Not Non-Stop: Ethiopian Airlines’ North American Network

Ethiopian Airlines has five passenger routes to North America this October, all operating outbound via Dublin or Lomé. The B787-9 is the most used, followed by the B777-200LR, B787-8, and B777-300ER. In this month, Ethiopian has more flights between North America and Africa than any other airline, trailed by Delta, EgyptAir, Royal Air Maroc, and United Airlines.

Ethiopian B777
The B777-200LR is mainly used in Washington, Ethiopian’s core North America market because of diaspora and also for Star Alliance. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr.

Five routes to North America

Ethiopian Airlines’ five routes to North America comprise four to the US and one to Canada. There’s a huge focus on Star Alliance hubs, as you’d expect, just like there is with Austrian Airlines.

Based on the week starting October 11th, Ethiopian has 21 weekly bookable departures to the region, according to the carrier’s website. It has the following from Addis Ababa. Note that while JFK and Newark are served via Lomé, they stopped en route in Abidjan in 2019 and part of 2020.

  • ET500, Addis Ababa-Dublin-Washington Dulles: seven-weekly by the B777-200LR
  • ET574, Addis Ababa-Dublin-Chicago O’Hare: five-weekly; B777-200LR and B787-9
  • ET552, Addis Ababa-Dublin-Toronto: three-weekly; B787-9
  • ET512, Addis Ababa-Lomé-New York JFK: twice-weekly; B787-8
  • ET508, Addis Ababa-LoméNewark: four-weekly; B787-9

It’s different inbound to Addis Ababa. Toronto, Chicago, and Washington are all non-stop, as we see below, while JFK and Newark operate are via Lomé in both directions.

Ethiopian Airlines to North America
There is where Ethiopian Airlines is flying to the US and Canada. Image: GCMap.

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Why via Dublin?

Ethiopian Airlines’ outbound services need to stop en route to North America to refuel. This is because of Addis Ababa’s high elevation: the airport is at 7,657 feet and more than a mile high. This limits aircraft performance on takeoff.

The problem doesn’t exist when arriving in Addis, so much quicker and more cost-effective and competitive non-stop services are operated from most places.

Flights began to operate via Dublin in 2015. Before that, they stopped at Rome Fiumicino, which was probably also helped by the Italian diaspora from historic Italian East Africa. Indeed, Rome remains a very important European destination for Ethiopian

Ethiopian B787
The B787-8 is used to JFK and Newark via Lomé. These routes have unusual times versus those via Dublin. JFK/Newark leave Addis at 08:55 and arrive back the next day at 21:00. They connect with Africa flights, just far fewer than normal. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Dublin timings

The Star Alliance airline’s departures to Chicago, Toronto, and Dulles via Dublin all leave Addis late at night. This is for one real reason: so that they’re fed by flights from all across Africa, providing essential passenger volume. Earlier this year, we examined the success of Ethiopian Airlines, which is Africa’s largest airline and twice the size of number-two.

ET500 Addis Ababa to Dublin to Dulles
When writing, ET500 is 52 minutes from landing at Dulles. It has an ETA of 08:26 local. Image: Radarbox.com.

When do flights via Dublin leave?

In this October week, the three routes via Dublin are scheduled as follows. Significantly, Addis to Dublin is not available for booking and neither is Dublin to the US. There are no fifth freedom traffic rights. Instead, it’s purely about refueling and changing crew.

  • Addis Ababa-Dublin-Washington: 22:40-05:00+1; 06:00-08:40
  • Addis Ababa-Dublin-Chicago: 22:40-05:00+1; 06:00-08:00
  • Addis Ababa-Dublin-Toronto: 22:50-05:10+1; 05:55-08:10

Returning, all three routes arrive back into Ethiopia between 07:00 and 08:00 on day three, around the same time as arrivals from across Europe and Asia. This then enables Africa-wide connections.

What are your experiences of flying with Ethiopian to/from North America? Let us know in the comments.

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