Review: Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class from Brussels to Addis Ababa

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

Prior to the COVID19 pandemic, I flew Business Class with Ethiopian Airlines from Brussels (Belgium) to Cape Town (South Africa) via the carrier’s hub in Addis Ababa. You can read my trip reports here:


Today (July 1, 2020): Review of Ethiopian Airlines’ Business Class in a B787 Dreamliner from Brussels to Addis Ababa.

The first leg of my journey with Ethiopian Airlines was operated by a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, which featured fully lie flat seats in Business Class (or “Cloud Nine” as Ethiopian calls its premium cabin product). Launched in 1946, Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s largest airlines, and also the world’s 4th largest airline by number of countries served. The carrier offers a solid (albeit not mindblowing) Business Class product on its widebody fleet at a very competitive pricing that is hard to beat. Note that Ethiopian’s 10 oldest B787s are still flying around with angled lie flat seats (similar to the ones you find on the carrier’s Boeing 777s), so this Business Class review is not representative of all Ethiopian’s Dreamliners.

Have you ever flown with Ethiopian Airlines? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.

  • Trip: Brussels (BRU) to Addis Ababa (ADD)
  • Airline: Ethiopian Airlines
  • Aircraft type: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
  • Aircraft registration number: ET-ASH (delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in 2015)
  • On time departure: yes (10.30 pm)
  • On time arrival: yes (6.30 am)
  • Miles: 3490
  • Flight time: 7 hours
  • Seat: 2A
  • Class: Business Class

In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

  1. Cost of my ticket
  2. Fact & figures about Ethiopian Airlines’ longhaul fleet
  3. Business Class cabin
  4. Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
  5. Amenities & bedding
  6. Meals
  7. Entertainment
  8. Onboard internet
  9. Other inflight experiences
  10. My verdict (score)


1. COST OF MY TICKET

I paid this roundtrip Business Class ticket from Brussels to Cape Town with miles & cash: 38 euros + 112000 miles. The ticket was booked via Lufthansa’s frequent flyer program Miles & More. Read my review of Miles & More (with pros, cons, & tips) here.


2. FACT & FIGURES ABOUT ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES’ LONGHAUL FLEET

Ethiopian Airlines is the largest, fastest growing and only consistently profitable airline in Africa, registering an average growth of 25% in the past seven years. In its seventy plus years of operation, Ethiopian has become the continent’s leading carrier, unrivaled in efficiency and operational success. It operates the continent’s youngest long-haul fleet (average fleet age of six years) to more than 100 international passenger and cargo destinations across five continents. Its fleet is currently composed of:

  • 14 Airbus A350-900XWB
  • 25 Boeing B787 Dreamliners (mix of B787-8 and B787-9)
  • 20 Boeing B777 (mix of B777-300ER and B777-200LR)
  • 6 Boeing B767-300ER
  • 24 Boeing next generation B737 (mix of B737-800 and B737-700)
  • 20 Q400 Bombardier
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BOEING 787-8 DREAMLINER
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BOEING 787-8 DREAMLINER
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BOEING 787-8 DREAMLINER
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BOEING 787-8 DREAMLINER
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BOEING 787-8 DREAMLINER
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BOEING 787-8 DREAMLINER

3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliner features one large Business Class cabin, located in the aircraft’s nose section. There are 24 seats, spread over 4 rows and arranged in a (suboptimal) 2-2-2 configuration. All seats face forward and have aisle access, except for the window seats (where you have to climb over the legs of your neighbor to reach the aisle). The seats on the side are slightly angled towards the windows, away from the aisle.  Paired seats are staggered by a couple of inches (cm), which – together with a small partition – adds some privacy in case you are seated next to a stranger (although the seats and cabin are very open) and at the same time allows enough interaction when you are traveling with a companion. The seats are covered in a red fabric, which is the only bright color in an otherwise neutral cabin color palette.

This is the same Business Class layout which you find on other airlines, such as KLM’s B777, United Airlines’ B787s, and Qatar Airlines’ A330s.

For a seat map of Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliner, click here.

ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

4. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)

Before I review the Business Class seat, it’s important to note that not all of Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliners feature lie-flat seats. The first ten Dreamliner aircraft were delivered with an older Business Class product with angled lie flat seats (170 degrees recline), while the newer Dreamliners have all been delivered with fully flat beds (180 degrees recline). Unfortunately, when you’re booked on one of Ethiopian’s B787s, there’s no way to know upfront which kind of Business Class product you will get (angled versus full lie flat seat). This review only covers the fully lie flat Business Class seat.

The seat is pleasant, although it doesn’t offer much privacy and the comfort of the flat-bed will largely depend on the seat that you choose (more on that below). The soft cushioned seat has a pitch of 78 inch (195 cm), which is defined as the space between one point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it. The seat width is 22 inch (56 cm) – defined as the space between the arm rests – which is comfortable but not among the widest in the industry.

Each seat features its own 15,4 inch HD TV, which can be controlled by either a handset in the armrest or by directly touching the screen. Below the TV monitor, you find a drawer which is large enough to store a laptop, and a footrest which becomes part of the flatbed once the seat is fully reclined. The size of this footrest differs dramatically depending upon the row: the bulkhead seats in row 1 offer a much larger ottoman as compared to the cramp footrests of all the other Business Class seats (so make sure to choose a seat in the first row if you can).

The arm rest that is shared between paired seats features a small shared table (for drinks and snacks), the seat controls, and the remote control for the entertainment system. It also houses a moderately sized fold-out tray table which needs to be pulled out for any use (after which you are kind of blocked in your seat). On the other side of the seat, behind the headrest, is a small, somewhat difficult to reach storage compartment, where you find a universal AC power outlet and a USB port.

The seat goes fully flat (180 degrees recline), but again, your sleep comfort will depend on the seat you choose: except for the bulkhead seats in row 1 (which come with large ottomans), the footrests are too narrow for a good night’s rest.

What are the best Business Class seats on Ethiopian’s B787s? Click here for a seat map.

  • All seats in the cabin are excellent for those traveling with a companion because of the 2-2-2 layout.
  • The bulkhead seats in row 1 feature a much larger footrest as compared to all other seats, so these are the seats you want to fly (and sleep) in, although proximity to the galley and lavatory may cause some light noise disturbance from time to time.

What are the worst Business Class seats on Ethiopian’s B787s? Click here for a seat map.

  • The 2-2-2 Business Class layout does not make the cabin very attractive for solo travelers, since you will always end up sitting next to a stranger. There is a small screen though between adjoining seats which are also staggered by a couple of inches, creating some extra levels of privacy (albeit not enough in my opinion).
  • Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access.
  • As mentioned above, the footrests are very narrow (except for the bulkhead seats in rows 1), so not very comfortable for a good night’s rest.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B787 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT

5. AMENITIES & BEDDING

Business Class passengers on one of Ethiopian Airlines’ medium- and longhaul flights receive the following amenities:

  • The amenity kit is presented as a pouch bag (with hook) and contains an eye mask, ear plugs, socks, pen, toothpick, toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, and lip balm. Toiletries are absent from the kit.
  • Sleep amenities include a decent pillow (grey color) and a somewhat scratchy blanket (yellow color).
  • Noise-cancelling headphones are of mediocre quality.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS AMENITY KIT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS AMENITY KIT
NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES
NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES

6. MEALS

On this overnight flight, one meal (dinner) was served, right after takeoff. A limited continental breakfast service was also provided prior to landing.

I had the following selection from the dinner menu:

  • Starter: humous, cucumbers, carrots, and bell peppers, served with a seasonal salad
  • Main course: roasted salmon with mushroom cream sauce, summer vegetables, and jasmine rice
  • Dessert: Strawberry cake

Food was ok for a Business Class product, not great but not terribly bad either.

WELCOME DRINK
WELCOME DRINK
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS MENU
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES FOOD
DINNER
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES FOOD
DINNER
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES FOOD
DINNER
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES FOOD
DINNER
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES FOOD
DINNER
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES FOOD
DINNER
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES FOOD
BREAKFAST

7. ENTERTAINMENT

Ethiopian’s B787 Dreamliners feature a modern inflight entertainment system with a high-resolution 15,4 inches screen in front of each seat and in-seat power outlets (the inflight audio and video entertainments are accessible with your own mobile devices /tablets). The entertainment selection is more limited as compared with other carriers, but enough to keep you entertained during a few hours. Noise-cancelling headphones are offered as well.

ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

8. ONBOARD INTERNET

Unfortunately, this aircraft was not equipped with WiFi. Ethiopian Airlines is currently installing internet on its A350 fleet (but not on its Dreamliners).


9. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES

# CREW: The crew on this flight was professional, attentive, and friendly, although they did not interact much with the passengers, and appeared a bit uninterested at times.

# LAVATORY: There’s one lavatory exclusive for Business Class passengers in the galley behind the cockpit, and there are two more in the galley between the Business Class cabin and forward Economy Class cabin, although these are used by passengers seated in both cabins.


10. MY VERDICT
  • Seat comfort (upright): 8/10
  • Seat comfort (bed position): 7/10
  • Food (quality):  7/10
  • Food (quantity): 8/10
  • Inflight entertainment : 8/10
  • WiFi: 0/10 (not available)
  • Service: 9/10
  • Cabin design: 8/10
  • Overall experience: good: 7/10

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1 Comment

  1. I pretty much agree with your review as i travel Ethiopian quite a lot and I experienced both their business and economy class. What makes me uncomfortbale with Ethiopian is their hub in Addis Abeba. Despite it underwent a complete renovation in the past 5 years, designed by a chinese company, the airport is big mess!!!!. Nothing works as it should be, being the important hub of the African continent. Cleanliness is just an idea rather than a fact, the horrible use of asking people to take off shoes at security check without offering feet covers is simply non hygienic, the organisation of their dury free area is unreasonable. For those like me who usually have a quite long stopovers here (usualy 3/4 hours) the airport is to be re done again, and preferably by someone who has an attitude for design and functionality.

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