Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethiopian Airlines flight from Tokyo to Seoul in Cloud Nine (Business Class)!
Prior to this flight I had the pleasure to meet with Mr Ashenafi Yirga, Area Manager Japan of Ethiopian Airlines. I invite you to read the interview which is posted on the Flight Report blog here! As said in the interview, Ethiopian Airlines is the only carrier offering direct services to black Africa from Tokyo, flying 4 times a week. That being said, a technical stop is imposed in Seoul Incheon. The layover there is one hour only, and Ethiopian commercializes the Tokyo-Seoul portion at very attractive fares.
It was my first time on Ethiopian Airlines and also my first time flying on an African carrier, so I decided to arrive well at Narita Airport well ahead of departure, at around 6.30pm. This time I tried to find a way to avoid the expensive Narita Express, by taking the Tozai Line until Toyo-Katsutadai then the Keisei Main Line. The whole journey took me a bit over an hour for 1450 JPY, less than half the cost of the Narita Express.
I took the elevator up to the 4th floor, where the departures hall is, and checked which row the Ethiopian Airlines check in was situated.
The terminal, very busy today – Aug 15th is "Obon" in Japan, a national day on which families across Japan reunite to celebrate their ancestors, many of them take advantage to travel to see their family living abroad.
I finally arrived at the Ethiopian Airlines counter. Those were very busy as well.
I had to manage my way through the crowds of people waiting in the Economy lane to finally reach the Business Class/Star Alliance Gold counters.
The check in experience was very smooth, with a polite and friendly staff, and I was quickly given seat 4A, a window seat at the rear of the Business Class cabin. My luggage was tagged with a priority tag and a 'Fragile' sticker was glued upon request. The only thing I will regret is that I was not given directions to the ANA lounge. One explanation however could be that as a Star Alliance member, eligible customers are entitled to use all the lounges operated by Star Alliance airlines, so multiple lounges (the United Club, for example) are available.
Our flight is among the last of the day.
The Gold Track allows people holding a Business Class ticket or Star Alliance Gold card to use a dedicated lane for security.
ANA Business Class Lounge
I decided to go to the ANA Business Class Lounge which was the nearest to my gate.
I was politely welcomed and let into the lounge. It feels very private without being too oppressive thanks to the small walled separations.
The buffet area is located at the center of the lounge.
The cold buffet, with a selection of sandwiches (ham, egg, tomato), potato salad, some sushi
I did not take photos of the dishes containing the hot entrées, but here is my selection with Salmon Teriyaki and Yakisoba (Japanese Fried Noodles).
There is also the possibility to order more hot dishes, including Pork Ramen, Curry, Otchazuke (Japanese rice bowl filled with tea) and Udon noodles. I got ramen which were very tasty with a perfectly executed tonkotsu broth.
There is a Sake bar that didn't seem to operate as we were near the closing time
A quiet area with desks for those who wish to work
A newspaper stand mostly with Japanese language newspapers, with the exception of the Financial Times.
When leaving the lounge I took the opportunity to take photos of this wonderful ANA special livery.
I started walking towards gate 41 where boarding was scheduled to take place – I walked past our 787, ET-ARE
The podium was well organized with distinct lanes for Business/Gold and Economy class passengers.
Once again the Business Class lane was completely deserted which allowed me to board very quickly.
Business Class seats are completely located within gates 1 and 2 – as Economy Class pax take the jetbridge connected to door 2L, the Business Class portion is completely free from passage during boarding.
I was warmly welcomed onboard by a female FA, asking me how I was. I then proceeded to my seat. The cabin is configured 2-2-2 and the seats can be reclined up to 180 degrees.
A cushion and blanket are already available on the seat
A bottle of water was immediately distributed
It was followed by an amenity kit. I was kind of surprised that Ethiopian Airlines chooses to give out kits on a two hour flight, while most other airlines just wouldn't bother!
The usual toothbrush, comb, toothpick, earplugs, eyemask, socks. The quality of the items is of an acceptable quality, particularly, if I may repeat myself, on such a short flight.
This hook is very useful.
The FA goes for an another round in the cabin, this time giving out magazines, among a wide selection available I chose the Economist.
First contact with the IFE screen - more on that later.
A Flight Attendant wearing a traditional Ethiopian dress comes by to serve a pre-departure beverage. I chose the Champagne.
Unfortunately she kind of went too fast when pouring the Champagne which made the glass half empty : a bit odd.
Finally, an oshibori (warm towel) was distributed.
The menu for tonight
On this two hour flight, Ethiopian serves a full three-course meal, with three choices for the main.
The cabin lights are dimmed to start taxiing to the runway, while the security demonstrations are shown.
We took off facing south then turned west, overflying the Tokyo Bay.
I took advantage of the recline position to relax a bit before the meal service starts.
The starters are brought quickly. As the Flight Attendants set the table instead of giving everything on a pre-set tray, the presentation looks way more appetizing.
Trout Fish, Smoked Salmon, Lettuce, Lemon Wedge and Dill
Fresh Seasonal Salad
Mustard, Ketchup, Tabasco, Mayonnaise
The starter was simple yet tasty, and quantities were generous, to say the least. When picking up the empty dishes, the cabin manager asked me what I thought of the service so far. I had the impression they were taking customer feedback seriously, which felt great.
Main : Mediterranean Beef Goulash with basil noodles, Broccoli and Pumpkin
For dessert a cart featuring all the available options is rolled down the aisle.
I initially ordered the fruit tart and started looking at the cheese platter. As she noticed I was kind of struggling to make a decision, she smiled and told me she could serve me a little bit of everything to taste, which I happily accepted.
A choice of hot drinks were offered to end the meal, I went with Ethiopian Coffee, very tasty as expected.
Let's talk a bit about the IFE after this excellent meal. While the flight time to Seoul was a bit too short to sort of enjoy any movie, I browsed the selection and found it very exhaustive. A remote controller attached to the armrest can be used to navigate through the IFE.
Prior to landing, the FAs checked every passenger's final destination. They distributed Immigration and Customs forms for entry into Korea for those disembarking at Incheon, and told those continuing onto Addis Abeba of the steps to be followed for the transit. Landing into Seoul Incheon
When reaching the gate the cabin manager takes the PA to announce that all passengers need to disembark. This is because the cleaning staff boards the plane to get the cabin ready for passengers boarding at Seoul.
While all other passengers of the Business Class cabin walked towards the security checkpoint for their transit to Addis Abeba, I headed to the immigration desks, telling myself that next time, I will continue onto ADD. After a very smooth immigration process, I got my checked bag from the belt and headed to the taxi station to get to my hotel.
Special thanks to Mr. Ashenafi Yirga and his team.
ANA Suite Lounge Satellite No. 5
Tokyo - NRT
Seoul - ICN
A very interesting experience on Ethiopian Airlines that turned to be quite memorable. I was impressed by the quality of their service on this two hour flight, and especially the consistency of the meal service, all of that for a very attractive price. The 2-2-2 configuration of this 787 is perfectly suited to this short regional flight, however, even if they transform into completely flat beds, this seat does not give direct aisle access to passengers seating next to the window, which can be more problematic on the long haul flight from Seoul to Addis Ababa. I was also very pleased by the crew that day. They were consistently smiling when interacting with passengers, from the aircraft door at boarding to landing. They spoke to passengers using a very friendly and reassuring yet remaining polite and very professional.
I would totally recommend Ethiopian on that route, and I would not hesitate to consider them if I were to fly to Africa or if they offer a similar fifth-freedom flight on a route I need to take.
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