Ethiopian Airlines, Truly – The Spirit of Africa!

Posted April 27, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Featured ~ 5,523 views


By Ronnie Mayanja | Travel Insight | In January of this year I embarked on a trip to my motherland Uganda. Prior to the trip I had been shopping around for an airline that could provide me with stellar in-flight service at an affordable cost. It was not long before friends recommended Ethiopian Airlines – “The spirit of Africa” as the airline is commonly referred to. The airline is quickly positioning itself as a major African carrier and enjoys a considerable share of the global market. Founded in 1946 with its first maiden flight to Cairo, Ethiopian airlines now flies to over 60 destinations worldwide.

As an African I wanted to support my very own but was skeptical due to the negative publicity many of the airlines from Africa often attract. The never ending delays, bad customer service and rude in flight attendants is a picture many of us familiar with. So, upon identifying a good deal I decided to fly the airline to confirm or alley my fears.

At the time, it was quite conducive to get a flight that avoided going through Europe since many of my friends had experienced disruptions and cancellation of their flights due to the volcanic ash which grounded many flights heading to Europe towards the end of last year.

Therefore flying directly from Washington DC to Addis Ababa aboard the ultra modern Boeing B777-200LR [part of the newly acquired fleet of Ethiopian airlines jets and the very first in Africa], seemed to provide a much better alternative. In the past friends had complained of a 2 hour re-fueling stop in Rome enroute to Addis Ababa.

However with Ethiopian Airlines acquisition of a new fleet of new Boeing B777-200LR aircraft this was eliminated as this jet is able to fly for longer distances without re-fueling allowing the passengers less time in transit.

Overall Ethiopian Airlines has been expanding and growing as a major career. And today it has cemented its place as a leading carrier in Africa with a fairly good safety record. However some areas that the airline could use some improvement include on time departures, good customer care especially in their major connecting hub and Headquarters and an investment in more fluent-English speaking in flight attendants for the Addis – Washington route who are able to cater for the growing diversity of airline travellers. I personally found it troublesome,  during my flight, to pick up on what some of the  air hostesses were saying over the Public Address system due to the heavy Ethiopian accent.

The area were I would like to give the airline some kudos was my experience as a cloud nine business class traveler,  I felt valued and pampered during my entire flights both from Entebbe and Washington. The Ethiopian hospitality was also evident from the get go and there was also a variety of Entertainment provided in flight. African music representing genres like Jazz, folk, traditional music to Nollywood, Bollywood and Hollywood Movies gave the traveller the ultimate relaxation and helped shorten the journey for the most part.

Once aboard Ethiopian airlines you are immediately drawn to its air hostesses who are normally clad in their traditional green attire. From their exquisite skin complexion and long flowing hair to the beautiful smiles, all this adds to the experience of what makes this a travel adventure of sorts. It’s therefore no myth why perhaps King Solomon of Israel was so smitten by the beauty of the Queen of Sheba as legend would have it.

It’s also practically impossible to stay hungry on an Ethiopian Airline flight because they will wine and dine you until you drop. The wide variety of beverages served in flight will leave those who enjoy happy hour ecstatic. And if you enjoy your slumber you will love the comfort of the arm chairs that can fully extend into sleeping positions making your journey as a cloud nine traveler memorable!

My experience though once we got to Bole International Airport, in Addis Ababa was somewhat mixed, of course as a tired traveler you always want a smooth and swift connection to your gate but here I felt the services were a little lax and some what unfriendly. Because it is a busy hub, Ethiopian airlines needs to do more in investing by lingua representatives that are easily identifiable within designated areas for those with inquiries. My general feeling was for any tired traveler the distance covered while carrying a piece of luggage after a 12 hour flight was abit too long before getting to the help desk which also had other travelers standing in line. As a regional hub you would expect more man power and better customer service. For a tired traveler, the lesser the hustle, the better the experience and often times one will fly the airline that gives them fewer hustles during connections.

Later on my return trip I would get the answer that had dogged me as to why on its return trips, Ethiopian airlines always flies via Rome. The answer came by way of an American Ethiopian pilot who was returning to the US for vacation. The explanation I got for these refueling stops on my return leg was due to the mountainous terrain coupled with high altitude that makes it practically impossible for planes to carry heavy loads plus fuel on their way out of Addis Ababa. So it becomes easier to refuel in Rome since the air is quite thin in the Abyssinian mountain ranges that surround Bole International Airport. The Ethiopians therefore deserve credit for overcoming many of these obstacles in their terrain and high altitude to compete as world class airline with a major hub stationed in the region.

For frequent fliers Ethiopian airlines offers many attractive deals that include the Sheba Miles that grants you access to their sky miles membership program. Despite all its challenges Ethiopian Ethiopian Airlines has emerged as a market leader on the continent that fellow Africans ought to support. It has also grown and expanded its operations to cover new destinations across the globe. Given another opportunity I would definitely fly Ethiopian for it’s a truly the Spirit of Africa.

Check out some videos of the Service provided by the Ethiopian Airlines:

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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