It was the end of my holiday and time to return to chilly Canada, so I booked a flight on Ethiopian Airlines from ADD to YYZ, with a stop in Dublin. This 16-hour long-haul was something I have been looking forward to for some time. After hearing so much about this growing African aviation company, I was eager to try them myself.
My trip actually originated in Johannesburg earlier in the day, and I had recently arrived in Ethiopia on one of Ethiopian’s 787’s. I’ll start the story there, and tell you about each aspect of my experience aboard ET 552!
This trip was taken prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
I landed in Ethiopia at around 9:30 pm, with just enough time to grab a bite before my 11 pm departure.
The airport itself was very crowded and offered few, if any, amenities. Also, after looking at the quality of the bathrooms, I opted to wait until I was aboard the plane. The waiting areas themselves were also incredibly rudimentary and lacked any type of signage to direct passengers to their gates. To add a cherry on top, there was a nice scent of gasoline in parts of the airport. Luckily, there are plans in place to build a brand new airport in the future.
After my snack, I proceeded to my gate. I had to pass two additional security checks to get there, where they re-searched my bags and verified my boarding pass. Once I made it through the checkpoints, I went to see if there was a cleaner bathroom or place to buy water, but to my surprise, this section of the airport did not have bathrooms or vendors.
I arrived at the gate just as the attendant was paging for zone two, so I quickly hopped in line and made my way aboard the beautiful A350!
There was a long wait on the jet bridge as everyone settled in on the plane, so for the next 15 minutes, I admired the gleaming A350 wingtips.
I made it to my seat, 38A, and was pleased to find a fair amount of overhead space remaining for my baggage. Additionally, Ethiopian provided a blanket, pillow, toothbrush, and other night-time necessities, which was very convenient. As I settled in for the next 16 hours, I quickly learned that Ethiopian’s green and mustard yellow would grow old fast.
Ethiopian’s IFE screens were quite modern and clean (as opposed to the sticky safety documents in the seat pockets), and I was eager to watch a few movies. Also, the seat itself was surprisingly comfortable. It had decent padding, despite its looks, and provided a nice headrest. In conjunction, the legroom was on par with other long-haul economy flights, so I was pleased with my conditions for the next 16 hours.
As we pushed back at 11:14 pm, just a few minutes behind schedule, the crew offered “do not disturb” stickers for meal services, which I was impressed by. These stickers are displayed if you are sleeping and do not want to attendants to wake you for the meal service, showcasing the airline’s commitment to customer satisfaction. As we began our taxi, we watched an odd safety video and then continued to make a sharp turn onto the runway. The engines roared, and we rapidly ascended into the night sky.
As we leveled out at 38k feet, I decided it was time to enjoy some entertainment, so I first tried to join the inflight WiFi provided for messaging. Passengers were given an allowance of one hour for free and could use iMessage, Whatsapp, and other low traffic applications.
This service worked sporadically for me, so I opted to instead watch a movie. Of all international carriers I have flown with, Ethiopian had one of the best movie selections I have ever seen, with something for almost everyone. I was quite impressed and started my first of three movies.
The first meal started at 12:30 am (now I know why they passed out those do not disturb stickers!) and consisted of chicken, pasta, and fish options. I chose the chicken option and got water with it. While I never expect greatness from airline food, this was certainly one of the farthest things from it. I had a few bites, set the remainder of my meal aside, and proceeded to rest.
The flight attendants kept the lights on for most of the nighttime flight, which was a little bothersome, but I ended up sleeping anyway, only waking up when we were about two hours away from Dublin. This was perfect timing as breakfast was being served, and I was starving. I was given a dish which resembled a quiche and a side of fruit, potatoes, or a biscuit.
While I thought dinner tasted bad, this egg dish brought a whole new meaning to the phrase “bad airline food.” It was mushy, and after one bite, I couldn’t stomach any more. I ate the fruit and roll, sat back, and watched out of the window as Dublin approached on the horizon.
We touched down at 4:27 am in Dublin following a smooth landing. However, this stop was only for a crew swap and fuel. All passengers remained seated, and after a short hour, we re-departed at 5:30 am local time.
Once we reached cruising altitude, the crew distributed a small chicken sandwich snack and water to tide us over. They then turned off the cabin lights as we sailed over the Atlantic.
At 9 am (Dublin time), the crew served the same chicken entree as the day before, which I enthusiastically passed on. Instead, I enjoyed the start of a sunrise over the Atlantic. We started our descent an hour later, which provided gorgeous views.
We descended over the city and made a smooth landing. There were beautiful sunrise views, and we reached the gate promptly at 7:15 am.
Overall, while there were certainly downsides to the flight, for a $650 round trip ticket from YYZ to JNB, this was an incredible value. The seat was comfortable and roomy, and apart from the food and Addis Ababa airport, I had no major complaints. I will surely be flying Ethiopian again and look forward to eventually participating in its stopover program.