Wonder what it is like to fly with Ethiopian Airlines? Check out my review of Ethiopian airlines business class and economy class service.
I travelled to Cape Town with my family over Easter holidays. Getting cheap flights at this time can usually be tricky. Luckily I found great airfares ( €424 return inc taxes ) with Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa. Flying direct to Addis on a state-of-the-art Dreamliner aircraft, and not having to go through London, was a dream come true. I also looked at various options going via the Emirates, but the overall journey times were longer and they were more expensive.
Before I left, I did some research into upgrading my economy class tickets to business class. Ethiopian Airlines have a great option to upgrade their flights at Dublin airport, for circa €500 per person, subject to availability. I was very kindly offered two business class upgrades as far as Addis Ababa, but as there were four of us travelling, I decided to pay for the other two, so we could all sample the service together. We flew onwards to Cape Town in economy class and our return flights were also in economy, so I was fortunate to experience both classes. So what was the service like? Check out my full review of Ethiopian Airlines service below.
My first tip when flying business class is get to the airport on time. Unfortunately there was an accident on the airport road, so we arrived at the check-in desk a little late. This meant that although we had the advantage of speedy check-in at the business class area, we didn’t have time to use the executive lounge, which is provided free of charge for all Ethiopian Airlines business class passengers.
Instead we had to go straight to the gate, but we have the pleasure of boarding the aircraft first. When we were shown to our seats, I was so glad I opted to upgrade, the look on my kids faces said it all. They couldn’t believe the size of their seats. To my delight the flight attendant kindly offered them some orange juice and hot towels before take off. This was a welcome distraction and finally stopped them from reclining the seats over and over again!
I can safely say it was the easiest flight I have ever flown with kids. I don’t think I heard ‘Are we nearly there?’ once! They happily sat back and enjoyed the on-demand movies and 85 channels from their 15 inch screens! My daughter Alex shrieked with delight when she saw the newly released Disney movie Coco was available, and my son Luke was delighted to be able to see the latest Marvel movie, especially as it was a 12’s movie and he was only 10!
They couldn’t believe that were able to order from a menu for dinner – I could have flown anywhere in the world with them, it was so easy. This made the flight so enjoyable for myself and my husband too. We enjoyed movies, nice food and drinks, all from the comfort of our reclining seats.
The flight attendants were very attentive and immediately offered a choice of magazines and orange juice before take-off. We were also given amenity kits filled with toiletries, that were fitted with handy hooks. The business class seats are superb. Not only do they lie-flat but they are very spacious, with loads of places to put your bags. When the seat was completely flat I didn’t have to move my hand bag to the over head bin, which I had to do on other airlines.
We were served dinner and breakfast on this flight. At dinner I enjoyed the lamb and herb terrine starter, but unfortunately they did not have my first choice of salmon for main course. I opted for the cheese and spinach ravioli. I felt it was a little bland but my son managed to get the salmon, which I tasted, and it was delicious! I opted to finish it off with some tasty cheese and crackers and copious amounts of red wine! In fact any time my glass was finished, the flight attendant duly topped me up. Desert was a tasty selection of petit fours, followed by Lily O Brien’s Irish chocolates!
Breakfast was a choice of fruits, cereals and pastries, with a choice of French toast with whipped cream and fruit, or scrambled eggs with sausage, tomatoes and potatoes. I had the former and my husband, the latter, both were equally good.
Sadly it was time to leave our business class seats and change to economy for the second leg of our journey. Unfortunately we had a three hour wait in Addis Ababa, which trust me, is not the best airport in the world for a layover. If we had onward business class flights, we would have been able to use Ethiopian Airlines lounge. Sadly no amount of sweet talking worked, they would not let us in! This got me thinking that upgrading at the airport is probably not the most sensible thing to do if it is not a direct flight. Ethiopian Airlines charge a similar fee (€500), to upgrade to business class on their direct Dublin – Los Angeles service, which is probably better value.
If you want to fly business class to Cape Town, you are better off to prebook this for the entire journey at the time of booking. At the time of issue a return business class fare to Cape Town is €1717, which is nearly half the price of other airlines on the same route. If this is still too pricey for you, you can try to ‘bid’ for an upgrade a few weeks before departure. When you book online with Ethiopian Airlines, you will receive an email a few weeks before you are due to depart, asking if you would like to ‘bid’ for an upgrade. With minimum offers starting at €300 per sector, this can be a very worthwhile exercise.
Ethiopian Airlines are a 4* airline so while their ‘Cloud Nine’ business class service certainly exceeded my expectations, I would still rate it as a 4* business class service. While the seat pitch is extremely generous (65″compared to Aer Lingus 58″), there are a few things that should be pointed out to give a balanced review. Ethiopian Airlines doesn’t offer dine on demand, i.e all business class passengers eat at the same time.
There is no WiFi on board, although I believe it is coming soon. Wine was served in small plastic glasses and creamer is served with tea, not milk. None of these really bothered me – well maybe the milk! The flight overall was great and it is exceptional value when you consider the cost of flying business class with other airlines. We received excellent service from the traditionally dressed flight attendants too!
Our onward flight from Addis to Cape Town was in the early hours of the morning so I wasn’t able to review this flight properly, as we all spent most of it asleep! The return flight however was a different story. We departed Cape Town at 3pm for a six and a half hour flight to Addis. This was the perfect time to leave. The flight was thoroughly enjoyable. With a choice of 80 different channels in economy class and our own personal TV screens, we were all delighted to sit back and watch some movies.
We noted that the same new releases that were showing in business class, were also available in economy class. There was no menu in economy class but we were pleasantly surprised when our dinner arrived. I had a bag full of crackers and snacks in reserve for the kids, but I didn’t need it. Myself, Luke and Alex ate the chicken curry and my husband Cormac, enjoyed the pasta. Overall we were very pleased. Ethiopian offer complimentary drinks and meals throughout the flight, so with plenty of creature comforts we arrived in Addis feeling very fresh!
The return leg has a shorter lay over in Addis, only 90 minutes. By the time we had disembarked, it was almost time to board the second flight. Our flight departed at midnight from Addis, so there was only one thing to do, lie back and try to sleep. Once again we were on the Dreamliner aircraft, which Ethiopian Airlines use for all of their flights in and out of Dublin airport. The cabin is very spacious, with mood lighting and reduced cabin noise. The cabin pressure is set to a lower altitude which allows for better air quality and helps with travel fatigue.
The large windows are actually dimmable, so if the sunlight is waking you up in the morning, you can just reduce the light coming in with a touch of a button! The seats are very comfortable too with moveable head rests, a 8.9 inch personal TV screen and a generous 32 inch seat pitch. They also have USB ports if you want to charge your phone or electronic device. We were given amenity kits which consisted of flight socks, an eye mask, a toothbrush and paste, as well as a warm blanket and pillow. We reclined our seats and off we went to sleep, only to be awoken by the flight attendants, asking us to adjust our seats for landing.
It was a dream flight! The combination of the flying times and the excellent service, left me in no doubt that I would certainly fly with Ethiopian Airlines again. In fact I even signed up for their frequent flyer program when I got home! I feel another trip to Africa coming soon……….
Ethiopian Airlines fly four times weekly from Dublin airport to Cape Town via Addis Ababa. Their flight prices are one of the lowest on the route, and include two 23kg checked bags with free meals and drinks on board. At the time of issue return flights from Dublin to Cape Town are €474 including taxes. Visit EthiopianAirlines.com for more details.
Interested in travelling to Cape Town? Read my Travel Guide to Cape Town – What To Do, Where To Stay, Where To Eat & Safety