This post was written by expat contributor Jonathan Di Rollo.
Even if your final destination is not in Africa, you can still fly with Ethiopian Airlines. I went home last Christmas to visit my family in Scotland, and took a business class flight from Kuala Lumpur to Heathrow Airport. This wasn’t the first time that I had flown on Ethiopian Airlines, but it was the first time had flown in their business class. I try out different airlines each year when I fly home for my annual visit, and usually stop over for a few hours transit, often to see a bit of the city or country that I am passing through. Another tick in the box for a curious world traveller.
I chose Ethiopian Airlines business class because a good friend of mine recommended it. This time I had a deliberately long transit planned in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. To get the most out of my travels without exhausting myself, I searched for an online tour of the city to use up some of the 18 hours of layover that I had. This turned out to be a good idea that proved to be worthwhile. I wasn’t in a rush to get back to the UK and the timings and lengths of flights meant that I could see a lot without pushing myself, and arrive home relaxed, refreshed, and enlightened.
It was fairly easy to book a private tour online. I surfed for a bit and checked the online reviews. I took a night flight to Addis stopping briefly in Singapore. The reclining flatbed in business class was ideal. On entry I was greeted by an Ethiopian Airlines flight attendant who offered me a choice of sparkling wine or fresh orange juice. I took both and mixed them together. While I was sipping, I started chatting with a business executive sitting next to me. An interesting conversation with a management consultant who flew regularly to Ethiopia for short term inputs on projects. I skipped dinner as I had already eaten well at the business class lounge in KLIA. A peaceful 6 hours or so later, I woke. I was offered water and coffee. I flicked through several of the movies on offer before deciding to continue with the good book that I had taken with me for the journey.
Disembarking in Addis Ababa airport was easy. First off the plane with business class, then straight out the door to the good downtown hotel that had been provided by Ethiopian Airlines for my stopover, along with a free shuttle bus and all meals included. The day tour of Addis Ababa that I had booked online started at 9am so I had a few hours to settle in and relax. A day’s sightseeing included visits to museums, churches, and markets. A good view from the hillside above the city led to lunch at a local person’s home, with home made beer. By mid-afternoon I had seen and done enough so it was back to the hotel with a CD of Ethiopian music in my hand.
The onward leg from Addis Ababa to Heathrow was equally comfortable and enjoyable. I skipped the delightful evening meal again as I had tried some of the local Ethiopian cuisine and beer at the business class lounge in Addis Ababa airport already. More good sleep on a second night flight about the same length as the first leg give or take an hour or so, and I woke up in time for breakfast before landing in London. Perfect.
I arrived at home in Edinburgh after a short connection fairly fresh, mid-morning, and spent the day with my mother and sister making them slightly envious about the trip and sights I had just seen on my way home to visit them for Christmas.
After good times at home I took the same route back to Kuala Lumpur just before New Year. This time it was daytime flights which allowed me to enjoy the good service and good meals on offer not to mention a selection of very good South African and French red wines. When I boarded the plane at Addis Ababa for Kuala Lumpur I sat down next to the same Management Consultant who I had sat next to two weeks before! We exchanged stories of Christmas, him working and me playing, and we swapped business cards.
Whether you are visiting Africa or not, for business or for pleasure, you should try Ethiopian Airlines. If your budget can stretch to business class travel, give it a try too.