I couldn't get any good shots of my 777-200LR in Seattle or Dubai, so I am using this photo of another Emirates Boeing 777-300ER that I took from my aircraft.
EMIRATES AIRLINE REVIEW BASICS:
Airline: Emirates Airline
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200LR
Departed: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Arrived: Dubai International Airport (DXB)
tops: Non-stop flight Class: Business Class
Seat: 8D to DXB (center, aisle, bulkhead) and 11A to SEA (window)
Length: About 14 hours
Cheers: Great combination of service and product.
Jeers: If you have wide shoulders, avoid the center seat — even in business class.
Overall: Emirates makes a 14 hour flight easy.
With the wood paneling, the Business Class really has a warm atmosphere. Notice the real flowers on the bulkhead.
THE FULL EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW:
On March 1st, Emirates started flying from Seattle to Dubai non-stop. I was invited to try out Emirates Business Class product on one of their recent flights (the airline covered the costs of the flight). This review will be a mixture of both my flight to and from Dubai — although I slept most of the way home.
The benefits of sitting in a premium cabin starts well before you get to the gate, but only once you arrive to the airport. With Emirates, the benefits of flying in Business Class starts at home. If you fly in either Business or First class you have access to a free chauffeured car within 60 miles of your arriving or departing airport. Unfortunately I did not do my homework before leaving and did not find out about that service until I was in Dubai (thanks Ben for the ride to the airport by the way).
However, I was able to make use of the service when coming home and it is always great having someone greeting you with your name on a sign that escorts you right to your front door in a Town Car. Having a Business Class ticket normally gives you access to a lounge at the airport and flying Emirates out of Seattle is no different. Passengers who have either first or business class tickets are able to use the new Club International lounge before their flight.
Emirate's Business Class seats offer quite a bit of room and one ginormous remote.
Since I stayed in the lounge for a while, my flight was almost fully loaded by the time I arrived at the gate and I was able to just walk on the plane. I messed up and forgot to check myself in online (I know, what kind of airline reporter am I?), so I ended up in a middle seat: 8E. Emirates has their 777-200LR configured in a 2-3-2 layout in business.
Even though the seats are larger, I was not looking forward to being in the center for 14 hours, but at least I wasn’t in economy. When I found my seat and sat down, I became a little worried — my shoulders touched both sides of the hard plastic walls — not good. Luckily for me the lovely (and smaller) Harriet Baskas, who was in my media travel group, had the aisle seat next to me and offered to swap. I gladly took her up on her offer and never had any problems with the seat width with the open aisle.
I think I would have managed just fine in the center seat, but if you have wider shoulders, I would surely advice checking in earlier to claim a non-center seat.
If you like technology and gadgets, you will love Emirates ice entertainment system. Each seat in first and business gets this large, removable remote.
Emirates entertainment system, called ice, was amazing, but a bit overwhelming. First off, you have three options on how to control the system: touching the screen, using the removable touch screen remote or use the smaller wired remote. When sitting in a bulkhead seat, even at 6’1″, I was unable to touch the screen. When I flew back to Seattle I was not at the bulkhead and was able to touch, but it wasn’t easy and I would imagine near impossible if you measuring in at less than 5’10”.
I am normally not very slow when it comes to technology or in-flight entertainment systems, but it seemed like I could only do some things with one remote and I had to do other things with the smaller one. I am sure I just wasn’t able to figure it out, but if I had trouble, I am sure most other people did too. It is worth trying to get past the control issues, because once you do, there are many options — 1200 to be exact.
Emirates, by far, has the largest selection of movies and entertainment I have experienced. After flying a total of 27 hours to Dubai and back, I still had not explored everything it had to offer. For a frequent flier on the airline, this would be a huge perk. No matter what class you are flying in, you get access to the same ice entertainment system (just not the fancy large remote if you are in economy).
Emirates configures their Boeing 777s with a 2-3-2 layout in Business Class. Notice how the windows have buttons to move the shades.
One on my favorite things, on systems that offer it, are the outside cameras you can access on your screen. The Emirates 777 has one facing forward and once facing straight down. Being in the center section during take off, it was handy watching the aircraft take off via the cameras. We took off to the north and just kept going — almost in a straight line over the north pole and back down to Dubai. Because of this, it never got dark outside.
Passengers also have the option to make a phone call at $5 per minute or send text messages for $1 per message. Every time I tried to access the service, it said it was unavailable, which was okay by me. I was planning on trying it out for the story, but was not motivated to ask one of the flight attendants, since I did not mind saving my money. Although Emirates does have Wi-Fi up and running on all their Airbus A380s, they do not have it on the rest of their main fleet (777, A330, A340) — yet.
When the lights go down, the stars come up. Emirates offers a special StarLight feature providing a great sleeping atmosphere.
The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is touted as being unique for its ambient lighting and electronic sunshades. The Emirates product in business and in first is almost as close as you can get to the 787 interior.
First, they have the ambient lighting; going from a soft white/yellow to pinks to purple for the different light cycles. Then you have the windows up front that do not have manual shades, but two buttons that make the shades go up and down. The flight attendants have the ability to to put up or down all the shades, similar to the 787.
What Emirate’s 777 has that no 787 has (yet) are the stars that come out on the ceiling. Called StarLight, this amazing feature is unique to Emirates and really sets the mood. It is hard to describe, laying flat on a bed at 35,000 feet, opening your eyes and seeing stars.
It is too bad that Emirates doesn’t have any 787’s on order; it would be amazing what they could (and probably would) do with that cabin.
Steak, potatoes I cannot pronounce and red wine at 30,000 feet? Yea, I can handle that.
After settling in, it was time for meal service. My dinner started with a traditional mezze platter with hummus, smoky moutabal, muhammara, vine leaves and a spinach fatayer. Yea, I don’t know what half of that means either, but I can tell you that it was great. Then I was served roasted tomato and thyme soup and salad, followed by the main course of beef fillet with shallots and dauphionouse style potatoes. I decided to skip the dessert option and have a bit more red wine — nice call.
Economy class still provides large screens, amenities and food. Eh, I will stick to Business Class.
I feel very lucky that I get these opportunities to fly in the front of the plane on long flights, but there is no doubt that I have put my time in economy. During the ride over to Dubai, I made an effort to make a lap around the plane and check out economy. During my tour, most people were sleeping and there were so many feet, arms, shoulders, etc out in the aisle — it was a challenge to get through without bumping into people.
With the 3-4-3 layout in economy, it is a bit tight, but doable with the large screens and same ice entertainment system. That being said, I was happy to return to the business class cabin.
Business Class is nice, but First Class is better. Each seat is like its own cubicle, with closing doors.
When I complete flight reviews, I try to stay anonymous as long as I can. Typically a flight attendant will start asking questions (not suspiciously, but out of curiosity) when I am taking photos of my remote, food, etc. One of the benefits of being known as media is getting access to the aircraft that others might not.
On the flight back to Seattle, I was given the opportunity to spend some time up in First Class. Luckily for me, there were no passengers in the front cabin, which gave me time to check it out and talk to the flight crew. There are four crew members assigned to first class, including the pursuer. They normally work in shifts of two, but when there are no passengers in first, they are able to enjoy a relaxing flight and also will help the rest of the cabin crew, if needed.
Where business felt so much better than economy, similarly first class felt so much better than business. There are only eight first class suites, where each has a large seat, own mini-bar, large tv screen, similar controls to business class and doors that can be closed to give ultimate privacy.
Taking off from Dubai I could see the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in the background.
One indicator on how good a product is on an airline is how well I am able to sleep. The fact that I slept five hours to Dubai and about 10 hours back to Seattle is a positive sign for sure. Another indicator is how happy I am that I was able to sleep so much. In this case, I was upset that I slept so much and wasn’t able to enjoy my experience a bit better. Emirates has lived up to its reputation for providing a fabulous flying experience.
Next is to try and test out their newer business product on the Airbus A380 — stay tuned.
See all 52 photos from my Emirates Airline flight
MORE STORIES ON MY DUBAI TRIP:
* Photo Tour of Emirates Airline Crew Training in Dubai
* Airline Lounge Review: Club International at Sea-Tac Airport
A Boeing 777-200LR takes off from Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation
Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, who works for the site NYCAviation.com, had the opportunity to fly on an Ethiopian Airlines business class flight on a Boeing 777 and 767. I thought the story was great and am able to share it with my readers. Here is his story in his own words:
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA: This is the second of a three part series on the airline, with this segment focusing on their business class service named Cloud Nine. NYCAviation (NYCA) had the opportunity to review this service on two international flights: Washington Dulles to Addis Ababa and Addis Ababa to Johannesburg. Ethiopian provided the flights to NYCA at no charge, flying on both legs in September 2011.
Part I Addis to DC
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 501 Service to Addis Ababa from Washington Dulles
Boeing 777’200LR ET’ANR
Dep: 1201/EDT Arr: 0738/EAT
Seat 03H / Cloud Nine Business Class
Stepping onto the curb in a rainy Washington DC, I made my way to the Ethiopian Airlines (ETH) counter, which is tucked in the back off to one side. Check’in was short and sweetabout 15 minutes start to finish. I took advantage of ETH’s two’checked’bags policy and left one bag in their care. At the ticket counter I had been assigned seat 20B, but at the gate I was upgraded to seat 03H in Cloud Nine.
Boarding was a breeze. Cloud Nine passengers, members of ShebaMiles and other preferred’status folks boarded first. I was the third person to walk onto the large, new Boeing 777’200LR (ET’ANR). Ethiopian’s business class on the B772 (the airline has no first class) is configured as 2’3’2, with 03H in the middle section on the aisle. As the passengers settled in before we departed on this 12+’hour flight, drinks ranging from juice to liquor and copies of Le Monde and The Washington Post were offered.
Cloud Nine Seat on the 777. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.
Dulles was unusually slow that day, which allowed a nearly on’time departure (about 10 minutes late) from Runway 33. A Saudi Arabian Airbus A340’300 and the ever’elusive Boeing 747SP on the remote ramp enhanced the view as the 777’s wonderfully massive GE’90 engines spooled up. We climbed out over the Washington Metro area and headed northeast.
Following an hour long power nap just after departure, I awoke to the sounds of drinks being served. A selection of juice, soda and top’shelf liquor was offered along with salted airplane shaped crackers. Lunch service followed shortly thereafter.
The hors d’oeuvres were sweet chili bay scallops, citrus’cured smoked salmon and sliced bresaola (air’dried beef) served with salad and warm bread and butter. The beef was spicy and good. I don’t eat fish or seafood and so passed up the other choices, but they looked excellent. A salad, also provided, was OK.
Little airplane crackers! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.
We were asked to choose an entre: beef, chicken, fish or vegetarian. I opted for the seasoned chicken breast with vegetables in teriyaki sauce and rice with asparagus. The meal was good and satisfyingthe chicken was tender and moist, the vegetables crisp and warm. It came with more bread and butter. After the meal, dessert ’ a slice of coconut cheesecake for me. Service was quick and friendly (perhaps too quick: While no one rushed me through a course, I couldn’t help but feel a bit hurried), and capped off by the traditional coffee service.
Four hours in the sun was already setting. While much of the cabin settled in for the night, I went for the entertainment system. A wide selection of TV and movies in multiple languages are available along with games, flight tracking maps and other options. The touch screen is large; 15.4 inches wide. With the screen nestled into the seat back in front of you it requires a stretch to reach, but the tethered remote takes care of that. The remote itself is a bit less intuitive than I would’ve liked, and at times it was easier to use the touch screen than fiddle with it. The airline provided a bagged set of their own headphones, which got the job done. During the flight I watched a few movies, some TV, and played BlackJack (a shame that it wasn’t with real money).
Tasty lunch service on the Ethiopian flight. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.
Sleep came shortly thereafter and I found myself able to manage about five hours of solid rest. Utilizing a shell based design the Cloud Nine seats are considered angled lie’flat and have a respectable 65 inches of pitch: they even has a massage function to help loosen up the muscles. The other details are pretty standard: a large, fold’out tray tucked into the side of the armrest, adjustable reading light, foot rest and a pillow & blanket set. The only downsides were lack of power outlets and the seat not being terribly private: an adjustable divider between the seats would have been welcome. Ethiopian’s one carry’on policy kept overhead space easily available.
While sleep was welcome and need, unfortunately I slept through the second meal service. According to my menu I missed out on a selection of culinary delights ranging from mini beef meatballs and chicken satay to mini pizza and jalapeno poppers. I trust that they matched the positive experience of the first meal service.
With two’and’a’half hours remaining the final meal service began: breakfast. Again the food was enjoyable and plentiful. There were a few options; I chose the cheese omelet with hash browns, chicken sausage and sauted mushroom with a grilled tomato ’ complimented by a fresh fruit salad and yogurt.
Deboarding in Addis Ababa. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.
As the flight neared arrival a stop to the lavatory to freshen up was in order. A packet of amenities, located in the seat, contained toothpaste and brush, comb, mouthwash, sleeping mask, and a handful of other items. Nothing to write home about, but after a long flight the ability to brush your teeth and comb your hair in the lav is welcome.
We landed early into Bole International Airport at 0738 local time. Taxi was fast and we quickly pulled up to a remote gate complete with air’stairs. Deboarding was quick and efficient as Cloud Nine was let out first, with a minibus exclusively for business class greeting us at the bottom of the steps. Once on the mini’bus we were whisked away to the terminal, which is a bit of a challenge to navigate the first time. Having a very short connection I was directed by staff up an empty boarding gate to get to the arrivals level. The terminal was very busy, but staff were helpful in directing me to my already boarding connection, where another adventure was about to begin.
Part II Addis to Jo’Burg
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 809
Service to Johannesburg from Addis Ababa
Boeing 767’300ER ET’AMQ Dep: 0910/EAT Arr: 1315/SAST
Seat 01D / Cloud Nine
[This flight picks up where the previous flight, Ethiopian 501 from Washington Dulles, leaves off.]
Having arrived safely at Addis’ Bole International, I quickly made my way toward my next flight. By the time I stepped into Terminal Two my connecting flight was already boarding. Lacking a jet bridge, a Cloud Nine dedicated mini’bus drove us out to the remote gates and we met up with our Boeing 767’300ER (ET’AMQ). A quick jaunt up the airstairs (these big jets always sit higher off the ground than I think they do), and I find myself seated in 01D.
Boarding onto the Boeing 767-300ER to Jo'Burg. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.
Much like on the prior flight, the forward cabin staff were up and about serving drinks as passengers settled in for the five or so hour flight. We departed about 20 minutes late with a powerful and aggressive climb out from Bole (the airplane was probably only two’thirds full). The flight path had us tracking over a number of exotic locations through the African interior that, thanks to an aisle seat were largely unseen. About forty minutes into the flight a full drink service was offered along with little airplane shaped crackers, which I complemented with a delightful glass of Irish Cream.
Lunch began very quickly thereafter, and like the prior flight, the food matched expectations for business class. The hors d’oeuvre consisted of smoked salmon garnished with asparagus tips and sun dried tomato, turkey slices with red pepperoni and corn on the cob, and lamb terrine garnished with cherry tomato and dried prune. These were supplemented with a seasonal salad with fresh greens and an olive oil based vinaigrette along with bread and butter.
Ethiopian National Dish: Injera with Wot. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.
We were next served a course featuring the Ethiopian National Dishes. Each course came with a staple of Ethiopian meals known as injera. It is akin to flat bread though with a spongy texture and unusual taste. Atop the roll of injera one had the option of mixing and matching sampler sized portions of various stews (Wot) (though I would liken the consistency more to curry than stew). I chose to go with Doro Wot (spicy stew), Ataklet Wot (mixed vege), and Miser Wot (lentil’based). They were all quite enjoyable and doled out in such large portions that I actually thought this course was the main entree. It was not though, and the actual entree was a choice between beef, chicken, fish, and vegetable. I went with the beef in cumin sauce with basmati rice and sauted carrots along with an Ethiopian beer called St. George. The meal was enjoyable enough but I was already quite full from the previous two courses, and consequently I ended up not finishing it.
A nap was in order after the very filling meal service. Despite its age and appearance, the seat was quite comfortable. It reclines to a respectable 59 inches of pitch, which was enough to lend me a solid one hour nap. I didn’t have anyone seated next to me in the 2’2’2 configured cabin, so privacy wasn’t really an issue’“but had there been someone next to me I can’t say I would’ve been entirely comfortable taking a nap. The seat also features the standard tray in the armrest, audio jack, and is provided with a pillow and blanket. There was ample leg room. It may not be fancy, but it gets the job done. With an hour and a half remaining I caught some of the programming on the projector screen in front of me. The audio, provided by Ethiopian headphones, functioned just fine. The very large screen being only a few feet in front of me became a bit overwhelming to watch, but that was more a matter of location of my seat’“one row back would’ve made a big difference.
Cloud Nine Seat on ET-AMQ 767. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.
A care kit containing basic items like comb, toothpaste & brush was provided toward the end of the flight. It was nice to clean up a bit before landing and feel slightly more refreshed and ready for the day ’“ especially after you’ve been travelling for nearly 35 hours.
Final approach into OR Tambo was a bit rough, but that just made it fun. We touched down on time at 1315. Taxi was fairly quick and we pulled up to a gate flanked by a handful of Boeing 777s. Cloud Nine passengers deplaned first, allowing a quick and easy beeline to customs. With no competition in the customs line the entry process lasted a grand total of ten minutes. Bags, including mine, arrived about fifteen minutes later.
Part III The Bottom Line
We will take up Flight 809, service to Johannesburg, first. This one is a bit hard to judge. Looking at the schedules, the flight is operated by a mixture of aircraft; chiefly the Boeing 767-300ER (B767) and Boeing 757-200 (B757), though the carrier’s 737-700s are capable of performing the route as well. Like many airlines, cabin layouts and features vary within an individual type and Ethiopian is no exception. Consequently, experiences can differ from day to day depending on the plane. As a result, it seems worthwhile to distinguish and judge product and service separately.
In terms of product, flight 809 left a bit to be desired. This is almost entirely a result of the antiquated entertainment system. Most travelers on Ethiopian B767s will have a personal TV with a well stocked range of on-demand entertainment, but a handful will receive the retro-treatment. Charmingly nostalgic though it is for an aviation fan, most customers would likely feel it falls short of a competitive business class product on the international scene. On a five hour flight this is not really the end of the world, but many are used to having personalized entertainment options on these trans’continental flights. The seat appeared to be a bit dated as far as competing products go but was ultimately very comfortable with generous seat pitch.
Equally as important as product is service. In this respect, Ethiopian excelled on the flight. The food was good and plentiful, and those not familiar with Ethiopian fare will have an opportunity to sample something new and exciting. The cabin crew was professional and attentive.
Ethiopian 777-200LR ET-ANN taken at Boeing Field in Seattle. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / NYCAviation.
Taking up Flight 501, Ethiopian Airlines service to Washington Dulles is not new, but it certainly feels as though it is. The introduction of the new B777’200LRs to replace the previously utilized B767’300ERs is a serious upgrade to the route on many levels, the least of which is the inbound leg becoming a true non’stop. Boeing 777’based Cloud Nine class represents a big step up for Ethiopian and a presents a true competitive product on the international market, particularly for an African based carrier. The fresh cabin and modern product does not disappoint. Customers flying this route (or the outbound Flight 500) will find friendly and fast on board service, enjoyable food, a good seat, and quality on-demand entertainment options.
Overall in terms of service, the verdict on Cloud Nine is pretty easy: good. Cabin crews on both flights were attentive, friendly, and professional. Food was plentiful, warm, and good quality. The only inconsistency was not having served the Ethiopian National dishes on flight 501, though the airline points out that serving the meals require traditional preparation, cooking, and serving procedures which require time and care.
It is reasonable to say, however, that business class can be a bit varied in terms of product. On the one hand the B767 cabin on Flight 809 appeared to represent a business class of days gone by. On the other, the B777 cabin on Flight 501 represented a modernized, competitive product of today. The airline has told NYCA that they intend to upgrade seven Cloud Nine cabins aboard the B767, a welcome step toward ironing out the inconsistent product in their B767 fleet. Looking to the very near future, the airline is anticipating delivery of their first Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the summer of 2012. No doubt the new cabin aboard their Dreamliners will continue to build upon the successful choices made on their B777-type business cabins.
When the upgrades and fresh aircraft meet up with the already solid in-flight service, the future is even brighter for Cloud Nine. If a trip to Addis or elsewhere in Africa is in your future, flying aboard Ethiopian Airline Cloud Nine is a choice that will serve you well, both now and into the future.