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Tuesday 14 January 2020

Experiencing African Hospitality (Part 2: ADD-LHR)

Welcome to my Ethiopian Airlines Adventure Part 2!

Photographed by Matthias Geiger


Adidas Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia. I manage to catch a glimpse of the city and it reminds me of a lot of Bangkok with flyovers and buildings similar to the Asian city. The main difference is the higher attitude of the city results to a cooler temperature during this time of the year. To explore this country, one is required tourist visa and all depends on where you are from. For most countries, this visa is needed and you need to check with your local country about it. Some countries are required to apply for the visa before travel while some can do you at the airport itself. 

I was warned about the safety issue when exploring around the city area. Wallets and expensive items on you have to be kept hidden at all times. The folks from my experience would look at you, some are friendly while others may have a hidden agenda against you. Whatever it is, it is best to go out in a group, or if you are alone, go to those popular areas, avoid the dodgy parts of the city and you should be fine. 

I explored the shops near my hotel but refrained myself from taking photos as I did not want to get any unwanted attention. There were a few local approached me to offer to take me around, but I declined and walked as fast as I could. Hiding my wallet in my jacket, there was not a chance of them attempting to pickpocket me. 

During my stay at ADD 

3 meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner were offered. Ethiopian Airlines certainly took good care of me during this layover. I took advantage of the meals over here, and they were decent.

The view from the hotel

This was my lunch 

My dinner 

At around 9 p.m, I opted to head back to the hotel even though my flight was at midnight. I always have this habit of going to the airport early

Spotted this beautiful DC-3 aircraft just outside the airport 

About Addis Ababa Bole International Airpor

This airport was built to replace the old Lideta Airport, a decommissioned military airport as the runways there were short and they needed longer runways for the Boeing 720s to use so this airport was built in 1960 and was in operation 2 years later. Upgrades have been done to this airport throughout the years and currently part of the international terminal is undergoing renovation so that it improves the experience for air travellers. Currently, this airport is able to able to handle the Airbus A380 though no A380 operator is using this airport. In fact, the number of airlines using this airport is very small. With 2 runways (runway 07 and 25 (L and R) in operation at this time, the airport is able to cope with the A350, Boeing 777 and other wide-body types without difficulty. Currently, there are not enough gates and some of the wide-body aircraft during peak hours would be parked at remote parking lots. 

From the dropping point of the shuttle bus bay, I made my way to the departure hall of the airport. At this time, it was considered the peak hours as Ethiopian Airlines have many departure flights, to Asia and Europe mainly.

The interior of the terminal is outdated but I expect the airport to be fully upgraded soon. 

Free Wifi available at the airport but the connection is weak during the crowded period.

Checking in was a breeze but I had to go through security checks 3 times before finally settling down, waiting for boarding to commence. 

The first security check starts at the entrance of the airport, and the 2nd is just before immigration checkpoint. The extra 3rd security checkpoint is located at the gates that my flight was departing from. Apparently, only my departure gate and another gate was at a secured area which means another round of screening was required. 

The model of the airline's Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The new check-in counters

The airside. Most of the seats were taken and it took me a while to find a place to rest. 

The airport lounge

As you can see, many flights were departing this timing.

There were a lot of transit passengers

This is where my gate was located, another round of security check awaits

The announcement was made and it was time to board

With the current size of the airport, I don't think it is ready to cope with A380 flights. 

 Boarding started at 0101 but I expect the flight to be delayed as 20 minutes is not enough to get the aircraft on the way. When I saw the technicians on board, I figured out some minor issues were going on with the aircraft. I supposed it is minor, otherwise, they won't allow us to board. For the airline, they would try their best to get us on our way once the issue is rectified. 

The flight time passed and we were still waiting. It seems there was a problem with a piece of equipment in the crew's galley. A few technicians were on board to fix it and later on my seatmate, (aisle seat),  realised her seat belt had issues, and the middle seat between also had the same issue. The crew notified the technician but was unable to fix it as there wasn't much time left so the only choice was for the crew to relocate her and there were vacant seats behind. That is certainly great news for me! I had the whole row to myself. 

Flight route: ADD-LHR

Miles: 3,671

My ride: ET-ATQ

Photo by Tong Xian

Photo by Paul Guinea

Aircraft: Airbus A350-941

Engines: 2 X Roll Royce XWB -84

Configuration: C30 Y318

Aircraft name: Simien Mountain

Delivered on 28 June 2016

Aircraft leased from AerCap

40th Airbus A350

Born in Toulouse 

Date of departure: 05 December 2019
Flight: ET701
Route: ADD-LHR
Aircraft: Airbus A350-941
Registration: ET-ATQ
Seat: 16A 
Gate: A16
Departure time: 0120
Boarding: 0101
Pushed back: 0153
Take off: 0204
Scheduled arrival: 0635
Actual arrival: 0641
Duration: 7 hours 20 min 
Load: 60% in Y class
Departure runway: 07R
Arrival runway: 27L

Boarding Ethiopian Airlines's first Airbus A350, ET-ATQ,

The interior of the cabin is similar to the Boeing 787's. There are 2 differences, the Economy Class seat is slightly wider and the In-Flight Entertainment system is newer.

The business class seats are the same as the Boeing 787, I didn't take any photos of it. This is the business class interior of the airline's A350, photographed by Thiago Trevisan

Economy Class Seats 

Seat pitch is around 31' inch, same as the other aircraft. 

I was over the moon when I realised I had the whole row to myself. For this 7 hours plus sector, I had a good rest. 

We waited patiently for departure time, luckily for us, the IFE system was available to us from the start to the end of the flight.

The spacious crew galley 

The airline's Airbus A350 cabin interior 

From my knowledge, the airline is happy with the performance of the Airbus A350. They have in fact ordered more for the airline's fleet expansion. 

More photos of my seat 

The In-Fight Entertainment system offers more varieties of entertainment programmes and is more user-friendly to use than the older system (787 aircraft).

Tight legroom space but bearable for this flight duration

What is lacking is the drink holder 

In-flight experience 

Aircraft pushed back late and we taxied to the active runway for take-off. As the airport was small, it didn't take long to reach the runway. Take off was powerful and service started about 15 minutes into the flight. I managed to catch some sleep during the flight but for most parts of it, I spent my time watching movies which I had missed out. It was great to have a whole row to stretch my legs and thankfully no one came to sit at the aisle seat. The in-flight service was not bad, the crew came around serving us during our meals but like my previous flight, this set of the crew also didn't come around to serve water between the interval of the two meals. We arrived in the early hours in London Heathrow, this was the start to battle with our common travel enemy, jetlag! Fortunately, it took only a few days to get my body clock adjusted to U.K timing.

In-flight entertainment system

The system is definitely better to use as it is more responsive and more programmes on it than the 787 version. As for the airline's WiFi system, it is available only on the A350 but for my aircraft, the crew announced that it was not available. 

I was able to view the map while watching a movie (you can opt to open a small window on the upper right corner of the screen)

What's provided?


Safety card of the Airbus A350


In-flight meals 

2 meals were offered on this flight (ADD airport catering)

For supper, I chose the beef sandwich

For breakfast, this was the only choice 

The quality of the food is good, I enjoyed both meals. 

Window shot photos

Just took off from ADD airport! I enjoyed every minute of the take-off. 

Landed at Heathrow airport and spotted this beautiful Swiss Airbus A220-300 getting ready for departure to Geneva. I hope to fly on this beauty soon.

I took the Heathrow (TFL line) to terminal 4 where I rested at the airport hotel. 

My flight review 

Despite the late departure, we arrived slightly late.

My rating:

Hotel Experience: 6.5/10
ADD Airport Experience 5.5/10
On-ground service: 6/10
In-flight service: 6/10
Airbus A350 interior: 6/10
Cleanliness: 7/10
Seat comfort: 6/10
Punctuality: 8/10
In-flight entertainment system: 8/10
In-flight meals: 7/10
Overall rating: 66/100


It was nice to fly the Airbus A350 on a longer sector and to experience Africa for my first time even for this short layover. Ethiopian Airlines may not be in the same league as the top airlines but there are signs of things to come with this airline. After experiencing it for myself, I would gladly do it again. The complimentary short stay at the hotel with meals voucher provided comes with the transit visa are provided by the airline even for Economy Class Passengers and that is certainly a highlight for me. Looking at the network, the airline has a tight schedule for the aircraft so sometimes delay may happen especially at the home base, that is inevitable. I am glad the issues of this flight was minor and in fact I benefited from one of it, that is the seatbelt issue with the seats beside mine. Sometimes you benefit from issues, for me, this is one of them.

Another benefit of flying this airline to London is it uses the pleasant terminal 2 of London Heathrow, a recently renovated terminal which in my opinion, a joy to hang out at. 

I will do an overview of the airline and Addis Ababa Airport in part 4 of this trip report. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

For the previous part, click here
For the next part, click here
For the final part, click here

Thanks for reading!