Cloud Nine Business Class on Ethiopian Airlines introduces its passengers to the diverse culture and fascinating traditions of Ethiopia before they touch down at the airline’s Addis Ababa base. As one of the largest hub airports in Africa and the biggest transfer airport on the continent - especially for intercontinental travellers - Ethiopian has made its mark as a global carrier.
Now a member of Star Alliance, passengers can earn and redeem miles in its Sheba Miles frequent flier program or earn and redeem in partner alliance loyalty schemes. Its Star Alliance partners include Air Canada, Asiana, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss, TAP Portugal, Thai and United. When travelling with Ethiopian or its partner carriers, elite members and Star Alliance Gold members enjoy reciprocal access to lounges and other travel benefits.
Priority check-in and security lines are available in most airports for Cloud Nine passengers, but the origination or transit experience at Addis Ababa is not ideal. Some passengers have to take buses to transfer terminals, but the airline is good at meeting Business Class passengers at the aircraft and escorting them to their next flight on short connections.
Ethiopian Airlines has several lounges at Addis Ababa, but Business Class passengers are advised to select carefully as they are all different. A new 5,000 square metre Cloud Nine Lounge opened in late 2020 as part of the new terminal expansion, providing a long overdue upgrade to the premium passenger experience. Facilities in the new lounge include showers, massage services and a wide selection of food and beverage offerings.The famous Ethiopian coffee ceremony remains - offering a unique opportunity to taste coffee - a commodity that is said to have originated in Ethiopia.
In most other airports, passengers can use partner lounges - in many cases they are a Star Alliance member.
Priority boarding ensures Business Class passengers can embark the aircraft first, and at gates that require a bus to reach the plane, Cloud Nine passengers are often provided a private Business Class bus.
Ethiopian has a diverse fleet with many seating configurations. The airline frequently makes last minute aircraft changes, so passengers are advised to expect the unexpected - for better or worse.
Most of the airline’s long-haul Boeing 767, 787 and Airbus A350 aircraft feature fully flat Business Class seats in a 2-2-2 layout. Boeing 777 aircraft offer a 2-3-2 configuration with the dreaded middle seat. Adding to the plethora of configurations, newly delivered Boeing 787-9 aircraft feature a significantly more attractive 1-2-1 layout with reverse herringbone Business Class seats, while new A350 aircraft feature a staggered 1-2-1 layout including "honeymoon seats". Ethiopian Airlines operates many medium-range to longer flights within Africa and to Europe on Boeing 737s with 2-2 seating that are simple recliner seats.
Many of the bright red-fabric seats on Ethiopian long-haul flights lack direct-aisle access, and on 777 flights, one passenger will be in the middle seat. On some 767 flights, the seats are not fully flat as they are an older generation model of recliner seat. While the recline is substantial, the leg rest has minimal extension. In addition, a subset of older Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft replaces fully flat Business Class seats with angled lie-flat seats that recline about 170 degrees. It is not clear which type of seat your plane will have until you board as it is not indicated on the seat map. This is hardly ideal, but at least all other widebody planes boast fully flat beds with partial privacy dividers, shared central console table, and side compartments for storing small items.
Storage space in front of the seat is available for a water bottle, magazines and shoes on 777 aircraft, but newer Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 have a sleeker set up with the pairs of seats on either side slightly angled towards the window. They also have more storage space behind the headrest rather than in front of you. Many complain that the footwell on these seats can be narrow and constraining when reclined in the fully-flat position.
It is important to review the seat map to reserve a seat before departure to avoid center seats or aircraft that do not have fully-flat beds. Check the aircraft type before reserving a flight because on many routes, there is only one option. The only caveat is that for 787 and A350 flights, you will not know which type of seat you will have although they are much better than Boeing 737 or 767 aircraft.
Ethiopian does not charge for seat assignments in Cloud Nine, but you may have to contact the airline’s reservation team to secure one as online seat assignment is not always available.
Depending on the aircraft, sizeable tray tables fold out of the armrest although those on 737 aircraft are flimsier than those on widebody planes. Still, there is ample space to work and dine. Electronic controls are lacking on 737 and 767 planes, but all other widebody aircraft allow you to adjust the seat for relaxing, dining or sleeping at the touch of a button.
Ethiopian often hangs photographs of various Ethiopian landmarks or landscapes in the cabin as decoration. Keep in mind that on Dreamliner aircraft, the window shades dim using electronic controls - not with a traditional shade. Sometimes flight attendants can lock their functionality leaving the cabin dark even on day flights when some may prefer to look out of the window.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes images, videos and seat maps for most airlines and aircraft Search results also include details such as seat pitch, width and recline. This way you can see the seat and cabin configuration of the flight in which you are interested, before making your choice.
Ethiopian deserves accolades for its effort to offer a mix of its national cuisine as well as international dishes to its passengers. For many international passengers, this may be their first exposure to Ethiopian dishes, and the printed menus do a wonderful job of explaining the available dishes and daily traditions of Ethiopian cooking. It is an entertaining and educational way to pass the time inflight especially as many dishes are served from multi-tiered carts so that people can see what is on offer before making their choice. Flight attendants also wear traditional Ethiopian outfits on many flights during the service, adding a genuine and unique touch.
After takeoff, carts roll down the aisle with drinks and bowls of nuts or kolo, a traditional roasted barley snack that makes the perfect crunchy beverage accompaniment.
Most Ethiopian dishes are available on flights departing Addis Ababa with a more international selection on flights departing other cities bound for Ethiopia. Understandably, the best Ethiopian catering will originate from the airline’s home country.
Depending on the length of flight, flight attendants either serve the entire meal on one tray or by offering each course served directly on table linens similar to a restaurant. Appetisers and the option for a side salad and bread start the meal. On some flights, this can include a variety of Ethiopian dishes plated family-style from the cart including injera - a sour, fermented flatbread that is used to scoop up other tasty dishes using your hands. It is a delicious start to the flight but is only offered on longer flights departing Ethiopia.
For the main dish, there are typically four options including beef, seafood, poultry or pasta. Dessert follows with a sweet pastry or cake or small cheese platter with coffee, tea or cordials. On most widebody flights, the presentation from a multi-tiered cart is elegant and impressive.
There is no dine on demand service, and on some flights, the meal is not served right after takeoff. The airline oddly times its meals to the dining schedule of the destination meaning some meals can be served several hours after takeoff, which is not the best setup for passengers that may want to sleep on their body clock. The best plan is to ask the crew when they plan to serve each meal so you can schedule your work or rest accordingly.
On longer flights, pre-arrival meals are served a couple of hours before landing. Depending on the hour, they can range from two breakfast options - hot egg dish or continental - to a pre-arrival lunch or dinner. The airline has a range of special meals including Muslim, Kosher and Asian vegetarian options although these must be reserved in advance.
As guests board, they are offered orange juice, water or Champagne from a tray. If choosing Champagne, two flight attendants return with the bottle and an empty glass to pour the welcome drink at your seat, a nice touch indeed. Warm towels precede the first beverage service after takeoff, and all passengers receive a bottle of water.
Printed menus outline what is available throughout the flight including Champagne - often Lallier Brut although it can vary by flight - four white wines, four red wines and a dessert wine. A variety of spirits including Campari, Chivas Regal, Johnny Walker Black Label, Bailey’s and Drambuie are on offer as are international and Ethiopian beers. Soft drinks, juices, coffee - including Ethiopian or Nescafe options plus cappuccino or espresso on some aircraft - and tea are available.
Refills are sometimes not proactive, and the wine glasses can be small. The crew is happy to offer more drinks at any time. Not all wines are stocked on every flight so be sure to ask the crew what is available.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on which Champagne is served in Business Class and First Class on many airlines. We do our best to keep track of any changes, but feel free to let us know if there is something we missed.
Hardly polished to the fanciest of standards, the crew is hard-working, friendly and charming. Expect Ethiopian hospitality on board, and while some flight attendants may be more reserved, they are eager to serve if you engage with a bit of conversation. Flying Ethiopian is a great experience with crew that has the best intentions.
Noise-reducing headphones are of varying quality depending on the aircraft. Depending on the aircraft type (B787 and A350, for example), the entertainment system can be state of the art with hundreds of movies, short subject documentaries, sitcoms or music options to choose from using remote controls or touch screens. On others - B737 and B767 - the norm is an aging system with limited options, small screens and poor screen quality. Like with seating type, the entertainment experience can vary greatly depending on the plane you are flying. A moving map display never ceases to disappoint, however, and is available on all international flights.
Ethiopian Airlines deserves credit for its unique and beautifully composed boarding music that sets the tone for each flight with a distinctly African vibe reminiscent of the Disney classic The Lion King.
Wi-Fi is available aboard all A350 and some of the B787 and B777 fleet, but the rollout is slow with pricing based on the number of hours you want to use it. The option for a whole flight pass is typically the best bet as there are no data caps imposed.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on inflight entertainment and Wi-Fi.
Passengers receive an amenity kit with basic toiletries, an eyeshade and socks on medium to long-haul flights, with short flights featuring a smaller version than on long haul. Amenity kits in Ethiopian Airlines Business Class come in three distinct colours taken from the Ethiopian national flag - green, yellow and red. Pillows and blankets are standard amenities. On selected flights, each passenger in Business Class receive a single rose from the flight attendants as a surprising token of appreciation for flying Ethiopian Airlines.
The airline’s entire fleet is often used on shorter flights around the African continent. This means that flat-bed seats on a 777 are often likely on routes to cities like Johannesburg or Lusaka. The airline’s 737 fleet is also used on these routes so review your flight details carefully to see if there is an option to experience the airline’s premium product on short flights.
No matter what the aircraft, a full meal and beverage list - including Champagne - is almost always available with the exception of short domestic flights that use the airline’s Dash-8 fleet. On these planes, Business Class is simply an economy class-style seat with little extra catering.
The airline is focusing on eco-friendly operations including waste management and recycling programs, green procurement efforts for supplies and the safe disposal of chemical materials. An enormous tree planting program around the country has helped bring sustainable progress and assistance to farmers around the country.
Ethiopian Airlines takes its role as a leader in African aviation seriously, something which is reflected in the Ethiopian Airlines Aviation Academy in Addis Ababa. The dedicated facility is equipped with state of the art equipment and technology offering a full range of Aviation Training Programs, paving the way for career opportunities in aviation.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on CO2 emissions for each flight. Our quality algorithms also give a higher score to flights operated by the most modern and environmentally friendly aircraft.