JONAS
Jonas Rask Eilersen
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class
Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787-800, Dublin International Airport - Los Angeles International Airport, Cloud 9 (Business Class)
31st January 2017

Ethiopian Airlines, an airline rapidly expanding its route network from its home hub of Addis Ababa, routes its thrice-weekly Addis – Los Angeles flight via Dublin.

Enjoying so-called Fifth Freedom rights, Ethiopian is able to carry passengers originating in Dublin to Los Angeles (and back…).

Read on for our honest review of Ethiopian’s Cloud 9 Business Class.

Check In
I arrived some 1 hour and 45 minutes before departure. Having recently missed a transatlantic flight due to being late, I wasn't about to get stuck at Dublin and so arrived with plenty of time to spare (I usually wing it and am at check in just over an hour before any intercontinental flight).

Check in commences three hours before departure, at the unholy hour of 3 in the morning - and I was very tired as I approached the dedicated Cloud 9 counter in Row 3 (Terminal 1).

The chirpy check in agent quickly issued my boarding pass and tagged my suitcase to LAX. I was offered fast track access through security, as well as furnished with a lounge pass. Full marks.
The Lounge
The contracted lounge used by Ethiopian, as well as virtually any other airline operating from Terminal 1, is the airport company's own lounge.

It only opens at 0445 - and so for Ethiopian's flight, which departs at 0555, you risk having to wait around without lounge access for quite some time. I waited outside the door until a very friendly lady opened and welcomed me inside, at 0445 on the dot.

The lounge is a vast (and not particularly stylish) space with a pretty poor selection of food and drink; I wasn't too hungry so I just made myself an espresso and sat down with my laptop. Other food and beverage options included rice crackers, cornflakes and juices.

Seating was ample, but not very conducive for working (there is a small "business centre corner", mind).

The space was clean.

There are no restrooms in the lounge.
Boarding
At a few minutes past 5 I noticed a "Go to Gate" message flickering on the screens and made my way to gate 304 (a few minutes' walk) around 0520. Once there, the lounge personnel advised that it'd be another 20-25 minutes until boarding.

At 0555 we were called to board; there was no line, and it was an easy walk from the gate area to the plane, through an air bridge.

The cabin attendant greeting me at the door seemed very disinterested, but managed to send me on my way to the right aisle (to the left after entering the aircraft).
The Cabin, Seat and Service
The 787s are the backbone of Ethiopian's long haul fleet. Most of them are only a couple of years old, but this particular aircraft seemed quite battered and a deep-clean wouldn't go amiss.

Still, the bells and whistles all 787 enjoy do make a difference, and on this 787 it was no different; with the LED lights on, the cabin seemed very spacious and neat.

It's one of the most striking cabins in the air (the 24 seats are upholstered in bright red). The red seats with yellow blankets waiting on them, and the pink-hued LED lights in flickering throughout the cabin, all made for a quite colourful experience.

24 seats is quite a high number for a 787 business class cabin; and it comes as no surprise that, while the cabin seems very spacious (probably because there is no baggage stowage above the middle seats), that the high number of seats comes at the expense of seat comfort.

Surprisingly for a quite new product, the seats only recline to a 160-degree angle. My seat, window 3L (with the seat next to me free), was comfortable, but the lack of a fully flat seat was disappointing.

Cleanliness of the seat and surfaces was just about alright. Lavatories were also kept acceptably clean and well-stocked throughout the flight.

The bright yellow amenity kit had the necessities, including a pen, dental kit, lip balm and socks.

The service varied from disinterested over slightly helpless to genuinely friendly. On four separate occasions, the flight attendant gave me either a wrong meal, course or drink. She apologised each time - but...come on...
Food and Drink
I was not furnished with a menu (I do believe other passengers had received their menus on departure from Addis) and so had no idea what to expect, nor when.

I was not impressed with the food and drink onboard; while I did get myself a pretty nice glass of Champagne (I don't know which one it was...), the hot breakfast, which was served within 45 minutes of departure, was disappointing and quite greasy (omelet with sausage).

I also did not love the lunch served some 2h30m prior to arrival; the salad had been frozen and was inedible, and while the first course of beef was nice enough, the main (also beef...) was less exciting. I do appreciate the fact that Ethiopian serves injera (with various fillings, offered from the cart) in between the starter and the main. However, it does not look particularly appetising and more akin to a school canteen than to a "flying restaurant"....

It's also worth noting that there was nothing in the way of snacks in-between meals - I asked for something to eat, and the cabin attendants had to "steal" the cheese course from the lunch and provide that as a mid-flight snack (and it wasn't a great one either).
Inflight Entertainment
Each seat has a fairly large, and good quality, monitor for IFE - and the system is easy to use. The headphones are of an acceptable quality (not noise cancelling).

I was not very impressed with the selection of movies or TV shows. In fact, there was not a single one I wanted to watch (which is a first for me). In the end, I watched an Australian drama, The Dressmaker (which I enjoyed!)
Arrival
We arrived bang on time, at 0830, in Los Angeles. It was a 10-minute taxi to the airbridge. There was, thankfully, priority disembarkation for Cloud 9 passengers - a real boon as you get a head start in the race to immigration.
Verdict
Pricing is very keen and the timings are good for Dublin-based travellers - the ability to leave in the morning and have a full day in LA on arrival is quite fantastic, and it's without comparison the earliest flight from Europe to the US West Coast.

The inflight service was not nearly as good as I've experienced before on Ethiopian, and it is disappointing that the 787s have seats with only 160 degrees recline (unlike the carrier's 777s which have flatbeds).

Still, I'd happily travel on Ethiopian again - and hope the service hiccups and poor food and beverage experience won't be repeated.