This review will be shorter than my previous two longhaul Ethiopian Business Class trip reports, focusing primarily on the new 787-8 lie-flat business class seat.
Ethiopian Airlines has two different business class seats on its 787-8. Both are configured in a 2-2-2 layout, thus it is generally impossible to know beforehand what kind of business class seat your flight will have.
The first configuration, and the one you are most likely to receive, has angled seating that reaches about 160º and slopes downward.
The second configuration is also horizontal lie-flat beds similar to what you find on many United flights. Neither the first or second configuration offer direct aisle access for window seat passengers. Only a small handful of aircraft feature the new seats.
Check-In and Security at ADD
After being dropped off by the Hilton Hotel shuttle, I proceeded into the terminal. All passengers and baggage are screened as you enter the terminal. It wasn’t a particularly thorough screening, though…everything stayed inside my bag.
I already had my boarding pass, so I proceeded directly to immigration. A special line for business class passengers meant only a short wait. There is no second security check direct past immigration: that takes place at the gate.
Posters around the airport underscored China’s growing influence in Ethiopia:
After spending 20 minutes in the Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine Lounge, I proceeded to security for my gate…at least I thought so.
> Read More: Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa (ADD) Review
This security check was more thorough and I was asked to remove my shoes. Past security, though, I found myself trapped. Each gate or pair of gates is glassed in, but doors can be unlocked to allow egress between. Unfortunately, the door to my gate was locked and there was even a row of chairs that had been pushed up against the door.
I wasn’t the only one who was confused, but an airport staffer told everyone to remain calm and someone would soon open the gate. The line grew to about 100 people and I sensed mutiny on the horizon. Thankfully, an official dressed in a green uniform finally showed up to open the door from the other side.
Most flights depart from remote stands at ADD, including my flight to Bangkok. Boarding was an absolutely chaotic free-for-all with a lot of pushing and two agents handling 200 people. But this seems to the “organized chaos” of Addis and eventually I was herded onto a bus and we took off for the aircraft.
Addis Ababa (ADD) – Bangkok (BKK)
Thursday, October 19
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 2B (Business Class)
It was the moment of truth. What kind of business class would my 787 feature? Would I finally get to experience the new business class?
Disembarking from the bus, I could already see the seatbacks in business class through the windows…it would be the new product!
Ethiopian Airlines 787 Lie-Flat Business Class
While these seats are not be industry-leading, they are far better than the seats on my Dublin to Los Angeles and Toronto to Addis Ababa flights.
In lie-flat mode, the bed is truly flat:
Bedding is the same, with a fairly nice pillow and not so nice (scratchy) blanket. I did not manage much sleep on this flight.
The center console features push-button seat controls, including adjustable lumbar support.
On a shelf behind the seat, a power plug, literature rack, and water bottle were available.
A small-hand held IFE controllers was fastened to the seat at waist-level:
Business class went out less than half full, with the seat next to me remaining empty. My flight would continue from Bangkok to Manila, so perhaps Ethiopian picked up more passengers in BKK.
Ethiopian Airlines New 787 Meal Service
Although we left at night and arrived the following day, meal service essentially equated to two dinners. Pre-Departure beverages were offered prior to pushback–the usual choice of water, OJ, or champagne along with a hot towel.
Here’s the menu for the flight:
Click here for the full menu, including wine list.
The menu included stickers to indicate if you wanted to sleep through the pre-arrival meal service or be awakend.
Just after takeoff a “hot light meal” was offered, which wasn’t actually all that light.
The appetizer include smoked salmon with hummus and a salad of green beans and rice.
I chose salmon for my main course, served with leeks, roasted asparagus, and corn on the cob – first time I’ve ever seen that on a plane.
The meal was served on a single tray, also the first time I’ve ever seen tray service in Ethiopian Business. A chocolate dessert was also included on the tray.
About 2.5 hours before landing (far too early), the second and more substantial meal service began.
I began with both crackers and Kolo (birdseed, as my brother calls it) with sparkling water.
The appetizer contained a “steamed green” with “slow-cooked chicken breast” only the chicken breast seemed to have been blended into a cat food-like substance.
I’m not trying to be facetious here…the appetizer was simply bad, as was the green rice salad (almost identical to the earlier rice salad).
Thankfully, the Ethiopian food did not disappoint and was certainly the highlight of the meal.
But the western/eastern main course…
Should have skipped it. The lamb looked like….well, you know…and tasted horrible. The other three choices (see menu above) sounded equally unappetizing.
At least there was Teff cake and an apple tart. The Ethiopian coffee was also excellent. This time, I passed on cheese.
I suppose the good thing is Ethiopian serves so much food in business class that you if the main courses are not great you can just load up on Ethiopian food.
Ethiopian Airlines New 787 IFE
This aircraft had a much newer IFE system than my on my two previous flights. Movies were displayed in poster view and it was very easy to navigate between movies, TV shows, games, and music. Even the new aircraft do not feature wi-fi.
Same noise-cancelling headphones as on previous flights:
Ethiopian Airlines New 787 Amenity Kit
The amenity kit was identical to my previous two flights, containing:
- Eye shade
- Ear plugs
I was pleased to try Ethiopian’s new business class seats on this flight. They are more comfortable than the non-lie flat variant. Maybe it was because I had rested the whole day at the Hilton Addis Ababa or maybe because I was just jetlagged, but this was my least favorite of the three Ethiopian flights. The food was unremarkable and the service not as personal.
ADD has a separate gate for priority boarding to remote-stand aircrafts. It’s on the ground floor and from there those better buses leave with J and *G pax. That’s why the standard gate boarding is free-for-all for such a flight.
Good review, though I think you used or were directed to the wrong gate at ADD. Business and Star Alliance Gold are typically directed to go to gate 10. There is a private security line there and a little post-security lounge area (couches, water, etc) to wait until you are called. Personnel at the gate will announce the flights and when it is your turn, there is an elevator to the tarmac where you board a bus specific for business class and SA Gold passengers to your flight. Though ADD was certainly an interesting airport. I thought Ethiopian did a pretty good job of keeping Business Class passengers happy!
I am glad I didn’t hear the worst similar to what people experience on United and other airliners. I flew United from Tel Aviv to San Fran for 15hrs, they gave us breakfast as soon as the flight took off and no food for the next 12hrs, talk about bad experience.
“… and not so nice (scratchy) blanket.” Really???
Yes, it was scratchy. But good flight overall.