After my first experience on a business class flight with LATAM Airlines, I was looking for my next opportunity to fly another business class flight. I didn’t have to wait long as I went aboard Ethiopian Airlines’ Cloud Nine a couple of months after. Here is my review of Ethiopian Airlines Business Class from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Tokyo, Japan.
Did you know?
Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s largest airline and to my surprise is also the world’s 4th largest airline by the number of countries served.
Before the Flight
Ranked as one of the world’s worst airport for a layover, the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport is one that you don’t want to spend a lot of time in. The airport expansion cannot come soon enough, with the chaos crowding the terminal. It will be hard to find any place to sit down or get any WiFi connection. The food options are minimal and look bleak. The lines at security are long & slow moving.
However, as a business class passenger I was able to escape the mayhem by using one of the Cloud Nine Lounges. I wouldn’t have been able to get in this lounge even with my Priority Pass membership through my American Express Platinum.
In the lounge, you are welcomed with a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. There are plenty of comfortable seating, but may be hard to find as the lounge also gets busy during peak times.
The lounge also provided a hot buffet and a self-service fridge with beverages. I got myself a some Ethiopian dishes along with their national beer, St. George beer. The food wasn’t too bad, similar to the quality of many other lounges I have been.
Having been through this airport before as part of my Mini Round the World Trip with Aeroplan, I was just glad to be able to escape from the chaos of the airport.
On the Plane
With a dedicated lane for business class or “Cloud Nine” passengers, I was able to bypass all the economy passengers. I did have to wait for the shuttle to get to the plane on the tarmac.
After going up the stairs, I approached the business class seats. It was in a 2-2-2 configuration. This means that those on the window seat will have to jump over your fellow neighbour if they are in lie-flat mode. I was sitting on the window seat, and fortunately for me, I didn’t have anyone sitting beside me for the whole duration of the flight.
Some of the crew wore the traditional Ethiopian garb, which was a nice touch, showcasing a bit of the Ethiopian culture. We started with a welcome drink comprising of orange juice and/or champagne. They also gave a hot towel so you can freshen up as you settle in your seat (my new favourite thing!)
This time, the guests in economy did not have to go through business class, so I did not have to watch them pass by. So instead, I got a chance to look at the rest of my seat before we took off.
The plane I was on was the older Boeing 787 Business Class design. And you could tell it was old. It was not very inviting and the decor looked very dated.
On the left side of your seat, there is a entertainment controller, USB and power ports, and a cup holder. Unfortunately, it was not cleaned as there were still hair, dirt and a rubber band from previous flights. The plug was also not working for the whole flight, as it failed to charge my laptop.
The Amenity Kit
The amenity kit that I received is pretty standard. There are your usual items such as comb, face mask, ear plugs, socks for the plane, toothbrush, etc. What was nice about the kit is that you can use it as a hanging toiletry bag.
The first meal on the flight had a wide variety to choose from. There was Asian, Western and also Ethiopian.
For the starter, I got the smoked fish. It was nothing spectacular.
I wanted to try the Ethiopian dishes as my main course, so I got a bunch of different stews and curries from the cart that was going around the business class. I am pretty sure that it was the same dishes that was served in the airport lounge. I wasn’t complaining as the food was quite good.
Later the dessert cart came to a choice of many options. I chose the pineapple tart which was good but nothing special. I also got Baileys and the Ethiopian coffee to round out my dinner.
For my second meal, I got the frittata with peppers & mushroom, veal sausages and grilled tomatoes. Unfortunately, the food was average. The frittata was quite bland. The sausages tasted like those from those breakfast buffets at motels.
Along with your choice, you do get more breakfast items such as fruit salad, corn flakes, yoghurt and assorted baked goods.
I also got more of those delicious Ethiopian coffee.
Arriving in Seoul, everyone boarded off the plane. For many this was their destinations. For others like myself who was heading to Tokyo, we had to wait in the airport for an hour as Ethiopian Airlines restocked and refueled the plane. When we boarded back onto the plane, it was a new set of cabin crew. There were also new passengers flying from Seoul to Tokyo. It felt like a totally new flight, orange juice and champagne was given out again. I also got a second pair of the amenity kit!
This route that I took is called a fifth freedom flight. It is unique in how Ethiopian Airline is able to fly between two foreign countries (South Korea and Japan), because the flight originated in the airline’s home country.
As for my meal from Seoul to Tokyo, I had the cannelloni. This was probably my favourite meal on the flight. It was the tastiest and most satisfying meal. The ricotta cheese and sauces paired well together.
I also had the air dried beef with chicken madras, pickles, russian salad, lettuce leaves and parsley to start. It was nothing special and felt like random things were just thrown on the plate.
For dessert, I felt like being healthy so I got the assorted fresh seasonal fruit. It looked promising as I got a plate of kiwi, melon, watermelon, pineapple and dragonfruit. However the fruits did not taste fresh.
Just like the LATAM Business class seat, this one also went flat but at an incline. That means that, through the night, you might be sliding down the bed. The incline was minimal and didn’t bother me too much. This is by far the best part of my business class experience with Ethiopian Airlines; being able to get a good sleep over a flight that is around 12 hours.
All in all, I was able to get a great night sleep. I felt refreshed and was ready to explore Tokyo. Aside from that, the rest of the experience was quite lacklustre. Compared to my previous experience with LATAM Airlines, I was disappointed with this experience. The food quality was unremarkable, it was the case of quantity over quality. The service was also the same. I didn’t feel too welcome or special. The seat and the livery felt old and dirty, with hair in the cup holder and plugs not working.
I was never planning on taking a business class flight with Ethiopian as I first booked an economy flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Tokyo, Japan. I booked this flight for 3170 ZAR ($282 CAD), which is an amazing deal! Flights from Toronto to Vancouver run around this price!
I got an email from Ethiopian Airlines saying that I was eligible to get upgraded to business class. I would have to bid for an upgrade in their online auctions. Many airlines do this to fill empty business class seats. The flight from Johannesburg to Tokyo had a layover in Addis Ababa and Seoul and had a total journey time of over 22 hours. I was dreading the journey and just threw the minimum bid of $350 USD for the Addis Ababa to Tokyo flight. A couple of days later, I got an email saying that Ethiopian Airlines has accepted your upgrade offer.
Looking back, I probably would not have chosen to upgrade to business class. The quality of the food, service, and seat did not justify the extra $350 USD.