Which Ethiopian 787s Feature New Business Class?

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Ethiopian is an airline which is growing pretty quickly, and offers among the best access to Africa. I flew them last year in business class from Beijing to Addis Ababa and from Addis Ababa to Frankfurt, and had generally pleasant flights. The 787 on the first sector was quite nice, while the 767 on the second sector was a bit more… rustic.

Ethiopian’s “old” 787 business class product

Ethiopian’s “old” 787 business class product

For those in the US, one thing which makes Ethiopian especially interesting is that they operate a flight between Los Angeles and Dublin. They’re the only airline to fly nonstop between Los Angeles to Dublin (though Aer Lingus is starting service in the market in May 2016), and you can fly them on just that sector (the flight continues to Addis Ababa). That’s a rather exotic way to get between the US and Europe.

Ethiopian Airlines 787

In February I wrote about how Ethiopian Airlines is introducing a new business class product on their 787s. At the time, here’s the one picture they shared of the seat:

Ethiopian’s “new” 787 business class product

It looks like a solid fully flat business class product, similar to the A321 business class American offers between New York and Los Angeles. The catch is that as of now Ethiopian has just installed the new product on planes which they’re taking delivery of, though apparently they’ll eventually be retrofitting the rest of the 787 fleet as well.

Furthermore, Ethiopian isn’t publishing in advance which routes will get the planes with the new business class product, so it’s a lottery.

So what are the odds of getting Ethiopian’s new 787 business class?

Via airfleets.net, Ethiopian has 13 787s in their fleet so far. Ethiopian shared the picture of the new business class product at the same time they took delivery of their 11th 787, so I would assume that was the first 787 to get the new product. As a result, I would assume that as of now 3 of the 13 Ethiopian 787s have the new business class product.


Specifically, these three new planes are tail numbers ET-ASG, ET-ASH, and ET-ASI. Of course talk of tail numbers probably sounds like gibberish to any non-aviation geek out there. But you’ll see the links above are to the flightradar24 pages for those planes, which show exactly the routes those planes have flown.

While it won’t let you predict whether your future flight will have the new business class product, at least it can tell you in many cases whether the plane you’re about to board will have it.

For example, if you were taking the flight from Los Angeles to Dublin and you noticed that ET-ASG, ET-ASH, or ET-ASI were operating the Dublin to Los Angeles flight, then you’d know you would get the new business class product. If it were another plane operating that flight, you’d know you wouldn’t have the new product. At least it helps you to manage expectations.


Bottom line

It’s great that Ethiopian is installing a new business class product, though I do wish they’d introduce it throughout the whole 787 fleet, and would also publish which routes the planes with the new product are on. At least we know that the chances of getting the new product are 3/13, so you have just under a quarter chance of getting the new product if on a 787.

I’d like to review Ethiopian’s new business class product soon, and my strategy is to track the routes for ET-ASG, ET-ASH, and ET-ASI. If I notice one of those tail numbers takes off from Addis Ababa bound for Dublin and Los Angeles, I’ll have 30+ hours advance notice of the new product flying from Los Angeles to Dublin. That’s because the Addis Ababa to Los Angeles flight takes 19hr35min in total, and then the plane sits on the ground for 14 hours before returning to Addis Ababa. And yes, believe it or not, the crew works the same flight back to Dublin, so they literally have a daytime layover between longhaul flights.

Would you consider flying Ethiopian between Los Angeles and Dublin, and would your answer vary based on whether it was the new or old business class product?

  1. The “old” seat is used by many other airlines on the 787 and other aircraft, but more often in a fully flat configuration – basically with more pitch, and instead of tucking your feet under the seat in front of you (as in Ethiopian’s angled-flat configuration) there’s an “ottoman” that joins with the reclined seat to form a flat bed (see for example Turkish 77W and 333, or LOT Polish 787, all of which use the same seat but have are fully flat). So I would have thought Ethiopian could have gone fully flat by simply removing some seats to increase pitch and installing the ottoman, rather than retrofitting using an entirely new seat.

  2. I would think a retrofit in the long run will be more profitable that removing seats, since there are only 24 business class seats to start with. If you need to remove a row, that’s downsizing to 18 seats, which I imagine could cut into margins a bit making it more palatable to simply install the new seats.

  3. Ben — I think for operational reasons it’s probably hard to establish routes too far in advance for these planes. You know about scheduling more than I do, but these aren’t all 7x or even 4x per week routes, where they simply are sending the plane out and sending it back, right? For example, if you look up the history of ET-ESG, you can see that it has indeed done the LAX route, but that’s only a 3x per week route, and so it needs to be somewhere else, right? I mean, you know the plane leaving ADD on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday is going to be the one coming back on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. But that still leaves gaps. The plane that leaves LAX on Thursday gets to ADD on Saturday morning, and so is unlikely to be the one that goes back out on Sunday afternoon, and it might not be all that efficient to dedicate it to some weekend route that doesn’t need fully flat just to get it back to ADD. As it is, you already need at least two planes per week to do the LAX-DUB-ADD route, and perhaps some weeks three, and I’m sure there are other routes like that in the ET system. It seems like with only three fully flat planes, it would be nearly impossible to dedicate them to specific routes or even know exactly what routes they will be on more than a short period of time in advance.

  4. Hi Lucky,

    What ever happened to the rest of your Hong Kong / Bali / Doha / Abu Dhabi trip report? I was enjoying that!

    Thanks, Matt

  5. I got to fly the flatbed retrofit 777 biz class in Sept for our trip to South Africa, and to date it has been my favorite premium class experience flying both from IAD to ADD and then on to JNB. Granted, I’m not sampling premium class products at the rate that you are, but the flatbed seat was nice along with the ottoman. As a 6’1″ guy, space was never a problem (contrast this with a couple others that I have tried which felt cramped…looking at you, Virgin Atlantic Upper Class). I also liked that you could control how flat the seat would be when you wanted to lay down. The ottoman also provided lots if storage space. Add in the great service I received and the Ethiopian food and it was a winner for my gf and I. It was also cool to see FAs in traditional dress

    Many in the blogosphere were down on this airline’s product before we left, but maybe that was for the product before the retrofit. I came away impressed after flying with Ethiopian, and next time I would like to spend some actual time in Addis Ababa, other than the 1 hr layover we had. After flying both them and SAA, I would place the Ethiopian experience well ahead of SAA, which was the opposite of what I was expecting.

  6. Ben, I will fly 5 segments of ET next year of February (4 long and 1 short), with all 787. It’s not nearly possible to obtain the full flat bed, but at least having proper turnover time in Addis Ababa to keep the inner aircraft clean and fresh.

  7. @lucky

    Thanks for this post! It clears up a lot since I just booked a roundtrip LAX-DUB “Cloud 9” business award ticket for next June. I managed to book via Aeroplan just before the devaluation!

    SeatGuru was claiming the seats were angled lie flat, but I thought they were fully flat. Looks like I won’t know until I board, but at least I know there’s a chance for the new business class. Keeping my fingers crossed!

  8. Appreciate this heads up! Just booked the Addis-LAX on the 787 and found my flight number listed as “ASG.” We’re two months out so I’m hoping we get lucky….

  9. Flew DUB-LAX on Sunday AM and was very pleased to see ET-ASH as the aircraft coming to DUB from ADD! Doesn’t seem to be much of a pattern but we got lucky and really enjoyed the experience.

    Thanks for the information on tracking which aircraft are being used!

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