Ethiopian Airlines continues to be a powerhouse of African aviation, with a modern fleet, great service and an ever-expanding network, discovers Nick Walton on a recent flight from Hong Kong to Addis Ababa.
After selecting our seats via the Ethiopian Airlines app, we checked in at Hong Kong International Airport and quickly arrived at Hong Kong Airlines’ Club Bauhinia, to which Ethiopian’s business class (aptly called Cloud Nine) guests have access. After a brief visit, we boarded the Star Alliance member’s 787-10, which featured 24 seats in business class in a 2-2-2 configuration, of which just over half were occupied.
You have to love the 787, with its mood lighting and oversized windows with electric blinds. Ethiopian Airlines operate an extensive 787 fleet, some of which boast the older business class product, and some the new – this was the older version. My 22-inch lie-flat seat, 2A, was still very comfortable and featured a 15.4-inch private monitor, controlled by a remote in the armrest, AC and USB ports, and a grey and red colour palate. There’s plenty of storage, which is a must on long-haul flights, and bottles of water and practical little amenity kits in a bright green washbag style were already in place. When in bed mode, the seat was very comfortable, with plenty of room at shoulder level, and when paired with the comfortable pillows and blankets offered by the crew, made for a great night’s rest.
After take-off, many passengers decided to sleep as it was a midnight departure and we had an 11-hour flight ahead of us. Deciding that by delaying sleep a little while I would better handle the jetlag, I decided to have dinner while watching a movie. Crew, who served hot towels and glasses of Champagne Lallier Brut before take-off, quickly began the dinner service, which started with pan-fried Maguro tuna with pearl barley; and a fresh seasonal salad.
Choices for the main included sweet and sour chicken with capsicum and steamed rice; stir-fried beef with dried bean curd, black bean chilli and jade melon; and braised Chinese winter melon with mixed mushrooms in fish sauce, and stir-fried noodles. The chicken was tangy and crispy and well-proportioned, with the fare served on a proper plate rather than the bento-style dishes still found in many business class cabins. For dessert, I opted for a sip of tej, Ethiopian honey wine, a local speciality.
For breakfast, served 90 minutes out from Addis Ababa, we were offered a choice of mushroom egg souffle with corned beef potato rosti, chicken sausage and cherry tomatoes; pancakes with blueberry compote; or vegetarian congee with shitake mushroom, fresh spinach, ginger, spring onion and shallots. Like many passengers, I had an onward flight and decided to get a little more sleep rather than have breakfast.
While it’s not quite Emirates’ ICE system or Cathay Pacific’s CX Studio, the inflight entertainment system on the Ethiopian Airlines 787 still offered a broad selection of television shows and movies, and an easy-to-use interface. I opted to use my own Bose QuietComfort 35II headphones rather than the airline headphones. The aircraft didn’t offer Wi-Fi.
While many carriers at the top of the ranking spots are struggling with service standards, Ethiopian excelled. The crew were charming, welcoming and diligent, serving meals in a professional yet unhurried style, and checking up on passengers throughout the flight. Always quick with a smile and always happy to meet any requests, the human factor – as we have found in many other reviews – was touching and made the whole experience all the better.
With new 787s now entering the fleet, as well as new A350s; married with warm, authentic hospitality and cuisine inspired by the destination, Ethiopian will continue to be a warm welcome to Africa for travellers from around the world.
For more Airline stories click here.