a white airplane with red writing on it

Ethiopian Airlines A350


Flying to and from Africa provides limited options compared to other locations.  On my recent trip to East Africa from Europe, I decided to book a business class award redemption on Ethiopian Airlines because most of their fleet consists of modern airplanes such as the 787 and A350.  While their planes are brand new, their airport hub in Addis Ababa is sub standard and IT systems have serious issues.  However, with American Airlines restricting award redemptions transiting the Middle East between Europe and Africa, and with Lufthansa charging high fees, Ethiopian Airlines was the best option.

a plane on the runway

Zanizbar Airport


For going from Africa to Europe, I chose to use Singapore Airlines miles because the redemption rate was 45,000 miles versus 55,000 miles on United for business class.  I first searched award availability on united.com since it is faster to search for Star Alliance awards than on singaporeair.com.  I also prefer to use Singapore Airlines miles because they are much easier to come by than United miles.

Booking award redemption tickets on Ethiopian Airlines using Singapore Airlines miles is now bookable online and phoning in the reservation is no longer required.a screenshot of a computer screen


The business class lounge at Zanzibar International Airport was sufficient considering the airport was small.  There were enough snacks and drinks to hold us over and it was quiet.

a room with a counter and a boat

Zanzibar Business Class Lounge

a plastic bottle of soda on a table

This ginger soda tastes link a bunch of ginger and soda. Try it if you are in East Africa.

Boarding (4/5)

While not the most organized, at least business class passengers were loaded into a van first and then driven to the airplane.  I always dread being crammed into a bus and then driving to the airplane, but thankfully plane was nearby the gate.

a group of people standing in front of a door

Zanzibar Airport Boarding Gate


Ethiopian Airlines 814
Zanzibar(ZNZ) to Arusha (JRO) to Addis Ababa(ADD)
Cabin: Business
Seat: 4J and 4K
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900

The flight from Zanzibar to Frankfurt made two stops, Kilimanjaro International Airport and Addis Ababa International Airport.  The stop in Kilimanjaro was fast and only picked up additional passengers with no one disembarking.

The A350 aircraft is my favorite due to the very low noise level of the engines and having the best cabin pressure of any plane.

Even though we had to make a stop in Kilimanjaro, it provided the amazing experience of flying around the largest mountain in Africa with incredible views.  Totally worth the extra stop.

a seat in an airplane

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Seats on A350

a map of the ocean with a plane flying

Very detailed flight map

an airplane wing and engine above water

Taking off from Zanzibar

The windows on the A350 are incredibly large and provide an excellent viewing experience.  On most planes I need to press my forehead against the window to take in the views.  On this plane I can just turn my head and look out without straining myself.  This has the added bonus of others not requiring to smear their forehead grease all over the window to view the outside landscapes.

a window of an airplane

Flyby of Mount Kilimanjaro!

a map of a plane

The flight path around Kilimanjaro was epic!

an airplane window with a landscape

Tanzania Landscape


Service aboard the plane was prompt, attentive, and friendly.  They provided preflight drinks, hot towels, and the bathrooms were clean.  On land at the airports, service is a whole other story.

a glass of orange juice next to a glass of water

Pre-Flight Drinks

a hand holding a towel

Hot Towel

Plane Atmosphere (5/5)

The plane atmosphere was incredible with its high ceilings, decor, and large windows.  The air pressure and humidity enhancements on the A350 were a noticeable improvement.  I did not get the usual dry eyes and headache on this flight which was appreciated.  The noise level was so low I didn’t even bother wearing my noise cancelling headphones.

a row of red and grey seats in an airplane

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Cabin on A350

a room with several monitors on the seats

Seat Comfort (5/5)

While not the largest business class seat and set in a 2-2-2 configuration, I found the seat confirmable in the seated and sleeping positions.  There was plenty of leg room and storage space along with a very large HD LCD screen.  The foot rest was a bit narrow but that is to be expected in this configuration.

a white bag with red text

Head Rest

a row of seats in a plane

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Seats

a screen on a plane

Plenty of legroom

a close up of a device

Seat Controls

a hand holding a phone

TV Controls are on a retractable touch screen

a toilet with a camera

Reading lamp

a black cord plugged into a white object

USB power port and headphone jack

a wall outlet with green lights

Universal power port

Food (4/5)

The food was above average and incorporated local flavors and dishes.  Nothing fancy but still delicious and satisfying.

a bowl of nuts and a glass of liquid on a tray

Snack and drink before main course

a plate of food on a table

Main Course

a cup of coffee on a saucer

Ethiopian Coffee is very good. I suggest picking up a large bag of coffee beans at the airport

a menu of a restaurant

In conclusion, flying aboard the A350 is always a treat due to all the built in comforts such as enhanced cabin pressurization.  Ethiopian Airlines has a young fleet of modern airplanes with good inflight service, seats, and food.  However, their transit hub in Addis Ababa and IT systems have issues.  Having said that, I will still choose Ethiopian Airlines for my travels to Africa using flyer miles.  For paid flights, i’ll just use Lufthansa to avoid any potential delays or missed connections.

a mountain with clouds in the sky

Mount Kilamanjaro


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