FLIGHT REVIEW: Ethiopian Airlines: Addis Ababa-Lagos
Ethiopian Airlines is widely reputed as the best (or one of the best) airline in Africa, especially with respect to route network and coverage. Apart from being the most successful and the most profitable airline in Africa, Ethiopian Airlines is also known for its unique Ethiopian hospitality both on board and on ground. So when the opportunity came to fly with the airline again, I jumped at it with certain expectations. Whether they met my expectations or not, I'll let you be the judge. So, stick around. ITINERARY SUMMARY DATE: 18 June, 2019 FLIGHT: ET901 ROUTE: Addis Ababa - Lagos SCHEDULED DEPARTURE: 9:00 am ACTUAL DEPARTURE: 9:21 am SCHEDULED ARRIVAL: 12:25 pm ACTUAL ARRIVAL: 11:54 am EQUIPMENT: Boeing 777-300ER FLIGHT TIME: 4 hours, 34 mins
CHECK-IN AND BOARDING
This was a group trip, so I didn't bother to check in online. We arrived the Bole International Airport Addis Ababa at 7:30 am, exactly 1 and half hours before the scheduled departure time of 9:00 am. That's not early enough for an international flight. Pre-checkin security checks at Bole Airport was hassle-free. Check-in was timely and seamless as the Ethiopian Airlines check-in staff were very helpful and efficient. But sadly, due to not arriving the airport early enough, I didn't get a window seat which I wanted badly. As an aviation geek, window seats are always a delight for me. They allow me to 'pokenose' and observe the flight from a vintage position. Anyway, with my boarding pass, I proceeded to immigration and security and then to the boarding gate 20.
Boarding commenced by 8:25 am, 10 minutes later than the scheduled boarding time of 8:15 am. The boarding process was orderly as it began with Economy Class passengers with allocated seats in the zone 1 area of the aircraft cabin. That was followed by Economy Class passengers in zones 2 to 4. Lastly, Business Class passengers in zone 5 boarded. The 'zonal' boarding didn't only make the boarding process orderly and quick, it also made it easy for the crew to control the crowd. My seat was 24F in zone 4. THE AIRCRAFT AND THE SEAT The aircraft was a familiar type - a Boeing 777-300ER. This is the biggest aircraft type in the Ethiopian Airlines fleet, only a couple of other African airlines operate the Boeing 777-300ER. After stowing my hand luggage in the overhead bin and locating my seat, the first thing I did was to look around and check out the aircraft. This particular Boeing 777-300ER was configured in two classes: Economy Class and Business Class. As with standard Boeing 777 seat layout, the Economy Class cabin had a 9-abreast seating configuration in a staggered 3-3-3 layout. Business class cabin had a 7-abreast configuration in a 2-3-2 layout. This review will concentrate on the Economy Class. As an aviation geek, I 'pokenose' a lot, but I found the aircraft very clean and in good shape.
My seat was 24F, a middle seat in the zone 4 area of the economy class, just after the business class cabin. I really don’t like middle seats. (I already explained how I ended up in one). At a time when most Boeing 777 operators are going 10-abreast in the economy class, Ethiopian Airlines is one of the few international airlines that have retained the original, more comfortable 9-abreast configuration.
My seat felt quite comfortable. I didn’t get to measure the seat width and the seat pitch, but both looked and felt quite good, the leg room was very generous. Seat pitch was probably up to 32 inches, which is better than the industry standard. Another interesting feature on the aircraft was that each economy class seat had a USB port where passengers could charge their mobile devices. THE FLIGHT AND THE CREW We pushed back by 9:08 am, and took off by 9:21 am from runway 25L following a beautiful takeoff roll. The takeoff was gentle, and at a nice angle, we made a left turn and gently climbed to a cruising altitude of 36,000 ft above sea level.
From takeoff in Addis Ababa to touchdown in Lagos, the flight was calm and smooth. It was a pleasant surprise to not have experienced even a minute of turbulence throughout the flight of almost 5 hours. The Boeing 777-300ER handled the flight very well, I found it to be very stable in the air. The professionalism of the flight crew must have been a factor too.
The flight was commanded by Captain Zerihun and assisted by Senior First Officer Lazarus. Both handled the flight very well. The captain's briefings were like a lady's underwear - short enough to be interesting and long enough to cover the subject matter. The Flight Attendants were extremely friendly and professional both on the ground and throughout the flight. Generally, I found the Ethiopian Airlines flight crew to be highly professional and very friendly. A Flight Attendant named Tilaye, was particularly helpful. IN-FLIGHT REFRESHMENT To the relief of many passengers, in-flight meal service commenced quite early at 10:00 am with light refreshment, not long after takeoff. A variety of pastries and a choice of wines, juices, soft drinks and water were on offer for light refreshment. I went for puff bread, red wine and water. The bread was fresh, soft and tasty. And the wine, well tasted like wine.
Main meal service commenced at 10:15, options included white rice with beef sauce and white rice with fish sauce. For drinks, there was a choice of wines (red and white), fruit juices and soft drinks. I opted for the white rice with fish sauce, and it tasted really nice. Sides and desserts included puddings, chocolates, biscuits and bread.
Hot beverages including coffee and tea were also served. However, I didn't understand why we were served jollof rice as a side dish after offering us white rice as main dish. I personally thought that the jollof rice should have been some sort of vegetables or fruits. IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT For in-flight entertainment, each economy class seat on the operating aircraft had a personal touchscreen monitor that could also be remotely controlled. The IFE system had everything for everyone including local and international movies, TV shows, documentaries, music, interactive games and a variety of audio channels.
The IFE featured Blockbuster, Classic, Asian, African, and Arabic, movies as well as KidsTV, ComedyTV, Drama TV, Discovery, Lifestyle, Brazilian, Indian, European, Star Wars. Sadly, unlike on the outbound flight, my in-flight entertainment system did not work. Speaking specifically, while the videos played, the audio didn't work. The cabin crew attempted to reset the system a few times, but that didn't help. I still enjoyed the flight though despite the IFE challenge. ARRIVAL Following almost a 5 hour flight, we touched down at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos at exactly 11:54 am local time, a whole 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled arrival time. The landing was as smooth as silk, well, almost.
After the aircraft came to a complete stop, I made my way to the cockpit where I chatted with the Pilots before leaving the aircraft. The cockpit crew was warm and friendly. SUMMARY CHECK-IN: 97% BOARDING: 95% THE AIRCRAFT: 95% THE CREW: 95% THE FLIGHT: 98% THE SEAT: 95% IN-FLIGHT MEAL: 85% PUNCTUALITY: 98% FINAL VERDICT: In more ways than one, this flight was a nice experience. Apart from the in-flight entertainment that didn't work on my seat, every other element of the flight including check-in, boarding, in-flight meal service and arrival, were all on point. The ground crew was helpful and efficient while the flight crew was very friendly and professional. The aircraft was clean and in good shape. I found the seat to be quite comfortable and the economy cabin spacious enough. I must say that Ethiopian Airlines has some of the most professional crew in the world. They met my expectations and I will totally fly them again. ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES CONTACT: Website: www.ethiopianairlines.com Email: Lossm@ethiopianairlines.com Facebook: Ethiopian Airlines Twitter: @flyethiopian Instagram: @fly.ethiopian NB: Ethiopian Airlines Nigeria provided the ticket for this flight, but the opinions expressed in this review are strictly mine and are without bias. Chidozie Uzoezie is an Aviation Geek, a frequent flyer, and a Travel Blogger. He is also the Founder/Admin of the African Aviation Group on Facebook. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.