Ethiopian Airlines Business Class

2800

Background

Ethiopian Airlines, the national carrier, is Africa’s third largest airline and started operating in 1946. It flies to 63 destinations worldwide and commands a lion’s share of the pan-African network, including the only daily east-west flight across the continent.

Check-In

Departure was scheduled for 14h15 from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg – Terminal B. Check-in was smooth and the business lounge Ethiopian Airlines offers is the Shongololo Lounge, operated by Menzies Aviation, and shared by a number of airlines. It was comfortable enough with a good selection of food and beverages. The lounge also offers free Wi-Fi Internet access and shower facilities.

Boarding & the Seat

We were called on time for our flight and left enough time to make it to the gate. Boarding, like check-in, was smooth without any problems. We flew on a Boeing 767-300 – one of 11 that Ethiopian Airlines operates, out of a fleet of 46. It is configured with 58 Business Class and 167 Economy Class seats. The Business Class seat does not lie flat, but it is comfortable enough, although I didn’t attempt a sleep, as it was a daytime flight

The Flight

It is a little over five hours from Johannesburg to Addis Ababa, which is short enough to not feel it is a long-haul flight, but long enough to be able to use the daytime flying time for good use. Firstly, I wasn’t too impressed with the in-flight magazine, which I noticed contained a few factual errors. There was no on-demand video facility, but the films designated for the flight were adequate. A regular business traveller may find this frustrating, if travelling more than once in the same month, as the same in-flight entertainment may prove a bit repetitive. As a daytime ‘medium haul’ flight, where it’s important to have the facilities to be able to work, I was a little disappointed that the collapsible tray was not that sturdy, and that working off a laptop was not that comfortable. That being said, the food was outstanding and the service excellent. I was surprised to receive a selection of three starters and my main course and desert were both truly memorable. It’s also on flights like this that I regret not having more of a taste for fine alcohol, as they always seem to have the most lavish range of whiskeys and cognacs. I stuck to cups of what Ethiopia is famous for and where it originated from – coffee.

Arrival

The Addis Ababa airport is simple and not too complicated. The Business Class lounge – called ‘Cloud Nine’- is very centrally located, which makes a lot more sense than tucking it away in some obscure part of the airport, which is so often the case. As we were in transit to Hangzhou, China, I can’t comment on the customs process. What we did experience on the way back was a having to go through security, which wasn’t an enjoyable experience. A lot of African airports – including Addis Ababa – are often guilty of having too few gates processing all flights. The result is that you end up having to be dragged out to another dedicated ‘faster’ line, which is actually being used by crew, and is actually no quicker. Not the best part of the journey and certainly an area that all African airports can improve on.

Verdict

Comfort – no problems and quite satisfactory, actually, although I didn’t try sleeping on the flight. On-time departure and arrival – spot on! In-flight service – great. Intercom announcements during the flight – too loud and personally, I think, offering no added value. Otherwise, a good business class option.

Richard Lendrum