Review: Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Business Class (Zimbabwe to Ethiopia)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I flew Business Class with Ethiopian Airlines from Brussels (Belgium) to Cape Town (South Africa) via the carrier’s hub in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital). The return trip was from Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) to Milan (Italy). You can read my trip reports here:


Today (December 22, 2020): Review of Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 737 Business Class from Victoria Falls to Addis Ababa.

The third leg of my Business Class journey with Ethiopian Airlines was operated by one of the carrier’s Boeing 737-800. The journey took me from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, with a brief stop-over in Botswana’s capital Gaborone. The flight from Victoria Falls to Gaborone took only one hour, while the flight time from Gaborone to Addis Ababa was 5 hours and 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the flight was downgraded last minute from one of the carrier’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners (a wide body aircraft with decent Business Class product) to a Boeing 737 (a narrow body aircraft with an inferior Business Class product). To the best of my knowledge, the Victoria Falls – Gaborone – Addis Ababa journey is the longest Ethiopian Airlines B737 route (the carrier mostly uses its B737 aircraft for its short haul flights). Ethiopian Airlines currently has 31 Boeing 737 in its fleet (including 4 Boeing 737 MAX, which are stored since the airline’s horrific crash in 2019).

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

  • Trip: Victoria Falls – Gaborone – Addis Ababa
  • Airline: Ethiopian Airlines
  • Aircraft type: Boeing 737-800
  • Aircraft registration number: ET-APK (delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in 2017)
  • On time departure: yes (1 pm local time)
  • On time arrival: yes (9.40 pm local time)
  • Miles: Victoria Falls – Gaborone (447 miles) and Gaborone – Addis Ababa (2470 miles)
  • Flight time: Victoria Falls – Gaborone (1 hour) and Gaborone – Addis Ababa (5 hour and 30 minutes)
  • Seat: 2A
  • Class: Business Class

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

  1. Cost of my ticket
  2. Lounge
  3. Business Class cabin
  4. Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
  5. Amenities & bedding
  6. Meals
  7. Entertainment
  8. Onboard internet
  9. My verdict (score)


1. COST OF MY TICKET

I paid my roundtrip Business Class ticket from Europe to Southern Africa 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.

ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BOEING 737
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES BOEING 737

2. LOUNGE

Ethiopian Airlines operates its own lounge at the airport. The lounge opened in 2017, when the carrier began service to Victoria Falls. The lounge is nothing to write home about: it’s a small room that lacks natural light (as it overlooks the terminal’s interior). Seating consists of some big leather couches with recliners. There’s a self-serve bar with drinks (including spirits) and some snacks. Complimentary WiFi is offered.

IMHO, the surprisingly modern terminal of Victoria Falls Airport is a nicer place for some pre-flight relaxation than the dark lounge. Opened in 2016, the airport has the capacity to handle 1.5 million passengers per year. Facilities include nine boarding gates and the airport’s control tower is one of the most advanced in Africa. The airport caters to tourists visiting Victoria Falls, considered to be one of the world’s largest waterfalls due to its width of 1,708 m (5,604 ft).

ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES LOUNGE AT VICTORIA FALLS AIRPORT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES LOUNGE AT VICTORIA FALLS AIRPORT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES LOUNGE AT VICTORIA FALLS AIRPORT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES LOUNGE AT VICTORIA FALLS AIRPORT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES LOUNGE AT VICTORIA FALLS AIRPORT

3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 737s feature a small Business Class cabin (or Cloud 9, as they call it). There are just 4 rows of 4 Business Class seats (16 recliner seats in total), arranged in a 2-2 layout. The Business Class layout is more or less similar to what you find in First Class on the narrow body aircraft of USA airlines. Compared to European airlines though, Ethiopian’s Business Class seats are larger and of better quality. Despite the plane being only two years old, the interior design of the cabin felt outdated and there were plenty of signs of wear to the seats.

For a seat map of Ethiopian Airlines’ B737s, click here.

ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B737 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B737 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B737 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B737 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B737 BUSINESS CLASS CABIN

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

The Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Business Class seat has an adequate amount of legroom (47 inches or 120 cm); its width though is the same as the seats in Economy Class (17 inch or 43 cm). The seat can be partly reclined and also has a legrest to enhance the comfort if you want to take a nap. The seat controls are located in the center armrest while the aisle or window armrest holds a decently sized bi-fold tray table. Unfortunately, the seat is not equipped with a personal entertainment screen, although it does feature a plug-in for headphones to watch the entertainment on the overhead screens.

What are the best Business Class seats?

  • The bulkhead seats have some more legroom and are the best seats on board.

What are the worst Business Class seats?

  • Window seats don’t offer direct aisle access, which may not be convenient when you are traveling solo and have to climb over your seatmate’s legs to reach the aisle.
  • The seats in the last row of the Business Class cabin do not fully recline due to the wall directly behind these seats.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B737 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B737 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B737 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B737 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B737 BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES B737 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. Contrary to most of its competitors, Ethiopian Airlines does not offer toiletries in its kit.
  • Sleep amenities include a decent pillow and a somewhat scratchy blanket.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones are of mediocre quality.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES AMENITY KIT
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES AMENITY KIT
NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES

6. MEALS

A three course dinner was served on the evening flight from Botswana to Ethiopia. I choose the following selection from the menu:

  • Starter: lightly smoked roast beef, served with a pasta salad and grilled vegetables
  • Main course: Gulf style chicken, served with herb rice, green beans, and pecan nuts
  • Dessert: apple cinnamon crumble

Overall, the meal service on this flight was ok and the food tasted good.

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
DINNER
DINNER
DINNER
DINNER

7. ENTERTAINMENT

As mentioned above, most of Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 737s are not equipped with in-seat entertainment screens, which is huge bummer on longer flights.


8. ONBOARD INTERNET

Unfortunately, this aircraft was not equipped with WiFi. Ethiopian Airlines is currently installing internet on its A350 fleet (but it’s not available yet on the carrier’s other aircraft).


9. MY VERDICT
  • Cabin design: 5/10
  • Seat comfort (upright position): 7/10
  • Seat comfort (bed position): not applicable
  • Food (quality):  6/10
  • Food (quantity): 6/10
  • Inflight entertainment : 0/10
  • WiFi: not available
  • Service: 8/10
  • Overall experience: mediocre – 6/10

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4 Comments

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  2. I honestly like Ethiopian Airlines — they’ve never been late for me, gotten me to my destination when other airlines had canceled my flight but they have some airline policies that are hard to understand. After searching so much I have finally got a solution by {airlinespolicy.com}, they helped me a lot during Covid time. I am very thankful to the team of airlinespolicy.
    https://airlinespolicy.com/cancellation-policy/ethiopian-airlines-cancellation-policy/

  3. I agree, the cabin looked outdated and the seats are weathered. The meal presentation was hmmm without hurting anyone’s feelings, ….. the meal presentation was mediocre, definitely not consistent with a higher class of travel. The footrest was an added shocker, did not look comfortable at all. Onward and upward, I absolutely enjoy your videos, and the in-depth information you provide.

  4. My first time travel with Ethiopian was from Kilimanjaro to Addis back in 2013. The experience was fabulous since that was my first ever international flight. Since then I’ve seen pretty much all kinds of planes and had lots of flights with different careers but Ethiopian remains one my favs. For African travel inspo visit https://www.aroyosafari.com/

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