On 23 September 2013, I flew from Johannesburg to Rome via a short layover in Addis Ababa on their new Boeing 787 aircrafts. Having never flown this African airline before, and based on opinions from friends and family who previously flew Ethiopian, I expected a few problems. My layover in Addis Ababa was only 90 mins and I expected to miss the flight (expecting a delay in departing from Johannesburg – I actually anticipated/hoped to spend the night in a hotel in Addis Ababa if they made me miss my flight, but this did not happen).
On the JHB-Addis Ababa segment, they seemed to be running short of headsets. Passengers had to ask a cabin attendant if they wanted one, and the normal headsets were available in limited quantities. I instead was given a set of earplugs – one side worked, with volume being very, very low. I put on the Star Trek into Darkness movie, but switched of the movie after a short while – not because of the headset issues, but because I just realised that the movie sucked more than I initially recalled. What a bad script! I wanted to sleep and felt that the legroom in Economy class was quite generous. Food was fine- chicken and rice with steamed veggies, a madeira cake slice coated in caramel, French Salad, and bread roll. Although the plane left Johannesburg 20 minutes after the scheduled departure time, we still arrived in Addis Ababa about 15 minutes before the scheduled arrival.
Terminal 2 at Addis Ababa Airport had lots of “Enterprises” selling local textile products and souvenirs. I wouldn’t like to spend too much time at the airport – it is old, dusty and badly lit (I don’t like white lights). There did not seem to be enough toilets (long queues outside some toilets), but what was nice was the Prayer rooms for men and women (it would have been nice if it could accommodate more than 12 – 16 people each). Nice to see the Hajji’s ready to leave for their pilgrimage. One thing that was surprising was the Ethiopian women – I had never seen one of them before – very beautiful and vibrant, unlike any other race, ethnicity or nationality that I know.
The flight from Addis Ababa to Rome was expected to depart 10 minutes later than scheduled, but I did not mind – I had an exit row seat in the front of the cabin, the seat next to me was empty, and I just wanted to get as much sleep as I could before my 3:10am arrival in Rome. With my eyes closed I felt the aircraft make its way to the runway, engines at full power and the Boeing 787 started accelerating down the runway, and then suddenly the pilot breaks a few times while the aircraft rattles. and people start looking around to figure out what is wrong. We were expecting to be in the air, not at a stop on the ground at the end of the runway. The pilot announces that their is a “technical difficulty” and we need to return back to the terminal. We spent another 90 minutes at the airport before the engineers did “their thing” and we were cleared to take off again – successfully without any problems. I landed at 4:30am in Rome, later than expected but not inconvenienced by the delay. My baggage did not arrive, but their was another flight from Addis Ababa to Rome expecting to land at 5:45am. By the time I filled out the lost baggage form, the other plane landed and my bag was the first bag on the carousel!
An eventful trip with Ethiopian Airlines.
I hope my return-trip to South Africa from Rome will be less so.
Would I fly with the Ethiopian fleet to other destinations in the future – if the price is right and total flight time is better than other airlines, yes I would!