(photos to be added shortly once processed)
As part of a crazy 4 day flying trip involving 8 sectors on 5 airlines, I booked a one-way ticket from Bangkok to Hong Kong on the Ethiopian Airlines (ET) 767-300 service to connect onwards to Sydney on Virgin Atlantic’s impressive A340-600 service.
On arriving in Bangkok 2 days earlier I noticed the same flight up on the departure boards – 2 hours late. Thank God it wasn’t my flight, and I thought it would unlikely to find two very late flights in the one week. Of course, I was wrong!!!
After a couple of great days in Bangkok, including a trip on the Thai Sky Airlines L1011-300 Tristar to Kuala Lumpur and return (including a jumpseat landing into KUL
), one of the most memorable trips I can remember, it was time to head home.
With a scheduled departure time of 1200 midday, I left the Ambassador Hotel in the city around 9:30am for the taxi ride to the airport. Traffic was surprisingly light I was at the airport around 10am.
The Ethiopian flight was up on the departure board, bit no gate allocated. I found the check-in counters, which had the flight displayed, but the staff manning the counter were still processing the Thai Air Asia service to Singapore. Wait a bit, I was told. And so I did…
Around 1045am, check-in staff arrived at the check-in counter and started to set up. I was first to check-in. I advised I was connecting in Bangkok to the Virgin Atlantic service to Sydney, which was no problem, and I was allocated my requested window seat and told which gate the flight was to leave from – all pretty standard. Just as I was leaving the counter, I asked casually whether the flight was on schedule. “No, it’s running about 2 hours late”, was the reply – leaving at 1400. Jeez, thanks for letting me know... I then reminded them I had a connecting flight and whether they could make enquiries as to whether I would have time to make the connection in Hong Kong. At first they said it wasn’t their problem, as the two flights weren’t on the same ticket, but I soon convinced them it WAS their problem and they promised to contact Hong Kong to advise of a late transit pax to the VS
flight. It wasn’t to be a major issue, as I had (wisely) given myself just under 3.5 hours to connect.
Having heaps of time, I leisurely wandered around the terminal looking at the planes and browsing through the stores. It was then I got a call on my mobile from the online travel agency through whom I booked the ticket. To tell me my flight was running over 2.5hrs late – dep. time revised to 1435…! Strange... I told the consultant over the phone I was at the airport and at check-in I was told 1400 (and with the plane already en-route one would have thought they would have had it right). 1435 is what her computer was saying, however. But I was impressed that they called me – better service than the average travel agent, and this was booked online!
The later departure time started to concern me regarding my HKG
connections, so I thought the best way to clear it up was to get an estimated arrival time from Addis Ababa from the information counter (FIDS screens were still saying 1400 departure). 1350 estimated arrival I was told. OK
, that meant that a 1400 departure was out of the question and I was beginning to wonder if 1435 was even a little generous.
At around 1340, I positioned myself to get a view of the landing aircraft. At 1355 I was concerned, but to my great relief at around 1400, I observed the unmistakable colourscheme of the Ethiopian 767 landing in the distance. I then proceeded to the gate, where the 15 other passengers joining the flight in Bangkok were waiting, quite patiently I might add. I am a very patient person and rarely get excited, but today I was far from impressed and demanded an accurate departure time from the crew at the gate.
“We will board at 1410” they told me. “Rubbish, I answered” – it was 1405 and the plane, 767-3BG/ER ET
was just pulling in. The joining crew were obviously still in the lounge and waiting for disembarkation.
Flight: Ethiopian Airlines ET676 (continuation of flight from Addis Ababa)
Route: Bangkok Don Muang (BKK) – Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok (HKG)
Aircraft: 767-3BG/ER, Registration: ET-ALH
STD: 1200 STA: 1615
Pushback: 1430, Takeoff: 1442, Landing: 1800, On Blocks: 1808
But whilst we certainly didn’t board at 1410, I was quite astounded when we were called for boarding at around 1420. 15mins wasn’t long to disembark passengers and effect a crew change and aircraft clean. But upon boarding, it was obvious why. Firstly, most passengers were continuing to Hong Kong. Secondly (and smartly) they kept the passengers on board. Thirdly, there was no cleaning of the airplane (it was frankly FILTHY), fourthly the cabin crew were too busy preparing the plane to bother greeting us or checking our boarding passes on boarding – in fact when I presented the pass at the door, it turned out I was showing it to a passenger, one of a group who decided to congregate at the main entry door during the stop. Whilst the quick turnaround probably saved me an involuntary night’s sleep in Hong Kong, which I can be grateful for, a clean of the aircraft would have been nice.
It turned out my seat was a bulkhead window – first row of the economy cabin. Not too much legroom, but adequate. But the seat was taken. The passenger there shrugged his shoulders and said everyone sat where they wanted. This made me consider load and balance issues, but I didn’t let it bother me. But I was quite cranky by now and told the gentleman that I had specifically requested this window seat, it was allocated to me and I intended to sit there. He moved, but after a few not-so-pleasant remarks. I was lucky, as a Chinese family (with 2 reasonably young children) who also boarded in Bangkok found their seats taken and couldn’t find a way to sit together. They called over a member of the cabin crew who said they were to sit where they liked and couldn’t really help. Very poor service, I thought.
I sat down. The bulkhead in front was smeared with dirt – probably from a passenger’s shoe. My seat immediately went into full recline. It was broken – I couldn’t get it to stay upright. Not that it mattered – no cabin crew performed any checks. They wouldn’t have been able to anyway, as groups of passengers remained standing and chatting through the taxi to the runway, although most (but not all) did find a seat when we took off.
My seat pocket was a mess, but contained the essentials – Inflight magazine (interesting to read about a country about which I know very little) and a Safety Card WITHOUT the instruction that one was not to remove it from aircraft. Bonus!
Takeoff was smooth, soon breaking the cloud layer into the sunny skies above.
Lunch was soon served along with a drinks service. With a choice of beef or fish, I chose beef. Bad move. I digress here for a moment… As opposed to many people I know, I love airline food, and can generally put up with a lot in terms of quality of the food involved. But this, frankly, was a joke. Without any measure of exaggeration, I could not physically bite through the lumps of beef (more like lumps of gristle). I tried several, in case I just got a bad bit. Nope – all the same. The accompanying noodles were rock solid – a severe case of either under cooking or more likely serious overbaking. The accompaniments were slightly more edible, but well below par. However, as I write this whinge, it occurs to me that it might be a bit rich complaining so bitterly about the food on Ethiopian, where for some back in Ethiopia, it would constitute the feast of a lifetime, but I maintain the fact that where an airline seeks to be a major and respected player in aviation, as they quite clearly aspire to be, they must make some effort in this regard. To be fully honest, it would have been far better not to serve anything at all.
As for the drinks, there was quite a reasonable choice of drinks. I thought I would be adventurous and asked the crew member for an Ethiopian wine. He pulled out a beer bottle from his cart and removed the cap. “I asked for wine”, I told him. But it was wine – in a classic beer bottle with a beer cap. The wine was pretty bad, but I have now tried Ethiopian wine. And I was so intrigued by the packaging that I later asked if I could take an unopened bottle with me. No problem.
Inflight entertainment consisted of mainscreen video only, using a very similar system to what I’m used to on Qantas. It took a good 15mins to receive headsets once we had asked the crew (they weren’t provided or handed out to joining passengers), but once received, I proceeded to watch the latest romantic comedy “The wedding date” or something similarly named. It was very poor, but I won’t blame Ethiopian Airlines here. The blame for this lies squarely with Hollywood, who manages to produce more c*** than quality these days. But it’s not the time for a movie buff to start whinging about the state of today’s movies.
It was not long that we commenced our descent into Hong Kong. Nervously keeping an eye on the time, I was finally convinced I would be fine to make the connection and allowed myself to relax. We touched down on Runway 07L and endured quite a long taxi past a host of aircraft – seemed to be more Drangonair around than Cathay, at least where we were going, and finally to the gate. Quickly disembarking, a ground crew member was waiting for me and quickly whisked me to the transit area to check-in for the Virgin flight. As my luck seemed to be a bit on the low side this particular day, it seemed we parked a long way away from said transit area, so it was a good 10-15mins of brisk walking to get there. Once there, I was told they had just closed the flight, but would re-open it to check me in, given the circumstances. Whew one piece of luck. Secondly all they could offer me was a bulkhead window 33A. No complaints there (at least not yet, until I discovered how little legroom the seat had). But I was on the flight. In the end I arrived at the Virgin gate just as boarding commenced (A340-600 G-VEIL), so in reality I made it with plenty of time. But alas, it seems my luggage didn’t quite have the turn of speed I had, because on arrival in Sydney it was nowhere to be seen, and took a further 24 hours to get home. As if just to remind me of the ET
So all in all, a lot of pain was involved in getting the ET
code firmly planted in my logbook, though nothing truly dramatic occurred. And whilst the experience was a poor one, maybe it was worth it just for the looks I get when saying “and from Bangkok to Hong Kong I flew Ethiopian Airlines…” “You flew WHAT?”. When I would complain about the flight, I surprisingly got very little sympathy. It seems most people think it was my fault for flying on Ethiopian in the first place!!!!
[Edited 2005-08-13 06:03:47]