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By Hein Kaiser


Fly like a king on Ethiopian Airlines

It’s all good on this African carrier.

The journey is as important as the destination, because on a long-haul flight time spent on board can exhaust, depress or annoy the living bejesus out of any traveller. Work or play, cabin service and room to move is what it’s all about. Airlines often forget that they’re not doing you a favour by flying you from A to B.

Paying customers keep aircraft in the sky. Ethiopian Airlines is a carrier that’s cognisant of all of this. From its East African hub, the carrier services most major global destinations and connecting from South Africa via Addis Ababa, can sometimes be far easier than a Middle East mission and in many instances far more affordable than a direct journey. A big plus, all round, is access to Ethiopian coffee both served on board and available at the airport during transfer layovers.

TRAVEL MADE DELIGHTFUL. Departure gates at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Picture: iStock and supplied
TRAVEL MADE DELIGHTFUL. Departure gates at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Picture: iStock and supplied

Ethiopian operates a young fleet of Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s, aircraft that have taken the pain of long-haul into account, and inside the cabin the airline did not discount this. Economy or business class, it feels more like flying with family when boarding than the droll welcomes that some other airlines offer. Crew welcomes flyers warmly and take the time to direct everyone to their seats, with a smile. It might be a small token, but it sets the tone for the rest of the flight. Business Class on Ethiopian is awesome.

Picture: iStock and supplied
Picture: iStock and supplied

Exquisite in-flight experience and culinary delights

Firstly, it is more affordable than many of the airline’s competitors and secondly, the cabin is spacious and the removal of the centre bulkhead makes for a dramatic feeling of space. The seats, configured in two’s, are comfortable, lie flat and the duvet is snug.

All the service standards – the hot facecloth, the orange juice and champagne before departure, large screens and amenity kits – are there.

The real set-apart is the service, the food and the overall feeling of quality, a lot of bang for your buck. Outbound from Johannesburg the business class menu offers a sound variety of meals and the fillet steak is a winner. The wine list is more than adequate. Try the Rift Valley Ethiopian estate, it’s grown in an ancient volcanic area of the country.

On the nose it has a slight volcanic taste, if there is such a thing, but it’s got a softened, sharper edge without curling the taste buds. A real treat and vastly different to the reds that we are used to.

Flying to Johannesburg from Addis Ababa in business class offers the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Ethiopian meal, served with Tef flatbread and a delicious selection of vegetarian and meaty dishes. The inflight entertainment is solid, a selection of blockbusters and classics as well as a collection of short films produced across the continent.

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Picture: iStock and supplied
Picture: iStock and supplied

Consistent excellence across economy and business classes

These are all available in business and economy. And if you’re not seated in the nose of the aircraft, economy is an affordable way to travel on Ethiopian Airlines. The seats are comfortable, the legroom reasonable and the service equal to in business. The crew really understand what it means to woo customers, and to retain them. Before flying, download the Ethiopian app. It’s super user friendly and allows for upgrading your seat up to two hours before departure.

This includes bidding for business class seats or, if the flight is not jam packed, to block off the seat next to you or dibs an entire row in economy for a few dollars more. And it’s worth it. There’s nothing quite like a three seat bed. Meals in economy are not bad, either.

And in both classes, the crew clear the cabin quickly. Flying on Ethiopian Airlines is really a solid, enjoyable experience upfront and in coach. And every passenger is treated with care and respect. I have now done six flights on the carrier, and the experience has been consistent on every flight. And I saved some good money along the way, too.

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