect. But I guess that makes sense, since this flight was operated by one of Ethiopian’s newest 787s (contrast that to my LOT 787 flight, which was partly being held together by duct tape).

Ethiopian business class food

This flight was a redeye, departing Beijing just after midnight, and arriving in Addis Ababa at around 6AM.

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Ethiopian 787 business class airshow

As a result, the meal service was abbreviated. For supper there was a salad (also referred to as a”hot snack”) and main course served on one tray.

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Ethiopian 787 business class menu

My main course consisted of prawns and rice, which I have to say was very good, despite not looking especially gourmet or appetizing. Catering out of China is typically horrible, in my experience, so I was pleasantly surprised.

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Ethiopian business class supper

The strawberry mousse dessert was equally good.

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Ethiopian business class dessert

Ethiopian business class service

The crew was warm yet reserved. There were three flight attendants working business class — Fassika, Welebe, and Gelina – and they were generally quite attentive.

I did kind of feel like the “locals” got slightly better service than we did, but that may have just been a function of cultural familiarity (I often feel the same way on Japanese airlines, even though I know they’re trying to be friendly).

On another note, I realize that I was completely under dressed for this flight. We were the only male passengers not wearing a three-piece neon colored suit and top hat. Next time I’ll come dressed as Mr. Peanut.

Ethiopian business class amenities

Upon boarding I was offered an amenity kit, which was well stocked and… really red!

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Ethiopian business class amenity kit

The inflight entertainment system was decent enough, with TV shows, movies, and enough Taylor Swift songs to keep you depressed all the way to Ethiopia.

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Ethiopian business class entertainment

How many pilots do we have?!

Remember that Ethiopian flight a few months back that was hijacked by the first officer when he locked the captain out of the cockpit, and he wouldn’t land the plane until he was granted amnesty in Switzerland?

Well of course I couldn’t help but think about that during this flight. Not that I was scared, but I was curious to observe the pilots. Of course the rogue pilot was the exception and not the rule, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t curious.

Best I could tell there were three pilots, and they all seemed exceptionally friendly. During takeoff one of them was seated in the last row of business class. Then after takeoff another came back to business class to take a seat.

As far as I know, that left one pilot in the cockpit. He made a welcome aboard announcement, which included “we’re maintaining our assigned altitude,” as if that’s somehow supposed to be worth mentioning. 😉

Then later another pilot went into the flight deck, but for at least the first two hours of the flight two pilots seemed to be on break, while there was only one in the cockpit as far as I could tell. I could be totally mistaken and maybe there was a fourth pilot, but I looked pretty closely and don’t believe that was the case.

Not trying to draw any conclusions, but just found that interesting.

Ethiopian business class bottom line

While I wish Ethiopian would have fully flat seats, the cabin was in immaculate condition, food very good but limited, and service generally good. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Ethiopian again in the future, and think they’re an asset to the Star Alliance.

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Comments

  1. Wah! Wah! Wah! So the seats are angled! BFD.

    In 1992, Business Class to Asia on MW was essentially domestic First Class Seats – not even angled flat. In 2005, that was just about the only way to get to Asia from the US. Somehow, we survived.

    An angled seat is better than coach any day of the week.

  2. Lucky you! I had the pleasure of flying one of their decrepit 767s from LHR to ADD on a biz class award last year. Not the best mileage redemption but hey there was availability.

  3. @ Darth Chocolate — Well of course an angled seat is better than economy, but a fully flat seat is better than an angled seat…

  4. @ chris — Just flew that on my connection. Report coming on that shortly, and it was indeed a VERY different experience.

  5. You dedicated an entire article to photos of Chinese bellies but you couldn’t even give us one photo of a Business Class Cabin full of Ethiopians in neon three piece suits? I think you may have yada yada yada-ed over the best part 🙂

    Well, we’re flying Ethiopian J from from ADD-JNB next month, now we have something to look forward to… other than the stew and warm injera

  6. You were lucky to get ET-AOT (less than 2 months old) for this leg. The older (2012 delivery) 787s (AOP/AOQ/AOR/AOS) invariably have huge issues with the electric systems – I’ve experienced complete IFE failures, window shades stuck in open/closed positions, call button serenades and reading lights on throughout the cabin on some of those.

    How full was the Cloud Nine cabin?

  7. I would guess that there was, indeed a fourth pilot. On flights of that length, it’s pretty typical to have 2 full crews. To my knowledge, it’s also typical to have the entire crew in the cockpit for takeoff and landing. On US airlines, it’s exceedingly rare to have just one pilot in the cockpit for any extended period of time, and they’re supposed to have an oxygen mask on the entire time they’re alone.

  8. So Ethiopian’s product is the same as LOT’s but the main centerpiece, the seat, is the difference. So to get that, do they just angle the seat differently from the way it comes from the factory or just not allow it to tilt down a certain angle?

  9. “I did kind of feel like the “locals” got slightly better service than we did, but that may have just been a function of cultural familiarity”

    It’s like being a non-German or non-German speaking person on Lufthansa, I suppose…

  10. “We were the only male passengers not wearing a three-piece neon colored suit and top hat. Next time I’ll come dressed as Mr. Peanut.”-

    Pretty offensive and culturally insensitive comment. In Africa flying is considered an extreme luxury for most, so they usually wear their best clothes. On my trips to Central and West Africa everyone, even in economy, wore suits.

  11. Darth you’re old and in the way. And your bitterness is very unbecoming. I bet you yell at 3 year olds for making too much noise.

  12. @Tyler – Perhaps its you that is making the offensive and culturally insensitive comment (not to mention a fair bit of hyperbole – “everyone” wearing suits???). The dress code in many parts of Africa tends to be more formal than the Western world in all aspects of life. Flying is no different. Your comments seem to insinuate that Africans dress up to fly because its some sort of a novelty experience to be celebrated by their backward tribes. What a load of offensive stereotyping.

  13. Tyler’s main point is well taken. I think if Ben imagines those businessmen or anyone making a similar wisecrack about him, he will see the point Tyler was trying to make.

  14. Sean-

    All I can say is what??? I shared my real world experience traveling to the Central African Republic, Liberia and Equatorial Guinea. Yes everyone was in a western suit. Yes two of them sitting next to me told me how big of a deal flying to Europe was for them.

    This is common sense- in countries where average annual incomes are sometimes less than one round trip Africa-Europe ticket, flying is a bigger deal.

  15. I believe many (most) airlines will have their relief pilots fly in the jump seats for take-off and landing. I know this is definitely the case for Emirates. So it is very likely that the pilot who left the cockpit was in fact a the fourth or even fifth pilot on-board.

  16. @ Paul L — I don’t think any airline has five pilots, though on ultra longhaul flights I know many have four. In this case I saw all the pilots go on rest, though, and I’m 99% sure there weren’t more than three (which also makes sense based on the length of the flight).

  17. @ Euro — They just don’t leave as much space between rows, so there’s no space for the “ottoman” area, and therefore the seat isn’t fully flat.

  18. @ Sean M. — There were only five people booked in it (apparently), but lots of op ups because economy was oversold. In the end it was about 75% full.

  19. @Tyler – Thank you for pointing out the aspect of cultural sensitivity in Lucky’s review. Education is good for all of us.

    Looking forward to your next review Lucky.

  20. Ditto Matt’s comment. NO Pics?!
    Also Ditto Dave’s comment. I wish there was a “delete all bad attitudes” button.

  21. @lucky – I should have clarified. On some of my Ethiopian flights there were a number of non-rev pilots flying in biz, but not as relief pilots. All were still in (some) state of uniform. I believe I counted four or five on one flight alone. A bit odd, indeed.

  22. @Paul L. – ET has a large number of expat pilots on commuting contracts who work 25 days on, 12 days off rotations. The contracts give them positive space commuting benefits to their home stations, so you will regularly find the US and European routes filled up with these guys heading to/from home.

  23. Wow, nice immaculate product! I would wager this is even better than LH J where the seats are dingy, the FA’s are robotic, and the food unedible.

  24. @ Tyler @ Sean @ Sam @ Paul – Knock it off! Tyler, come on, by referring to Mr. Peanut the people in three piece suits should be happy – I mean, who doesn’t want to look like Mr. Peanut, the cutest face in the world? Seriously, no need to argue about it, let the offended people speak themselves.

  25. Saddling a new plane with angled seats is indeed puzzling. Is it simply to cram more seats in?

  26. @ Ivan Y — Yep, ultimately they fit 24 seats in the same area that LOT fits 18 seats.

  27. “On another note, I realize that I was completely under dressed for this flight. We were the only male passengers not wearing a three-piece neon colored suit and top hat. Next time I’ll come dressed as Mr. Peanut.”

    Woah, Ben, you being a gay person, should know that, to receive tolerance after your Korean shindig, you should learn how to give tolerance as well. Shame on you.

  28. Interesting review, thanks for trying a new airline out! Agree angle flat is a pain, although looks streets ahead of US domestic first! Any plans to do a review of them anytime soon? I had a recent run of flights with them from Europe to Hawaii and was very disappointed by how appalling their hard product was – this looks better TBH!

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