- Flight Review: Ethiopian Airlines Business Class A350
- Flight Review: Ethiopian Airlines Business Class 777
Travel within Africa likely involves flying on either Ethiopian Airlines or South Africa Airways. Based out of Addis Ababa, the airline operates several long haul aircraft such as the 787, 777, and A350.
While most flights going between the US and Africa traverse either Europe or the Middle East, Ethiopian Airlines has a couple routes that fly directly from Africa to the US. For this flight, I flew from Addis Ababa (ADD) to Newark (EWR) with a quick refueling in the Ivory Coast (ABJ), making the entire flight over 17 hours long.
Ethiopian Airlines is a Star Alliance member, so award flights can be booked using miles from other Star Alliance members such as United.
For this flight award booking, I used 78,000 LifeMiles to reserve a business class seat. LifeMiles can be earned by signing up for the Avianca LifeMiles credit card, transferring Citi Thank You points, or purchasing LifeMiles.
Ethiopian Airlines 512 Addis Ababa (ADD) to Newark (EWR) Cabin: Business Seat: 3J and 3L Aircraft: 787-8 Flight Time: 17h 30m Distance: 7,893 mi
The lounge at Addis Ababa is large and has plenty of tasty food options, especially if you like Ethiopian food. During peak travel times, it can be loud since there is no ceiling to block out noise from outside of the lounge. There are plenty of power outlets at most of the seats.
The bathrooms looked hastily constructed and had mosquitoes in it, however it was frequently cleaned. Every ten minutes or so the staff would walk around screaming which flights were boarding. If you are hoping to take a nap, don’t count on it will all the screaming.
A separate line was available for business class passengers, however going through security had no separate line. Business class passengers were able to board first which was appreciated since this doesn’t always happen.
Plane Atmosphere (4/5)
Since this was a 787, the noise level, air pressure, and humidity control were all ideal compared to the 777. Passengers close to the windows had air vents in the ceiling which are key if you get hot easily. Passengers in the center of the plane do not have any air vents. The business class cabin felt a bit smaller than the A350 due to the luggage bins in the center of the ceiling.
One thing I like about the window dimmers on the 787 is that gives the crew the ability to dim all the windows at once. This is great when you are trying to sleep and some genius wants to keep open their one and only window shade which practically blinds everyone in the cabin.
There is nothing more annoying than an angled lie-flat seat in business class. I assumed that airlines figured out how to avoid such arrangements last decade but apparently Ethiopian Airlines did not get the memo for their 787s. Their A350s and 777s are fully lie-flat so I was surprised to see angled seats.
Also, there was almost no leg room in comparison to the South African Airways Business Class seat. When the seat was reclined, my feet had to be crammed into the small foot well area and legs had to be bent. For a 17 hour flight, I would have expected a much more comfortable seat in business class.
Despite the uncomfortable seat, I was able to sleep for a good eight hours straight. I attribute this the massive food coma I received from all the food I ate.
The food was very good on the flight from ADD to EWR. Before the main course is served, a buffet of Ethiopian dishes are carted around first. I asked for one of everything and found them all very delicious. There was so much food that it is impossible to go hungry on this flight. Ethiopian wine is also offered on board which was just okay.
Staff was friendly and polite, however in my experience they could not understand English well. Maybe it was my American accent. My food order got messed up and in hindsight, I should have just pointed to the menu to avoid confusion.
Refueling was required in ABJ before proceeding to EWR. Some passengers deplaned while others boarded. Those continuing on to EWR remained aboard the plane. While the plane was refueling, staff thoroughly cleaned the cabin and customs personnel inspected baggage and seats.
Business class passengers were able to deplane first and the walk to passport control only took a few minutes. For those with Global Entry, going through passport control and customs is a breeze.
What was awful was staring at the baggage claim belt for over an hour until the luggage arrived. This appears to be due to Ethiopian not prioritizing business class luggage and Newark Airport being generally slow with baggage handling. Kind of sad that Zimbabwe can manage to get luggage to passengers in 10 minutes while in Newark it takes 70 minutes.
In conclusion, Ethiopian Airlines operates several long haul aircraft with the 787 not being the best option. Reduced legroom, angled lie-flat seats, and smaller entertainment screens make the 787 inferior to the A350 that Ethiopian Airlines operates.
Without a doubt, business class seats on a 17 hour flight should be much more comfortable. However, for those dedicated to Star Alliance partners, there really aren’t too many alternatives to choose from if flying from East Africa. Either way, any option available to fly business class using miles for such a long flight is a great thing.
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