Ethiopian Airlines’ Fifth Freedom service from Dublin to Los Angeles featured an outdated seat in business class, but genuinely friendly service and a great meal.
Ethiopian Airlines runs a bustling operation in Dublin, Ireland. Flights to Washington, New York, and Toronto all make technical stops in DUB. But Ethiopian only has pickup rights in Dublin for its Los Angeles flight.
I checked in about two hours prior to departure at the Ethiopian Airlines counter in Terminal 1. Actually, I had already checked in online earlier, but still needed a boarding pass:
A family of four (including baby) was in front of me and something appeared wrong with their ticket, for it took a good 15 minutes before an agent working the economy class line noticed I was still standing and signaled for me to come over.
Ethiopian Airlines DOES NOT participate in U.S. PreClearance in Dublin. The flight is direct from Addis Ababa to Dublin to Los Angeles and passengers who began the journey in Addis are not required to exit the aircraft in Dublin. In fact, I was one of only three business class passengers who boarded in Dublin. The others were already onboard.
> Read More: Transit and U.S. Preclearance in Dublin Airport
After visiting the lounge, I lined up to board in a dark, fluorescently-lit gate area.
> Read More: Dublin Airport Executive Lounge Review
Dublin (DUB) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Tuesday, September 05
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 4A (Business Class)
Onboard, I noted my usual cabin shots would be impossible due to the passengers already onboard. I was dismayed to see the old business class seats that are not lie-flat.
Ethiopian Airlines 787-8 Business Class Seat
The cabin is arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration. Seats are not even angle lie-flat, though they approach that. Thankfully, the cabin was only about half full and the seat next to me stayed open.
The foot cutout did not feel claustrophobic, but then again that never seems to be a problem for me.
The seat included three storage compartments: one for headphones or smaller items, the other for shoes. Below the center console is a third that contains literature.
Seat controls include adjustable back support and recline. Like a calculator, you can use the M+ to store your favorite position and then MR to recall that position. Below the armrest is an IFE controller, emPower outlet, and USB port.
As you can see below, in fully-reclined mode the bed approaches a lie-flat seat sloping downward, but doesn’t quite get there.
Bedding is a disappointment: they pillow is okay, though I’d prefer something plusher. The blanket, however, is both too small and too scratchy.
Ironically, however, I slept like a baby most of the flight. I had arrived late in Dublin the previous night and since the Ethiopian flight was so early and lacked wi-fi, used the 5.5 hour layover to work instead of trying to find a hotel and wake up feeling behind the eight ball.
Note that seat 4L is reserved for pilot rest:
Ethiopian Airlines 787-8 Business Class Dining
A choice of champagne, orange juice, or water was offered prior to takeoff. I chose orange juice, which tasted very fresh.
I was also offered a bottle of water:
Menus were offered to each of the passengers who had just boarded in Dublin:
Service began after takeoff with a thin warm towel.
Oddly, the first meal service included only a single small plate with three beef circle sandwiches. They were served ice cold and were an extremely disappointing meal. The menu indicated chicken, but it was beef…or something like that.
Passengers who were on the Addis Ababa to Dublin sector had been served a hot breakfast prior to landing…but what about the Dublin passengers? I certainly had not had time for a full breakfast and would have appreciated one. It was an odd dish…
But then about two hours before landing a second meal service began that more than made up for the paltry first meal in terms of quantity. First, kudos to Ethiopian for not using trays in business class. I loved how FAs carefully set the table.
The appetizer course included “steamed green with slow-cooked chicken breast” (once again, it didn’t taste like chicken…or beef) and a green rice salad, which seems to be a very Ethiopian salad. Bread was unremarkable.
Next came the Ethiopian course, which included:
- Doro Wot (spicy chicken stew)
- Yebeg Alcha (numeric mutton stew)
- Gomen (kale)
- Tibs Firfir (ingera mix with beef stew)
This course was absolutely delicious…very, very tasty with a unique flavor and just the right amount of spice (for me, anyway). It was very spicy.
A Second Meal
I was now satisfied and ready for dessert, but the meal was not over yet. Next came the western food. My choice was Provencal chicken with au gratin potatoes and asparagus. This dish was also quite full, though I was seriously stuffed while eating it.
Finally, dessert. I began with a small cheese course, followed by traditional Ethiopian coffee creme Teff cake, which was exceptional. I also ordered a cappuccino, but it was unfortunately powdered.
But while the cappuccino was disappointing, I enjoyed the rich and distinct taste of Ethiopian coffee with a chocolate truffle.
Ethiopian Airlines 787-8 Business Class Service
Bethlehem was the star of the flight. She provided genuinely friendly, caring service and either clearly loved her job or was the best actress I’ve ever seen.
She addressed me by name. When it came to eat the Ethiopian food, she playfully forbid me from using a fork and knife, instructing to use my hands.
By the way, I know that is the way Ethiopians eat…but I just could not bring myself to do that. I try to ascribe to a “when in Rome” philosophy, but one thing I’m particularly obsessive about is smelly hands (especially since I’m on a laptop or phone all day). The food, while delicious, was extremely pungent and sometimes oily. That smell would have been ingrained into my hands for days…
Meanwhile, the purser used the flight to sleep:
Like Muhammed on Saudia, he was not nasty at all. He greeted me when I boarded and smiled. But as soon as the flight began, he relaxed. Now perhaps he could have done work while I was sleeping…I suppose that is possible…but he was enjoying his business class seat when I went to bed and again when I woke up.
Ethiopian Airlines 787-8 Business Class IFE
IFE selection was weak, including about two dozen Hollywood films and a handful of films from around the word. TV shows, games, and a decent audio collection were also included. Noise-cannceling headphones (poor quality) were available at every seat.
I finished one move called Far from the Madding Crowd that I had begun on another flight. Prior to landing I started a German movie called Mein Blind Date mit dem Leben which I was unable to finish.
Unfortunately, Ethiopian does not presently offer wi-fi on its flights.
Ethiopian Airlines 787-8 Business Class Amenity Kit
A lime green amenity kit was waiting at my seat upon boarding. It included a hook that made the bag more practical than most. Contents included earplugs, a pen, toothbrush + toothpaste, a comb, socks, eyeshade, and toothpick.
Ethiopian Airlines 787-8 Business Class Lavatory
Ethiopian features a standard 787 lavatory. Extra amenities included moist towelettes. Like many carriers in Africa, the lavatory contained no paper towels…only tissues.
My first flight on Ethiopian Airlines was mixed. The business class seat is objectively below average, yet I managed to sleep for most of the flight. Meanwhile, the service from Bethlehem could not have been more genuine. While the first meal was a big disappointment, the second meal was more food than I’ve ever received from a single business class meal.
Award space is often available on this Fifth Freedom flight in both economy and business class in both directions. With nonstop flights between Europe and Los Angeles often in short supply, this is still an attractive option versus a long layover or East Coast connection.
I was happy to have experienced Ethiopian Airlines for the first time, but looked forward to my next longhaul journey in order check if service was consistently this good.