Hi there ! I am James, one of the sleeping members here , always viewing and never really posting. Noted that there are few trip reports on Ethiopian Airlines in general – Ronerone posted a really good report of his time in business class on Ethiopian’s latest Dreamliner.
I am a busy paediatrician working my guts off most of the time. I took a good 2 weeks’ off with my buddy to explore Africa – Namibia was my first choice, having been to South Africa before. Besides RSA, Namibia probably is the best country in Africa for a self-drive holiday. Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways were charging exorbitant fares for flights to Jo’burg for the Christmas season – Ethiopian Airlines was the only Star Alliance carrier offering decent fares and even the lowest fares on ET earn full miles on most Star carriers (surprise, surprise). Why not ?
Routing would be an exhausting :
SIN – BKK – ADD – JNB – WDH
15 DEC 2012
After a overnight shift seeing the usual flume of sick kids, I headed home for a quick snooze. My first leg was catching Thai’s evening service to BKK for the late night ADD connection. The flight was otherwise uneventful save for a few bumps through some errant cumulonimbus. The usual helter-skelter rush on SIN-BKK flights with the Thai cabin crew rushing through their meal and beverage service and of course, not forgetting to leap out of their traditional Thai silk dresses into their blouses/skirts by the end of the service.
ET 609 Departing 0015hrs (16 DEC 2012)
Operated by one of Ethiopian’s newer B767s (winglet-fitted)
We elected to lug my luggage out for re-check in at BKK – it was extremely crowded as usual at BKK but our Ethiopian flight check-in was processed at the far-end of the departure terminal together with Kenya Airways flight to NBO departing slightly earlier. It was not difficult to spot the check-in counter – passengers wheeling loads and loads of bags and boxes. Ethiopian Airlines has a generous 40kg baggage allowance even for Economy pax for all international flights. We waited for the Kenya Airways crowd to thin out a little (KQ departing an hour earlier than ET)before seeing some ground crew members sluggishly saunter in.
We stood in line for the Cloud Nine / Business Class check-in – the two African ladies in front of us weren’t actually checking in either ; they were just looking straight ahead for some non-verbal acknowledgement from the ground staff member wearing the generic pink/purple Bangkok International Airport services uniform, who was just staring ahead. Think Carol Beer from Little Britain. They decided to scoot off to the Economy Class counter where they saw more human-like responses to their presence, leaving us in front of Miss Thai Carol Beer. After seconds of staring, her head tilted forward just over two degrees which we interpreted as a nod to move forward.
“We are checking in through to JNB tonight”.
With a expressionless face, she took our eticket receipts and glanced over them.
“Don’t know your etickets.. this is for Cloud Nine. You wait for other staff member to come.Move aside please.”
She shooed us off to the other end of the check-in row where a rather flustered looking Ethiopian Airlines ground staff member clad in the distinctive ET dark green suit, was walking in. I think his name was “Al” – he was very obliging and struggled to retrieve our reservations and lounge access. We also needed to sign a credit card verification form as well as present our credit card to process the check-in. Many other passengers, somehow, were having issues with their check-in and “Al’ was pacing up and down the entire check-in row. He was very obliging to all our seat requests though, and even gave us his phone number in case we had difficulties entering the Thai Royal Silk Lounge. After being much irritated by the unusually rude Bangkok ground staff, I was thankful for Al.
The boarding for ET 609 was fairly smooth - we didn't have much of a scruffle to get onboard. The flight continued on from Hong Kong to Bangkok , so we had several sleeping passengers straddled across rows. The cabin crew were all glamorous looking Ethiopian ladies - almost Beyonce wannabes .. passengers were mostly Africans with a scattering of Chinese passengers.
Food was one of the unmentionables on this red-eye flight to Addis .. awfully bitter pomelo salad with average tasting noodles. Fills you up , but nothing really much. Non-functional PTVs generally on this red-eye , despite this being one of the newer 767s (winglet-fitted) .
Retro-90s style entertainment : pretty nice piped Ethiopian tunes. The crew were fairly professional - no where as graceful as SQ/TG - but somewhat got their work done.
Landed in ADD in a sea of really pretty Ethiopian planes .. 767s, 787s abound ..
ADD was a functional airport - one long single terminal building with crowds of passengers connecting to anywhere and everywhere. You had hordes of Chinese passengers , likely connecting to/from other parts of Africa .. Rather modern looking, it also had a couple of shops selling over-priced souvenirs ...
The Cloud Nine lounge was just back to basics .. dim-lited lounge especially in the evening. good enough for a nice read and a drink but forget the gourmet food. Probably suffice for a snooze but in the sofa chairs.. Just very stale slices of cheese and ham but that's about it. At least there was a passable wifi signal and it was a quiet haven from the connecting masses in the main terminal ..
Boarding time for Ethiopian's new Dreamliner ET 808 to Jo'burg ! Ethiopian and ADD are trying really hard to get their act together as a hub .. there's a lot of fanfare of Ethiopian being a Star Alliance carrier but there's still a lot of groundwork that needs to be done eg. recognition of interline agreements. The boarding process is at best disorganized at times , and at worst chaotic. The staff are generally polite though so you have to give ET credit for trying its best..
I found the seats on its new 787 really hard ! I had a tough time finding the best position for my bum to sink into the seats - I guess it is the case with most new aircraft but this was especially bad .. I had a real bum-ache upon arrival into Jo'burg ..
Otherwise the PTVs on the 787s were otherwise a nice touch with limited entertainment options .. it did keep us entertained for a while (and did take my mind off the bum-ache). Not sure how my fellow passenger managed to survive the journey from Toronto to JNB ..
Rather exhausted .. we dragged ourselves to the SAA lounge for our last connection to Windhoek ..
The SAA Baobab lounge is absolutely fantastic for a spotter .. one can absolutely go crazy with the angles .. the entire horizontal axis of the lounge aligns itself with the arrival/departure runways ..
There was a splendid spread of eats and a fantastic rain shower facility .. One of the better lounges I have seen , and it was great considering we were exhausted from this multi-leg itinerary.. Soon our South African connection to Windhoek called..
Just some pictures from an extremely thrilling Namibian holiday
All in all, I really enjoyed Namibia and its hospitable people .. Probably aside from Japan, I have never felt so welcomed in a country before, and it was such a joy being able to travel in an African setting with the safety and infrastructure of a European nation. Indeed, it is Africa for beginners, before one tries roughing it out in an East African nation. It was also amazingly affordable .. fresh Luderitz oysters or Walvis Bay oysters for just barely 50 cents each? Fly me there any time..
Really love a certain announcement at Windhoek Airport on my SAA flight out !
Announcement 1 : "Would passengers XXXX joining Air Namibia Flight XX to Cape Town please board the flight at Gate XX. The flight is ready to depart".
A few minutes later ..
Announcement 2 : "Would passengers XXXX , delaying the departure of Air Namibia Flight XXX , please immediately proceed to Gate XX now !"
All done with tasteful sarcasm and charm .. the casual Namibian charisma
The return flight from ADD was a late-nighter with the usual chaos .. Our gate to BKK was at the far end of the terminal .. As we were lining up for boarding, a ground staff member suddenly shouted "Bangkok ! Bangkok! " and waved us towards an escalator at the beginning of the queue .. For some reason, we couldn't board via our original gate. Naturally, I am sure those passengers in front of the original queue weren't too pleased to be now following a snake-line of 200 over passengers down a narrow escalator .. Didn't help that the same escalator led to a small boarding area which was shared with a Guangzhou bound flight.
One can give credit to Ethiopian Airlines for trying to muscle into the hub-and-spoke market .. In terms of Star Alliance carriers, it is definitely a cheap and reliable no frills option into Africa .. as we speak, nearly all of its fares, including its most discounted fares, offer full miles on most carriers so that's a major plus point. I probably won't ever fly this routing again if I could secure a good deal to JNB direct .. but ET remains an extremely cost-effective option to most parts of Africa and it allows very flexible routings too for the price it is charging .. Eg. a side trip to Seychelles en route to Kenya with a side stop at Addis to pop by Lalibela