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Monday 3 February 2020

Experiencing African Hospitality (Part 3: LHR-ADD)

Welcome to my trip report on Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350 Return flight!

Ethiopian Airlines in 2002 at Addis Ababa Airport, photographed by Raimund Stehmann. The airline has evolved since then. 

For my previous trip report, click here.

My time in London 

I have been to London a numerous number of times but this trip is different as I was accompanied by 2 wonderful companions. Here are some photos of my trip. 

The newer apartments at Woolwich Arsenal area

Walking across London Bridge 

This is Tower Bridge

The Shard, lovely isn't it?

Enjoying the Christmas spirit at Oxford Street

The park near my apartment 

A residential area near Shadwell. It was pretty cold at this time.

Tower Hill Castle 

A busy period at Regent Street 

This is at King Cross's station, where platform 9 and 3/4 is located. (Harry Potter)

Some of the meals I had with my partner and family

Carribean food at Erling Broadway Shopping Centre

Feeling hungry? 

My stay at Premium Inn Hotel 

I struck gold as I was given a room that faces the runway, the best thing about it is I was staying for 3 nights. 3 days of enjoyment! Here are some of the traffic I caught during my stay. 

Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400F at the threshold waiting for clearance

This is how the view looks like without zooming in

Oman Air and Virgin Atlantic's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner insight

This beautiful 787-9 was being towed to the gate for departure 

Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1000 heading to the runway for departure

I spent half of the time in the room plane spotting! 

It is always busy at London Heathrow Airport

Saudia's Boeing 777-300ER in special livery! This beauty got me quite excited 

Lufthansa's Airbus A321 in retro livery

I decided to have dinner at the hotel's restaurant. The variety of good is good and the price is quite reasonable. 

Pumpkin soup

I ordered the sea bass which I enjoyed

The 2 weeks went past too quickly for my liking and soon it was time to go back. I was able to do the online check-in this time and I changed my seats hoping for the seat beside mine to remain vacant. Was I lucky once again? Read on to find out.

On the day of departure

The night before I managed to check-in successfully. Later on, it turned out there isn't a queue at the airport for web check-in passengers, so what's the point? 

I monitored the traffic moment at ADD airport and was hoping to fly on a different A350 on my return flight. ET-ATQ was at ADD airport at that time with a few other aircraft so I had no idea which aircraft was assigned to my flight.

At the airport 

I woke up at 7 a.m and left the airport hotel an hour later. I had plenty of time to spare when I got to the check-in counter.

A good variety of aircraft was spotted opposite terminal 2. 

I tried using the self-service check-in machine to obtain my boarding pass, but it notified me to check-in at the counter. 

The queue was annoying long so it took a good while before reaching my turn.

The ground staff was curious about why I didn't choose the direct flight home. We had a good conversation about it. 

Finally, after obtaining the boarding passes and checking in my luggage, I made my way to the airside. As the morning traffic was heavy, it took a while to get past security. Fortunately, there isn't a need to go through immigration to leave the country, so that saved a bit of time. 

The lovely Christmas tree on display at the airside of Terminal 2

For the first time in this terminal, I would be walking over to the B gates at the other concourse. The walk takes around 15 minutes, so remember to give yourself some time to get over. 

The history of London Heathrow is revealed while walking through the bridge connecting the main concourse to the B gates

This is the B gates concourse 

There are some shops over here to hang around before your flight at concourse B. 

Thai's Airbus A380 heading back to Bangkok a few hours after my flight's departure 

This is where my aircraft was departing from. 

At the opposite side, I spotted United's Boeing 767-300ER being prepared for departure to Newark 

Flight route: ADD-LHR

Miles: 3,671

My ride: ET-AWM

Aircraft name: Rome

Engines: 2 X Roll Royce XWB Trent engines

Configuration: C30 Y318

Delivered in April 2019

Born in Toulouse 

289th Airbus A350

Photographed by Dn280

Photographed by Jason Xu 

Departure date: 18 December 2019
Airline: Ethiopian Airlines:
Flight: ET711
Route: LHR to ADD
Aircraft: A350-900
Registration: ET-AWM
Seat number: 41L
Departure gate: B46
Terminal: 2 
Departure time: 1020
Boarding time: 0920
Pushed back: 1034
Take off: 1058
Duration: 6 hours 50 mins
Scheduled arrival: 2055
Actual arrival: 2109
Load: Full in Y class 
Departure runway: 09R
Arrival runway: 07R

Boarding took place quite early and it is important to get everyone on board on time because the time slot is difficult to obtain. If the flight's time slot is missed, a flight delay would bring inconvenience to everyone on this flight. 

Unfortunately for me, this flight was full and every seat in Economy Class was occupied. Comparing with the 787, it was slightly more comfortable. 

Economy Class photos

Boarded the aircraft with a couple of cheerful crew welcoming us on board. I made my way to my assigned seat and for this flight, I managed to snap more photos as I was one of the first to board. The condition of this aircraft was better but for my seat, it was dirty with stains on the back of the seat in front of me.

The bulkhead seat - go for it if you have the option

The A350 now has the option to install the dimmable windows which you can experience on the 787 Dreamliner. I wonder which A350 operator would opt for it.

The picture below shows my seat for this flight

The overhead compartment 

Waiting for my seatmates to appear

2 African passengers turned up at my row. They were friendly and we had a bit of conversation during the flight. 

More photos of my seat 

Every row would have 2 AC power sockets located at the bottom of the seat in front of you.

Beverages menu selection can also be found on the entertainment system 

WiFi was available on my flight 

The airline's fleet 

It has a wide variety of wide-bodies. Boeing 787-8, -9, Airbus A350-900, Boeing 777-200LR and Boeing 777-300ER

In-flight meals 

This is the chicken option

I had a white wine after the meal.

Just before arrival, we were given a sandwich and a choice of drink

My in-flight experience 

The in-flight service was ok, nothing specular about it. The ride to ADD was smooth for the majority of the flight but we did encounter some minor turbulence, however, seat belt sign was not turned on until we started our descend. By the time we reached ADD, it was nightfall and we landed slightly late. The reason for the late arrival was due to the late departure at Heathrow airport. That airport is well known for the congestion and with the 3rd runway, that will help to solve some problems. 

After arrival at ADD airport, we were parked at the remote parking lot. My seatmates and I noticed the luggage vehicles were parked beside our aircraft and luggage were taken out manually, my guess would be some connecting flights were taking off soon and they have to find the baggage quickly to make it for the connecting flight. Kudos to the ground crew for their hard work. Meanwhile, for the passengers, it took about 20-30 minutes before the doors were opened. Why did it take so long? No idea but for connecting passengers it is inconvenient. I hope none of the passengers on my flight missed their connecting flight due to the delay. As for me, I had a couple of hours to spare.

Window shot photos

Spotted an Air China's Airbus A330-200 from the distance

A United Airlines Boeing 767-300ER parked beside my aircraft which flew in from the U.S. 

We taxied past a Singapore Airlines A380 and Air Canada's Boeing 787 in the old livery

It was a lovely morning for flying especially after a couple of days of rain

Taxiing past many terminals before finally reaching the threshold

We were finally off, but I was sitting at the wrong side of the aircraft 

Goodbye London, I will be back!

We were soon flying over the African continent 

Arrival at ADD Airport 

Spotted this beautiful Boeing 777-300ER, she was being prepared for her departure.

Being up close and personal with ET-AWM

There were many of us on the ground waiting to board the shuttle bus to the terminal. It was disorganised and it took a while before I managed to board one. The good thing is I got to enjoy the surrounding.

My rating: 

ADD Airport Experience: 5.5/10
On-ground service: 6/10
In-flight service: 6/10
In-flight experience: 7/10
Cabin interior: 7/10
Aircraft cleanliness: 6.5/10
Aircraft condition: 5/10
Punctuality: 10/10
In-Flight Entertainment system: 7/10
In-Flight meal: 6/10
Overall rating: 66/100


Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350 offers a better flight experience for Y class passengers than the 787 Dreamliner and mind you this comes from a huge 787 fan. The difference between both aircraft is quite obvious as the interior of the aircraft apart from the seats are easily distinguished. What I really like about the airline is it offers value for $ airfares and even nice enough to offer hotel layover for passengers of all classes for flights longer than 8 hours. For the soft and hard products, there are improvements the airline can work on, to not only make itself the number 1 choice to fly to Africa but also offer better products to convince travellers to choose this airline. The airport, ADD has to expand to prevent overcrowding. 

Hope you enjoy this trip report! My last part of my Ethiopian Adventure coming up soon. 

Meanwhile, let me give you a short update on my upcoming flights this year.

In April 2020, I have plans to fly to Taipei to catch Starlux to Penang and back to Taipei, to try out the airline and fly the airline's A321NEO. (Due to the coronavirus, my flight to Taipei has been postponed to 3rd Quarter of the year)

In June/July, I will fly to the U.S this time to cover the Eastern part of the country. More details of that to come. (My plan is still going ahead - Feb 2020)

For part 1 of this trip report, click here
For part 2 of the trip report, click here
For part 4 of the trip report, click here