“ Country: Ethiopia „
I used Ethiopian Airlines to fly from London Heathrow, to Rome, as the flights onward to Addis Ababa stop over in Rome, and not only was it infinitely cheaper than other scheduled flights (British Airways/Alitalia etc), the times of the flights were very good for a weekend when you can't take any time off work! The flights (there is only one flight a day in each direction!) left at 9pm from Heathrow and returned to London (from Rome) at 7.30pm, though, of course, times are subject to change, it left enough time to get from work to airport being able to be back at your desk (if a little wearily!) on Monday morning! As for the actual flight, the meal was standard airline fare with a choice of two options. There is inflight entertainment, but they only start that after the Rome stopover, however, there is a film showed on the return leg! The aircraft seemed to be clean and well-maintained (on a cleanliness level, I can't comment on mechanics, but it didn't make any funny noises!). I flew on a 767 which I think is it's regular plane for the European routes. The staff were pleasant and unassuming, as much as would be expected and the flight passed smoothly (if slightly delayed!). All in all, I would definitely fly with them again!
The only airline to go to Addis Ababa direct from UK (though Kenya Airways via Nairobi is sometimes cheaper, see my review of Kenya Airways for details). Not many people go to Addis though, the chief raison detre of this airline is to sell cheap seats to other parts of Africa. Where is the best place to buy tickets on Ethiopean? This is my best advice based upon 10 years experience of selling discounted airline tickets - but if you think you already know everything, and just want to find out the cheapest place to buy it for this airline, then skip to the last paragraph! Lets face it, all airlines can get you from A to B, sometimes you have to change at C, sometimes you have to hang around at C, but if price is your main concern, read on .... First, as an ex-travel agent, let me explain how the system works. Nearly all airlines belong to a cartel known as IATA, which amongst other duties, helps to regulate the official prices between each pair of worldwide destinations. My first piece of advice is, never phone the airline for the official fare, except as a last resort - their staff are trained to extract the highest fare they can get away with, and they are never going to tell you that one of their competitors has a better deal, or that you can save money going the next or previous day. Furthermore, they can only sell at the officially agreed price. Luckily for us consumers, and unluckily for the airlines, they cannot sell all their seats at the official price, especially if a much better, more direct airline has the same price. For example, if the official fare to, say, Bangkok is £600 from airline A (non-stop in 12 hours) and the same price from airline B (19 hours with a 7 hour wait changing planes in Karachi airport) then it is obvious which will sell out first. In order to generate market share, less popular airlines will unofficially discount their fares through wholesalers known
as "consolidators" - these can sometimes save you more than half of the official fare. These consolidators appoint specialised agents, and sometimes you can even save more money if the consolidator will deal with you direct. You may be surprised to learn that, depending on the length of the journey, the consolidator is only charging you £10 - £40 more than the "factory" price given to them by the airline. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not risky to deal with these so called "bucket shops" - If they let you down, they can be heavily fined or even jailed - everything is covered by the government ATOL scheme, so it is a lot safer than, for example, paying for a three-piece suite in advance to a High Street furniture chain. To summarise, these are my recommendations: Contact the airline for their best official price, on 0207 491 9119 Call the consolidator on 0207 434 1654 (World Express - ATOL 3648).
On a recent business trip, I travelled on EA, connecting at Addis Ababa. Having travelled throughout Africa and on African airlines, with numerous bad experiences, I was daunted at the prospect. However, the planes were new and well maintained. Food was acceptable (by airline standards). As for the staff I found them both efficient & friendly...both in the air and on the ground. The organisation at AA airport and providing transport to and from the hotel (overnight stay provided by EA) was exemplary. Bravo..!