We recently flew four segments on Ethiopian Airlines business class (roundtrip) and it was a very hospitable, comfortable and efficient experience. The moniker “The New Spirit of Africa” is well earned in a continent that has a limited number of world class airline competition. The first segment we flew was Dubai-Addis Ababa, The second Addis Ababa-Bangkok and the third and fourth in reverse order. Two of the planes were Boeing 787-8 and two were Boeing 787-9. These are sturdy and spacious aircraft, however still of the past generation where there are not individual pods with all aisle access or dividers.
One glitch we encountered even with a careful online checkin is that the system kept assigning us random seats (even when we selected to sit together) so that we had two ask to change seats with other passengers on several of the segments. It proved difficult for the gate agent or check in counter to handle this ahead of time which was bothersome. We did make special meal requests ahead of time with the check in system however and those were honored appropriately.
The boarding areas in Dubai and Addis Ababa were both haphazardly organized so that it was not clear where business passengers were expected to board, but eventually gate staff showed us the way. Bangkok had this marked out clearly and appropriately. Once on board the staff dressed in traditional Ethiopian outfits were beaming with hospitality and generosity. Champagne or orange juice were offered immediately as well as a hot towel. The seats come with functional amenity kits that have everything you need, but without the luxury brands that other business classes are bringing to the table these days.
The entertainment system has great offerings, the crew offer a variety of world class magazines and newspapers and the chairs go into full recline for excellent sleeping. The overnight flight crew asked ahead of time if we wanted to be woken for the dinner service which was quite courteous of them. The food was an excellent blend of continental and typical Ethiopian dishes. They were generous with all sorts of food and drinks, having a great range of alcoholic beverages, juices, cordials, cheeseplates and desserts. The attention to detail and accommodations were world class.
One area that definitely needs attention are the lounges in Addis Ababa. There are several in the airport but they are very overcrowded and unpleasant. We had to stand for quite a while to find an open seat. The bathrooms constantly had a line and the experience was not much different than waiting in a regular seating area by the gate. With the in flight experience being so good, this part of the business class experience really needs to be brought up to speed.