Around the World on 90k Part I: Warsaw and Beijing with Nothing But a Passport and a Dream(liner)
Around the World on 90k Part II: Blowing Through the Horn of Africa
Korean Air Lounge New York JFK
LOT Polish Business Class 787 New York To Warsaw
LOT Polish Business Class Lounge Warsaw
LOT Polish Business Class ERJ-170 Warsaw To Zurich
Swiss Panorama Lounge Zurich
Swiss Business Class A330 Zurich To Beijing
Grand Hyatt Beijing
Ethiopian Airlines Business Class 787 Beijing To Addis Ababa
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa
Ethiopian Airlines Business Class 767 Addis Ababa To Frankfurt
Lufthansa Business Class Lounge Frankfurt
Lufthansa Business Class 747-8 Frankfurt to Washington
Park Hyatt Washington DC
Our flight left Beijing shortly after midnight, so we headed over to the airport at around 8PM. I should note at this point that we were exhausted. We had flown in the previous day from Zurich, and gotten up before 5AM for a full day tour of Beijing, including Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall.
We decided to take an Uber to the airport, which was a pleasant experience. While the driver didn’t speak a word of English, he was driving a brand new Audi A6, vs. the average Beijing cab, which has about a million miles on it. And it was only about twice as much as a taxi, which I thought was quite reasonable.
At around 8:30PM we arrived at the airport, just as check-in was opening. There was quite an economy queue, though no one in the business class line.
Once through security we headed to the Air China Business Class Lounge, which I’ve reviewed before. Rather than rehashing that here, just check out my previous review. The only thing worth noting this time around is that there was a shirtless dude in the lounge, which at least made for some free entertainment.
We headed to our departure gate an hour before departure, and found boarding already well underway.
Ethiopian Airlines 605
Beijing (PEK) – Addis Ababa (ADD)
Friday, July 4
Aircraft: Boeing 787
Seat: 2C (Business Class)
At the door we were pointed left towards the business class cabin. This flight was originally scheduled to be operated by one of Ethiopian’s 777-200s, though last minute got switched to a 787. I guess I was happy about that, since the 787 was newer.
The business class cabin consists of four rows, in a 2-2-2 configuration, for a total of 24 seats.
It’s a shame that the seats aren’t fully flat, but I guess that’s what it takes to cram 24 seats into that space. LOT, on the other hand, has fully flat seats on their 787s, though can only fit three rows in the forward section of the 787, for a total of 18 seats.
We quickly settled into our seats, 2A & 2C, and familiarized ourselves with the seats. What’s interesting is that many aspects were identical to the LOT seats – for example, the center consoles, seat controls, entertainment controls, and “backs” of the seats were the same.
Waiting at each seat were a pillow and blanket — the pillow was rather small and blanket a bit scratchy.
The back of each seat had a place to hang coats as well as two storage compartments per seat — one near the IFE screens, and another by your feet for shoes.
Each seat had some headphones waiting in the storage compartment.
Interestingly the plane only had overhead bins on the sides of the aircraft — the center section didn’t.
Once settled in the crew came by to offer us pre-departure beverages. They seemed friendly enough, though reserved. The three business class flight attendants were Fassika, the senior cabin crew, as well as Welebe and Gelina.
I had both a glass of water and champagne – Nicolas Feuillatte was on offer – which was a better champagne than I was expecting. And since we had about an hour to go till departure, we had a couple more rounds, until we heard a second bottle pop.
We were alone in business class for about 30 minutes. I tried to engage the crew in small talk, though they weren’t interested:
“So how long were you in Beijing for?”
“Oh, did you do anything fun?”
We were also offered amenity kits, which were fairly nice… and red.
And then we were offered menus as well.
There was something fun about the cabin. It might have been the boarding music, which was rather exotic. If anyone knows the name of the track they play, I’d love to know!
After about 30 minutes, business class passengers started to trickle in. I believe they were mostly op-ups, since the business class cabin was wide open the morning of our departure, with economy “zeroed” out.
Most of them seemed to be Ethiopian businessmen, and I genuinely loved the way they were dressed. They all had bright suits, suspenders, and top hats (in business class half of the overhead bins seemed to be occupied by top hats).
Eventually 19 of the 24 business class seats were occupied by passengers, along with the 1-2 pilots that were always on break.
At around 12:05AM we began our pushback, a bit ahead of schedule. Then again when you board 75 minutes before departure, I guess that’s easy enough. A welcome aboard announcement was made, informing us of our flight time of 10hr15min.
The rather sassy safety video played as we taxied to the runway, and at around 12:15AM we were airborne from Runway 1.
Interestingly, during takeoff there was one pilot in row four. This flight had three pilots, so while it’s normal for two pilots to fly alone, at most airlines all the “working” pilots will be in the cockpit during takeoff and landing (again, doesn’t make a difference, but found it to be interesting).
Once we passed through about 10,000 feet a second pilot came into the cabin as well. Hmmm, now this is getting interesting…
Shortly thereafter the first officer (by my math, the only person in the cockpit at this point) made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us that we were “maintaining our assigned altitude,” as if that’s supposed to come as a surprise. 😉
As we continued climbing out I started to play around with the entertainment system.
About 30 minutes after takeoff the service began, starting with hot towels, and then beverages. I should note that I love the way the flight attendants were dressed, especially the one flight attendant dressed differently from everyone else.
After that the meal service began. The dinner menu read as follows:
Since this was a late night flight, both the appetizer and main course were served on one tray, and there wasn’t an Ethiopian appetizer course, as there is on other flights, as far as I know.
Service was done from a cart, and consisted of a salad (labeled as “hot snack”) and then shrimp or beef.
I selected the shrimp, while Andrew selected the beef.
The shrimp dish was actually fairly decent. It wasn’t gourmet, but my catering experiences out of Beijing are horrible, so by comparison I thought this was quite good.
After that dessert was served, which consisted of cheesecake or strawberry mousse. Andrew went with the former, while I went with the latter. It was perfectly edible, though nothing amazing.
While Ethiopian doesn’t serve specialty coffees in business class, they did have a very drinkable Ethiopian coffee blend (as much as it kills me to drink anything made with airplane water to begin with, let alone water loaded in Beijing).
After dinner, water bottles were distributed.
After dinner I tried to nap for a bit. Despite having gotten very little sleep the night before I couldn’t sleep, for whatever reason. After a couple of hours I gave up and decided to browse the entertainment selection.
The selection was decent – not comparable to what Cathay Pacific, Singapore, etc., offer – but also not horrible.
I ended up watching a couple of episodes of The Mentalist, which I love.
And then listened to Taylor Swift music, as any self respecting 20-something year old male would do, of course.
After a few hours I was in the mood to eat something, though to my surprise they don’t have any sort of a snack menu or snack cart on a 10+ hour flight.
Instead they did have some snack mix (which in retrospect I think they were supposed to serve after takeoff with drinks, but didn’t). Between meals the crew never really appeared in the cabin to see if anyone wanted anything, though they quickly appeared once I pushed the call button.
The other interesting thing worth noting is that the bathrooms didn’t have any paper towels, but rather only Kleenex. Odd.
After exhausting the entertainment selection which interested me, I decided to get some work done on my laptop.
About two hours before landing the meal service began, starting with hot towels.
The breakfast menu read as follows:
Breakfast was served on one tray, and consisted of fruit, yogurt, croissants, and the choice between pancakes or an egg dish. I selected the egg dish, while Andrew had pancakes.
I again had some coffee with breakfast.
As breakfast was finishing up we were going from the Middle East to Africa, flying directly over Djibouti.
About 30 minutes out we began our descent, and we touched down in Addis Ababa at 5:40AM. We had a 10 minute taxi to the gate, where we arrived at 5:50AM — over an hour ahead of schedule.
After being mostly disconnected in China due to the wifi speed, I was hoping for a stable internet connection so that I could actually get caught up on work.
Ethiopian Airlines business class bottom line
All things considered I was actually pleasantly surprised by Ethiopian. The plane was in great condition (as you’d hopefully expect from a brand new 787) and the food was edible. The service was nice enough though could have been a bit warmer, in my opinion.
I still think it’s a big mistake to install angled flat business class seats on a brand new plane, but compared to the 767 we were connecting to, they were basically heaven, so I guess I should keep that in perspective.