Review: Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa

Filed Under: Ethiopian, Other Airlines

Africa is the one continent I’ve totally neglected in my travels. Not by design, but probably because there aren’t many great airline products flying there, and that’s a large aspect of what factors into my travel decisions (after all, airlines and hotels are primarily what I write about).

I’ve only been to Africa once before — specifically South Africa. And that was eons ago, like back when I wanted a Furby for Christmas… so probably like 15 years ago? I had no clue what to expect, which made me all the more excited about our four hour layover.

Addis Ababa Airport

Upon deplaning we walked down a long arrivals hall, which was quite empty. Not only was the arrivals hall empty, but I was surprised by how empty the tarmac was as well.

Addis Ababa Airport

In the arrivals hall we followed the signage for connections, which brought us up an escalator and into the main terminal.

Addis Ababa Airport

The main terminal was actually quite nice. It had a warehouse feel to it based on the ceilings and tiles. The one thing that stood out to me is just how many cots were set up in the terminal, and that they were all occupied with people sleeping.

Addis Ababa Airport terminal

We immediately saw the Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine Lounge, though it looked horrible and was for Star Gold members only, so we were directed to the Ethiopian Airlines “Lounge 2,” which was just on the other side of the terminal.

Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine Business Class Lounge 1 Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine Business Class Lounge 2 signage Addis Ababa Airport

Addis Ababa Airport terminal

Addis Ababa Airport terminal

Enroute we briefly browsed the duty free selection, which was quite unique. It wasn’t your usual duty free selection with nothing but high end brands, but rather had actual stores with local souvenirs, which I thought was pretty cool.

Addis Ababa Airport duty free

Andrew ended up buying some souvenirs, which was an interesting experience. When he went to pay he was told by the shopkeeper to follow another person to their store so he can pay there, so we followed the lady to her store. Then once his credit card was swiped he was brought back to the original store, so he could sign the receipt in front of the shopkeeper. Very interesting.

Addis Ababa Airport duty free

Addis Ababa Airport duty free

Eventually we checked out the Cloud Nine Lounge 2, where we were admitted by the friendly agent at the desk.

Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine Business Class Lounge 2 Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine Business Class Lounge 2 Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa Airport

The lounge was actually quite a bit nicer than I was expecting, based on the horror stories I had heard from others. It was quite large, and for the first hour we were there, almost completely empty. It featured tons of comfortable seating.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa Airport

In addition to the lounge chairs, there was an area with small dining tables, which is where we eventually hunkered down to get some work done.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa Airport

There was also a business center, which looked more like a storage closet.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge Addis Ababa Airport

And a storage closet (with an open door), which looked more like a… well, I’m not sure.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge storage room Addis Ababa Airport

There was a buffet as well, though I really wasn’t hungry.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge buffet Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge buffet Addis Ababa Airport

I stuck to water and Diet Coke.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge buffet Addis Ababa Airport

In terms of food, there were several types of packaged sandwiches, including beef, veggie, and chicken.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge buffet Addis Ababa Airport

Then there were croissants, toast, and muffins.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge buffet Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge buffet Addis Ababa Airport

And then a surprising number of hot dishes, though I’m not sure what many of them were.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge buffet Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge buffet Addis Ababa Airport

My aspirations of taking a shower were quickly shattered when I saw the bathroom setup, which gives the GOL Smiles Lounge Sao Paulo a run for its money. We were definitely not in one of the best airport lounges in the world…

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge bathroom Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge bathroom Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge bathroom Addis Ababa Airport

The lounge also had a rather large relaxation room, which no one seemed to use. There were both massage chairs and angled day beds.

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge relaxation room Addis Ababa Airport

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge relaxation room Addis Ababa Airport

The Wi-Fi in the lounge was surprisingly fast, so I was thrilled to be able to catch up on work without waiting for five minutes for a page to load, as was the case in China.

Our connecting flight was at 10:40AM, so at around 10AM we left the lounge for the gate. There are two security checkpoints — one main checkpoint, and then one for premium passengers, which was a nice touch.

Addis Ababa Airport terminal

Addis Ababa Airport terminal

Addis Ababa Airport terminal

The queue in the premium line only took about five minutes, so we were quickly through and headed towards our departure gate, Gate 8.

Addis Ababa Airport terminal

While walking there we passed some gorgeous Ethiopian planes, including one of their brand new 777-300ERs, as well as a couple of 787s.

Ethiopian Airlines 777-300ER

Ethiopian Airlines 787

Ethiopian Airlines 787

We made it to Gate 8 by around 10:10AM, though oddly there was no plane at the gate. The best part had to be that there was a German Ethiopian Airlines captain that was very concerned by the whole situation, and was quizzing the gate agent on what was going on, even she clearly had no clue either. I couldn’t tell if he was the captain of the flight or just commuting home (there are a lot of “commuter” Ethiopian Airlines pilots).

Addis Ababa Airport gate

Addis Ababa Airport gate

Eventually an announcement was made that our flight was actually leaving from Gate 7. And by “Gate 7” they meant bus terminal 7, as we were put onto a bus to the plane.

There was a special Cloud Nine Business Class bus filled with a surprising number of German passengers, and if there’s one thing you’ve gotta love about Germans, it’s how direct they are. After realizing that they had been sitting on the bus waiting for 15 minutes for a 100 meter drive to the plane, they all started shouting sarcastic comments “Sir, sank you so much for za ride to za plane, ve could have never valked all zis distance on our own.”

Ethiopian Airlines Business Class Lounge bottom line

The whole transit experience was much better than I was expecting. The lounge had fast (enough) Wi-Fi, which is all I wanted after being disconnected for a couple of days. And it was actually reasonably pleasant. No, it’s not the Air France First Class Lounge Paris or Emirates A380 First Class Lounge Dubai, but I wasn’t expecting that either.

  1. You were lucky not to be there during the early morning rush…. huge queues for the few toilets there are [that included the lounges as well, as to the state of them [….yuck….] and wifi was not useable

  2. You were so ‘lucky’ that the lounge was empty, when I was there it was completely packed. Almost nowhere you could charge your phone/ laptop though, probably the biggest downside of the lounge.

  3. You didn’t think of stepping onto the street to take in the Ethiopian air? Or cabbing it to Bole Bulbula just to see what that is like?

  4. What exactly looked so “horrible” about the Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine/Star Alliance Gold Lounge? Your photo shows only the entrance yet you say it looked horrible?

  5. @ stvr — I would’ve liked to, but had quite a bit of baggage and had a lot of work to catch up on.

  6. @ Bill — Taking a look inside, it looked much worse than the other lounge. Sadly couldn’t grab a picture.

  7. You got the new lounge in the new terminal. The old lounge in the old terminal is like something out of a Joseph Conrad novel.

  8. Please don’t kid yourself, or us readers. Of course your failure to travel to Africa was by design not accident. And I would not classify a four-hour layover where you didn’t even leave the airport as a trip to anywhere. I also do not understand why you say there are not many great airlines flying there. The list of airlines flying to Africa is quite long and includes many that you regularly fly in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Also, the continent does not lack for outstanding five-star hotels and even nature preserves that would make a wonderful setting for a trip report. Nothing personal, I just think it was something other than airlines and hotels that held you back. After a long period of hesitancy, I recently made my first trip to Africa (actually got out of the airport and experienced some local culture) and found it quite spectacular.

  9. Can you really say you’ve “been” to a country or city if all you’ve done is take a four-hour layover in an airport lounge? Experiencing a place and all it has to offer is so much more than sitting in a lounge.

  10. @ Al — Right, not sure where I claimed to have “been” to Ethiopia. I haven’t, and would certainly like to visit at some point.

  11. Lucky, FYI It is the second paragraph of your post that gives the impression that you are counting your stay in the lounge as somehow being a trip to Africa.

  12. You could try HKG – JNB on SA or CX biz after they turn to the 777-300ER (I guess you already have a packed calendar until September)?

  13. This blog is mainly about airlines/hotels/lounges. Not sure why people are getting worked up when it’s not about that? There are tons of others blogs for the destination itself.

  14. I would strongly recommend a visit to Africa as well, and go not as a ‘luxury’ trip, but stay at normal hotels, etc. You’d be really surprised. Had an excellent experience there a few years back – in east Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania to be exact). Though not the least developed, and there are parts that are certainly tourist-oriented, it is a totally different experience to your usual trips, and well worth the effort (and discomfort in parts).

    I was travelling EK on that trip, and was also a Skywards member then. Though in Y, they gave me lounge access. On the outbound, it was like another trip, connecting in DXB, etc., and all the ‘luxury’ (lounge, food) seemed whatever. But somehow, on the return, the sudden return to the luxuries offered and in part taken for granted in ‘the West’ was really odd. I was most uncomfortable in the lounge at DAR on leaving Africa. Haven’t been there for a month and having seen some of the better but still poor conditions, the sudden abundance of food especially was really uncomfortable.

    Not saying that I don’t enjoy the occasional buffet and the visits to lounges any more, but just makes you think twice about all the things that we just often take for granted.

    Back to the original topic – you really should pay them a visit. Well worth it, even if for the safaris alone if you’re not into hands-on volunteering. Maybe go with your parents? šŸ™‚

  15. @ Al @ John — In that case was referring to African airports. I had no clue what to expect of African airports.

  16. I love your detailed posts on lounges/flights/hotels…they are always my go to source. I’m flying through ADD, and I forgot what the lounge was like as I was there a few years back. Thanks for the detailed pics. Also…your statement about the Germans at the end has me cracking up!!!

  17. A quick question – my brother-in-law will be travelling through Addis in January. He has a 15 hour layover, but is travelling economy class. Do you know if it is possible to buy an entry into one of the VIP lounges in the Addis airport?

  18. I was in gold lounge as I was invited by gold card lounge friend was fantastic amazing and relax had 7 hrs transit! So what are u people talking about? If u go Africa and see how beautiful is Africa go Safari, and stop just go there for luxury hotels when u come back u proud ur self u have been in Africa. While u hv been to the beach and come back

  19. All these stupid comments about “oh you dont know how good africa is.” *uck that. I’ve lived over 20 years in Kenya and Rwanda. There are goods and there are bads… But let’s be honest… A third world country is a twc for a reason.
    Good airlines in Africa? KQ ET and South African are probably the top rated. I’ve never been on SA but KQ and ET have a long way to go. Other airlines? Most airlines dont offer long haul aircrafts when coming in to Africa. Nairobi would be an exception I know of that has B777-300ERs coming in, but other than that you would normally expect a B737. So tell me… How a B737 experience is going to make your flight worth it.

  20. I also just spent 4 hours in the same lounge. It was so crowded I could barely find a seat. Hard to find a way to charge my phone. Wasnā€™t there for food. Was a female by myself. I travel a lot and it was not good but better than being at the gate weā€™re there was no place to be comfortable or sit. My time was in Uganda, but that will be reviewed elsewhere. Next trip to Africa I will avoid long layovers.

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