Boeing 787 Dreamliner
/bohyin sev-uh n eyt sev-uh dreemlahy-ner /
The plane that takes you places with comfort and style, without drying out your face.
Part of the journey is getting there. Be it land, sea or air, the buildup of excitement to a holiday is real.
That’s probably why since I was a kid, I’ve love cars, trains, boats, and airplanes. These modes of transportation connected me with new people, new places and unforgettable experiences.
This time, Ethiopian Airlines and Air Kenya took us to our first safari.
Our routing: Hong Kong (HKG) – Addis Ababa (ADD) – NBO (Nairobi) – Masai Mara
HKG – ADD – NBO
This was my first time flying Ethiopian Airlines (ET) so I didn’t know what to expect. They are a 3-star airline (think American and Chinese airlines like Hawaiian, Delta, American, Air China, China Eastern etc.) but I figured Business Class can’t be too bad. Keep an eye out on their website for special deals in business class, which seem to be a regular occurrence.
HKG: ET uses Hong Kong Airlines’ lounge in HKG (no showers, limited space, dark and limited food and drink options). This was definitely not as good as the Star Alliance lounges available at HKG – SilverKris (Singapore Airlines), Royal Orchid (Thai Airways) or even the United Club (United Airlines). Nonetheless, I found a good bowl of wonton noodles in the HX lounge and waited patiently for my red eye flight
ADD: Cloud Nine was ET’s hub lounge so it’s probably as good as it gets. We are welcomed by a traditional Ethiopian coffee station that had a few guests enjoying their beverage. I had to rush to the business center to print out my Kenya visa – hardware was very old school but hey, at least there was a printer for me to use. Food corner was alright, similar to what is available on the flight so not too much to say there.
NBO: ET uses Kenya Airway’s Simba Lounge in Nairobi. This was a terrible lounge… small, very limited food and drink, tired fixtures and fittings … an unfortunate experience overall
We flew a beautiful and new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner between HKG and ADD. With a 2-2-2 business configuration and lie flat seats, I was a happy camper. I learned this after the fact but Ethiopian has 19 Boeing 787s and the youngest fleet in Africa. All good news for your chances of getting a new, modern aircraft if you choose to travel them.
The cabin used vibrant colours matching the Ethiopian flag (red, yellow and green) and the music was refreshing. The amenity kits also come in bright red and bright yellow but the quality of the items was average at best.
ADD to NBO and back was on a Boeing 737. A much older aircraft than the Dreamliner, but sufficient for this short haul sector.
The crew was friendly, and service was prompt. Nothing more, nothing less. No address by name on HKG-ADD sector, but it did happen on the ADD-NBO leg. One interesting interlude: on the flight back, the flight attendant strongly recommended injera (Ethiopian flatbread) since I told her I didn’t try any during my transit in Addis Ababa. So I tried and she made sure to check on me half way through the meal to see if I liked it. That was an appreciated gesture.
The meal was not amazing compared to other airlines (think Qatar (QR) or Air New Zealand (NZ)) but I have no complaints either. Food was served out of a cart, so for some, it’s probably not the most personable service. Wine selection can definitely improve since all that was available was Ethiopian wine (authentic but not everyone’s cup of tea (or wine), but otherwise, it was okay. As mentioned before, you do get the chance to try some Ethiopian dishes and they also have Ethiopian coffee, which is strong and refreshing. Just what you need before arriving on a long haul flight.
All of this left me pleasantly surprised. For the relatively cheap price (think 5-star airline’s economy airfare price of long haul) of Business Class, EH is definitely worth a try if you are heading to Ethiopia or surrounding countries. EH has excellent connections to all parts of Africa and recently launched a new service to GRU (Sao Paulo)
Top tip: If flying solo in business on the Dreamliner, take D or H (middle) seats and avoid row 1 (noise from the galley). Seats A/C and J/L, will mean either climbing over someone or someone climbing over you!
Try the Ethiopian flatbread injera while you are at it
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