ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES Flight Information:
KET706 28OCT30MAR 1234567 223788ADDADD1040 1630FRAFRA J
3 months old, delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in October 2012.
ADDIS ABABA TO FRANKFURT
Things got a little confusing and overwhelming for me after boarding. Everything was new to me –airline and aircraft- and I did not know what I needed to focus on. Everything about the Dreamliner was so current, it was like something from a few steps into the future. The large windows, the spacious cabin, the feisty mood-lighting, the fiery red seats, and even the beautiful cabin crew, all created this futuristic vibe in the cabin that it felt like we were inside something other than an aircraft.
Passing through the galley, I notice several Ethiopian Airlines crew prancing all over the place trying to quickly get settled. But they had some time for a quick “Hi, welcome on board” before I turned left to the Cloud Nine cabin.
24 seats make up the Cloud Nine cabin on the 787, between Doors 1 and 2. The basic elements are more or less what we have all seen in every aircraft before. But, the slick enhancements are definitely noticed in the huge windows that come with automatic light control technology, the bigger and more curvy designs of the overhead bins, the mood-lighting system, and the sound system. Some type of Ethiopian instrumental/jazzy boarding music was blasting from the speakers and the sound was simply amazing. If anything however, the cabin did have this sterile feel to it and that would definitely not make me feel too ‘homey’.
At my seat at 4L, a freshly packed yellow blanket and a green pillow were neatly placed over the seatbelts. However, leftover breadcrumbs were found on the seat, which meant that the cleaning job was a half-hearted express measure in an attempt to minimize the delay to this flight.
Across from me, the seat pocket –stacked with the usual inflight literature- was located under the IFE screen, and several storage areas were located between the two seats for shoes, headsets, and loose items. I was able to stow away my shoes, lenses, and notebook, which meant space was plenty enough at least for me.
The seat itself was quite spacious, and I believe it resembled that of LOT’s Business Class product. Padding was soft –but not soft enough- and legroom was more than adequate for even an ULH to Washington.
Sorry, but this isn’t a Business Class quality pillow
No smoking is now a given!
New air control and lighting
More of the seat and cabin
At 12;25pm it was announced that boarding was complete, and this meant that the seat next to me was unoccupied. But that was to be only until two ID staff –presumably working for Ethiopian Airlines- trickled into Cloud Nine where one sat next to me. Surprisingly, the other staff –dressed in jeans- popped over to the galley to assist the crew. She even served a passenger a drink without her uniform which seemed a little too homey for my liking.
The crew seemed a little too busy as they were still in a semi-manic mode trying to set everything up. But eventually one appeared in the aisle with a tray of water, juices, and empty glasses. Behind her, Tigist followed with a bottle of champagne neatly wrapped with pure white linen.
“Welcome on board, may we offer you something to drink? Orange Juice, water, or champagne?”
“Champagne for me please”
An empty glass was placed near me, then Tigist gently poured the champagne then quickly wiped off the tip of the bottle with a napkin as she raised it back up.
At 12:35pm, an announcement was made by the crew in both Amharic and English, and we were advised that today’s flight time was a quick 6 hours and 45 minutes. Shortly afterwards the doors were closed, and an animated safety demonstration was played on the screens.
As we pushed back at 12:40pm, the infectious jazzy music was played again while the engines spooled up. The 787 seemed quieter than its older sister, the 777, but it really wasn’t much of a drastic difference. I was more into that seductive music anyways, and if anyone knows where I could find ET’s boarding music, I would very much like to know!
After a ten-minute taxi past the terminal and to the active runway, we lined up and then began our roll for takeoff. As the engines powered up, they yanked a high-pitched hum that reminded me of the 747, so at least that aspect of the jumbo can remain for years after it retires! At 12:50pm we lifted off –with quite some power too- and began our daylight afternoon commute towards Frankfurt.
During climb: the cabin is definitely nice for taking pictures
During the climb, and just as I realized that no one bothered to apologize for the delay and explain what it was all about, the captain came on the PA and did just that. After welcoming us on board Ethiopian Airlines, he explained that it was due to a late arrival of the aircraft from a previous flight, i.e. the standard response.
As we reached cruising altitude, the seatbelt sign was switched off, and the crew was released to begin the service preparations. The mood lighting continued to flicker and at that moment it was displaying some form of an afternoon calm type of mood. Coupled with the differing blue shades of each window, the scene became seriously futuristic.
After a quick visit to the lavatory, I was quite disappointed to see that it was nothing out of the ordinary. No ‘premium’ amenities were available, and it could have easily been a standard loo used by Economy Class passengers. However, interesting to note is the lavatory doors had a new design to them, where part of the door goes inside the lavatory as you open it. This initially proved to be quite annoying, as I did not know which direction to pull the door at first.
Until the service began, I explored the contents of my seat pocket, only to find an interesting ‘booklet’ that contained all the typical inflight literature items in addition to a Sheba Miles application form, a comment card, and some writing paper with envelopes. While this booklet was very flimsy, it was a very nice touch.
Cloud Nine booklet
Paper & envelopes
Hmm .. This isn’t a 757!
Soon enough, the crew rolled out a beverage trolley. This was manned by Tigist and Tadese –a male cabin crew also operating Cloud Nine today- and it was neatly set up with alcoholic/soft beverages and glasses on the top side, with snacks on the bottom side. As they approached the passengers, they began to address everyone by name, but for some odd reason that ball was dropped half way along the cabin.
“Can I offer you something to drink?”
“May I have a Bloody Mary please?”
I also noticed that no menus were handed out today, which is rather strange because in previous Trip Reports, Ethiopian seemed far from stingy at giving them out! For a flagship route on a flagship aircraft, a simple Business Class menu should be very typical.
My Bloody Mary was served with Kolo
I wasn’t expecting the Bloody Mary on Ethiopian to be loaded with the usual frills, and true to that expectation, it was quite average indeed. Too much vodka overpowered the drink, and there was nothing else apart from tomato juice. That does not a Bloody Mary make!
After the empty glasses were cleared, amenity kits were distributed quite randomly, but at least these weren’t also missing from the flight. After which, the crew then dressed our tables with linens in preparation for lunch.
Amenity kit with beautiful ET logo
Another trolley was then rolled out for the meal services, and it included all the meal trays, water, wine, and a breadbasket. Tigist was on my side of the cabin whilst Tadese was working on the opposite end.
The crew continued to randomly address certain passengers by name, and this time around I wasn’t missed out.
“Mr. Hawi, I am so sorry we are out of the shrimp starter, and I only have vegetarian”
The tray was nicely set up with salad plate, salad dressing, bread, butter, salt/pepper shakers, a glass of water, silverware/napkins, and a starter plate. The vegetarian starter consisted of mozzarella cheese, with a tomato-based sauce with olives, and slices of green pepper, zucchini, and eggplant.
While it looked rather average, the starter was reasonably tasty, and that tomato sauce easily blended in with everything else on the plate. The bread on the other hand, was soft, warm, and not overly microwaved. Likewise, the salad was fresh and crispy and had nothing to complain about.
Salad & bread
I asked for a second on my Bloody Mary, which was brought to me without hesitation, and my plate was cleared as soon as I was through with my starter. Next in line, was another trolley that was rolled out to serve Injera.
Injera is a traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean food and it consists of a type of soft bread that is usually eaten with some form of a stew. Today on offer with the Injera were three types of items that included a spicy minced meat stew, full pieces of spiced chicken, and a stew made from beans.
“Sir would you like to have some Injera?”
“What would you like to have with it? Or I can give you a little bit of everything?”
“A little bit of everything is fine”
“Question, how do you I eat this please?”
“With your hand. She will show you”
Tadese was referring to the ID staff that was sitting next to me. That was basically the icebreaker and we quickly got into an Injera lesson after that. I made a total mess all over my tray and both my hands as I tried to eat this meal, whereas my seatmate was neatly using one hand with not a singe drop of food outside of her plate. During our conversation, I explained to her that I was here just for Ethiopian’s 787 and that is why I have been taking pictures of everything. And boy did she smile with relief! At least I wasn’t too weird she must have thought!
Injera –and its accompaniments- many not look like the most appetizing of dishes, but in all honesty it did conform to the usual things I like in food. It was spicy, a tad on the sour side, and infused with some intense flavors. I couldn’t fault its authenticity, but I was quite satisfied with the overall taste. Similarly, I noticed that almost all the foreign passengers on board also took an interest to it, as we all opted for the Injera course.
My messy plate was cleared once I was through, and just when I thought that Injera was the main meal course, it wasn’t as the crew was offering a choice between the chicken or fish.
Randomly however, a new crew –presumably the hidden galley operator- appeared by my seat to offer my seatmate and I the fish.
“Who ordered fish?”
Shortly afterwards, Tigist returned to explain that they only had fish available, but then changed her mind quickly.
“Mr. Hawi, would you like the fish for main course?”
“Is there a choice?”
“I am sorry but we are out of … well yes I also have beef. Do you want?”
I am not sure where this mystery beef dish came from, but at least the crew was nice enough to offer me something even when the main course options had run out.
This course seemed like it was beef stroganoff served with rice. Sauce-wise it may have been too dry for a stroganoff, but taste-wise it was exactly the same. The beef was tender but a tad on the fatty side, and the rice was too oily. But overall, the dish was quite tasty and since I had been craving some beef Stroganoff lately, it was duly enjoyed.
To conclude the service, a final trolley was rolled out for the dessert, cheese, and coffee/tea. I had it in mind to have both the cheese followed by the cake for dessert, but I was strangely not offered any dessert even though they hadn’t run out of it.
“Can I get you some cheese?”
“Any coffee or tea?”
The plate consisted of a selection of cheese –including Halloumi, which was unique- served with crackers and prunes. I am big on cheese, so there definitely was no complaint here.
After lunch, the cabin lights were slightly dimmed so everyone could zone out into their private moods. By then, things turned rather neutral and non-eventful.
Cabin after the meal service
I was feeling quite sleepy by then, but I thought to give the IFE a quick browse before passing out. As always, my specialty is definitely not IFE but from what I could see, options were rather limited. However, it is full AVOD, and navigating through the interface was quick and easy. And since neither Family Guy nor King of Queens weren’t on offer here, my interest definitely hopped over elsewhere.
This seems to be the standard route map nowadays
Converting my seat into its fully flat position, it was your standard angled flat seat, which never seems to be the most comfortable. However, it was adequate enough for a few hours of sleep, though I wouldn’t imagine it being too comfortable on a Washington via Rome flight.
I also blackened out my window with a touch of a button, and I was surprised to notice that the light from outside was completely blocked off.
In bed with Ethiopian! Finally!
During my sleep, a second service was conducted which wasn’t much apart from coffee/tea and muffins. The crew attempted to wake me up for it, but I declined on the offer and continued on sleeping.
I must have been quite exhausted as I only woke up seconds before the seatbelt sign was switched on for landing. I barely had time to freshen up and quickly visit the Economy Class cabin.
Time to wake up!
Economy Class cabin
Back in Business
Our seats after 6hrs and 45mins
The cabin crew made their final preparations and secured the cabin, before taking their seats for landing.
Cabin lights dimmed again
At 5:30pm, we touched down at Frankfurt Airport bringing this flight to a complete end. It was all nice and quiet during landing, until the reverse-thrust was applied. That’s when this 787 became as noisy as any 777.
At the gate, the seatbelt sign was switched off, and we all gathered our belongings as we prepared to deplane. I thanked the crew for their efforts on this flight, and proceeded to quickly find my Emirates flight back to Dubai.
C O N C L U S I O N
I had a very enjoyable experience on Ethiopian Airlines, and I think they have come a long way to be a very special and leading carrier in Africa. It is definitely an achievement to form an integral part of Star Alliance, and no doubt Ethiopian shines its way through in that area.
In terms of the overall experience, Ethiopian Airlines proved to be a very professional carrier. Apart from the slightly messy handling of the delay in Addis, the ground agents –especially those at the lounges- were very helpful. However, the poor lounge facilities were a bit of a setback, as an airline like Ethiopian could definitely do much better than what is currently on offer.
The inflight experience was equally as good, but there still is no excuse to miss out on important things such as menus and lavatory amenities in premium cabins. Some of the most seasoned travelers strictly fly premium, and they take small things like this very seriously. As for the cabin crew, they were extremely courteous and professional, and they ensured all passenger needs were attended at all times. The overall service may however require some polishing, as I couldn’t quite understand why we were all addressed by names at very random sequences. Either you do it or you don’t. The same applies for handling the availability of meal choices but that would have been less messy had menus been available.
As for the Dreamliner, it is a beautiful aircraft that I can see will be very successful in its life cycle. It offers the most modern comfort levels never before sen on other aircraft, and I definitely appreciated its spacious feel and fierce mood lighting. But maybe it was because the aircraft was factory-fresh that it did seem a little too sterile, and resembling a feeling similar to that of being at a hospital of some sort.
As for Ethiopian, they have always been a very special airline to me, and I am glad I finally got to fly them. Given the chance again, I will not hesitate to be on board another Ethiopian Airlines flight in the future.
This concludes my Trip Report. I hope that you have enjoyed it; your comments are always welcome!
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[Edited 2013-01-04 09:12:05]
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