Toronto Celebrates Its First Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350 Flight

It was a cold and cloudy day at Toronto Pearson International Airport but spirits were high and the mood was celebratory in Terminal 1 as Ethiopian Airlines celebrated the arrival of its new Airbus A350 to the city and country. The November 10 launch event was marked by a media tour of the interior followed by a cake-cutting, champagne, speeches, and interviews. Here’s a detailed recap of the day.

Ethiopian A350
The Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350 arrived in Toronto for the first time. Photo: Airbus

The special day began with some traditional Ethiopian dancers showing off their moves at the Ethiopian Airlines check-in desks in Terminal 1. Shortly after this, the media was whisked away airside to cover the main event.

Ethiopian dancers celebrating the A350 arrival event. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Samson Arega makes a speech. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Opening speeches

“Today is a very special day for us with this new aircraft which we’ve flown to Toronto and the Canadian market…a very important market for us.” -Samson Arega, Ethiopian Airlines Canada Country Manager

Arega continued by saying that Toronto is the airline’s first North American route to open with this A350, adding that it was a result of the airline’s decision to diversify its fleet as it was highly dependent on Boeing. The addition of the Airbus A350 was a strategic decision for the carrier’s expansion as it looked to diversify its fleet.

Ethiopian Airlines Canada country director Samson Arega (center) poses with the A350 crew. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

The new efficiency advancements of the Airbus A350 allows an increase in range and capacity. In fact, Arega says the aircraft will save Ethiopian up to US$1.8 million per year per plane on fuel.

Currently, Ethiopian Airlines holds the title of the largest airline in Africa and has one of the youngest fleets in the world. In fact, at one point the Star Alliance member was the only African operator of the Airbus A350. That has since changed as South African Airways took delivery of their first A350 last week. That aircraft will debut on a service to New York.

The cabin tour

The speeches gave way to a tour of the cabin which allowed Simple Flying and other members of the media to inspect and photograph the interior of the new Ethiopian A350. Here are some photos from the tour:

The flight crew preparing for departure as media circulated through the aircraft. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
The Ethiopian A350 economy class. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Economy IFE for the A350. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying
Business class for the A350. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

First impressions

My A350 experience is somewhat limited, to be honest. Currently, I have only flown in economy class with Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines and had great experiences with both. I think as far as decor is concerned, I would have preferred the look of these airlines over Ethiopian.

This is purely a subjective opinion but I wasn’t a total fan of the color choice in the economy. The various shades of green and yellow gave it a dated (but not quite retro or vintage) vibe. The red for the business class seats looked a little better but I think my preference would be for neutral-colored seats with small hints of color as accents. But again – it’s a personal opinion.

The IFE, even in economy, offered large screens that were fast and responsive to the touch. Legroom between the seats felt ample even with me standing almost six feet tall. Business class offers lie flat seating in a 2-2-2 configuration.

I have no doubt that a long-haul service with Ethiopian would be a pleasant and enjoyable experience. I hope I can experience this one day but for today it’s just looking at the cabin while on the ground.

Cake cutting and interviews

The exclusive tour of the A350 was followed by a short cake-cutting ceremony and the opening of a bottle of champagne. I had the privilege of speaking with two representatives of Ethiopian Airlines. My first question had to do with connecting/onward travel once Toronto passengers arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Here’s a snippet of the response:

“Connections are over 60% of our passenger traffic with passengers transiting via Bole Airport, onwards to South Africa, Central Africa, West Africa. We are the fastest from Toronto to Johannesburg at 18 hours. No longer do people have to go through Europe to Africa. They can go to Africa, through Africa.” -R David Timmins, Senior Sales Representative, Ethiopian Airlines

Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

Question: Do you see any other Canadian cities? Vancouver one day?

We are working on Montreal, but yes, definitely: There are investment opportunities on the African continent. There are so many mining companies in Africa. Canada has an excellent mining sector with a wealth of expertise and capital in mining and resource extraction. We would hope to support the connectivity in this field and hope Transport Canada will allow us to make these future connections. -Samson Arega, Ethiopian Airlines Canada Country Manager

Our interview came to an end with Arega highlighting the unique Ethiopian dining experience onboard its long-haul services – especially in business class.


The bottom line: Ethiopian offers “the fastest and shortest journey to sub-Saharan Africa…With over 60 cities served by the airline, you can have your breakfast in Canada and your dinner in Africa“.

With the various options available from European carriers and U.S. airlines, what would be your preference for flying to sub-Saharan Africa? Would you give Ethiopian a shot? Let us know in the comments!