Ethiopian Airlines A350

Introduction

Flying to and from Africa provides limited options compared to other locations.  On my recent trip to East Africa from Europe, I decided to book a business class award redemption on Ethiopian Airlines because most of their fleet consists of modern airplanes such as the 787 and A350.  While their planes are brand new, their airport hub in Addis Ababa is sub standard and IT systems have serious issues.  However, with American Airlines restricting award redemptions transiting the Middle East between Europe and Africa, and with Lufthansa charging high fees, Ethiopian Airlines was the best option.

Zanizbar Airport

Booking

For going from Africa to Europe, I chose to use Singapore Airlines miles because the redemption rate was 45,000 miles versus 55,000 miles on United for business class.  I first searched award availability on united.com since it is faster to search for Star Alliance awards than on singaporeair.com.  I also prefer to use Singapore Airlines miles because they are much easier to come by than United miles.

Booking award redemption tickets on Ethiopian Airlines using Singapore Airlines miles is now bookable online and phoning in the reservation is no longer required.

Lounge(4/5)

The business class lounge at Zanzibar International Airport was sufficient considering the airport was small.  There were enough snacks and drinks to hold us over and it was quiet.

Zanzibar Business Class Lounge

This ginger soda tastes link a bunch of ginger and soda. Try it if you are in East Africa.

Boarding (4/5)

While not the most organized, at least business class passengers were loaded into a van first and then driven to the airplane.  I always dread being crammed into a bus and then driving to the airplane, but thankfully plane was nearby the gate.

Zanzibar Airport Boarding Gate

Flight

Ethiopian Airlines 814
Zanzibar(ZNZ) to Arusha (JRO) to Addis Ababa(ADD)
Cabin: Business
Seat: 4J and 4K
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900

The flight from Zanzibar to Frankfurt made two stops, Kilimanjaro International Airport and Addis Ababa International Airport.  The stop in Kilimanjaro was fast and only picked up additional passengers with no one disembarking.

The A350 aircraft is my favorite due to the very low noise level of the engines and having the best cabin pressure of any plane.

Even though we had to make a stop in Kilimanjaro, it provided the amazing experience of flying around the largest mountain in Africa with incredible views.  Totally worth the extra stop.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Seats on A350

Very detailed flight map

Taking off from Zanzibar

The windows on the A350 are incredibly large and provide an excellent viewing experience.  On most planes I need to press my forehead against the window to take in the views.  On this plane I can just turn my head and look out without straining myself.  This has the added bonus of others not requiring to smear their forehead grease all over the window to view the outside landscapes.

Flyby of Mount Kilimanjaro!

The flight path around Kilimanjaro was epic!

Tanzania Landscape

Service(5/5)

Service aboard the plane was prompt, attentive, and friendly.  They provided preflight drinks, hot towels, and the bathrooms were clean.  On land at the airports, service is a whole other story.

Pre-Flight Drinks

Hot Towel

Plane Atmosphere (5/5)

The plane atmosphere was incredible with its high ceilings, decor, and large windows.  The air pressure and humidity enhancements on the A350 were a noticeable improvement.  I did not get the usual dry eyes and headache on this flight which was appreciated.  The noise level was so low I didn’t even bother wearing my noise cancelling headphones.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Cabin on A350

Seat Comfort (5/5)

While not the largest business class seat and set in a 2-2-2 configuration, I found the seat confirmable in the seated and sleeping positions.  There was plenty of leg room and storage space along with a very large HD LCD screen.  The foot rest was a bit narrow but that is to be expected in this configuration.

Head Rest

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Seats

Plenty of legroom

Seat Controls

TV Controls are on a retractable touch screen

Reading lamp

USB power port and headphone jack

Universal power port

Food (4/5)

The food was above average and incorporated local flavors and dishes.  Nothing fancy but still delicious and satisfying.

Snack and drink before main course

Main Course

Ethiopian Coffee is very good. I suggest picking up a large bag of coffee beans at the airport


Conclusion

In conclusion, flying aboard the A350 is always a treat due to all the built in comforts such as enhanced cabin pressurization.  Ethiopian Airlines has a young fleet of modern airplanes with good inflight service, seats, and food.  However, their transit hub in Addis Ababa and IT systems have issues.  Having said that, I will still choose Ethiopian Airlines for my travels to Africa using flyer miles.  For paid flights, i’ll just use Lufthansa to avoid any potential delays or missed connections.

Mount Kilamanjaro