Ethiopian Airlines Economy Class Review Tel Aviv (TLV) to Addis Ababa (ADD)

Book your flight on Ethiopian Airlines here.

Book your flights on Ethiopian Airlines here

Since I had booked a trip to Tel Aviv courtesy of this mistake fare, I just needed a flight to Addis Ababa from Tel Aviv. It’s just about 1,600 miles away, but it’s in a wildly different award region and I had trouble finding a way to book this with miles. The direct flight on Ethiopian Airlines was selling at $900 and connecting flights were $500 for a one-way. OK – so Africa isn’t cheap!

I used the Mighty Travels Trip Planner and found out that Miles & More charges ‘just’ 15,000 miles for the one-way for a direct flight, so I transferred some Starwood points to Miles & More (as I had an existing balance) and called in for the booking. I had looked up availability on united.com beforehand and the agent found the same results quickly. However, the fuel surcharges and taxes came out to $111. Not a cheap flight, but my best bet.

I have flown in and out of Tel Aviv a number of times and have just had one brief ‘security interrogation’ so far. This time I would travel with lots of stamps from Arabic countries from my last trip to a poor African country – alone! I expected the worst and so arrived at the airport 4 hours early. Check-in wasn’t yet open but when I returned 30 minutes later the line was huge (I later realized that this was partially because of a United flight and also the cancellation of a Turkish Airlines flight, which made the lines crazy).

There is a separate line for Star Alliance Gold members, though, which moved a bit quicker until it was my turn. That’s when it stopped. My ‘ad-hoc interview’ covered almost every place I have been to in the last 12 months as well as my family history and everything else on the planet. The idea of these interviews is to make it harder to come up with a fake identity. The interviewer asks seemingly random questions (though they come from a text book) about personal information. Obviously the agent can’t verify the answers (since he does not have the information) but can gauge reaction, answering times, corrections etc. The more suspicious the agent is, the more questions come along and the quicker they come out (to give you less time to come up with a ‘story’). I reached a point where it was probably five questions per minute – I felt like I did during my exams as a law student!

10 minutes later he suddenly and simply said, “Have a safe flight”. I think he knows more about me and my travels than anyone in my family. Oh, well.

Check-in was problematic since Ethiopian had changed my flight beforehand numerous times. I had verified my reservation with a Miles & More agent and with the Ethiopian website before leaving for the airport, but of course the check-in agent wanted to send me away (“Your flight is tomorrow”). I made it clear that I wasn’t going anywhere and produced the screenshot from the Ethiopian Airlines website. She eventually relented and started a seemingly endless check-in procedure (as she had to change my reservation in ‘her’ system).

Well, I got an empty row in economy all to myself for an overnight flight, so that was very sweet (especially as there were barely any other empty rows available on this flight).

Of course, as a courtesy from my ‘interrogation officer’, I was put on a list of ‘suspicious flyers’ and would get the most intense security check. All electronics had to come out of my bag and were screened for traces of explosives. I have no issue with that, but they REALLY do take their time.

I proceeded on to the DAN Lounge, which Ethiopian Airlines contracts with Star Alliance for Gold members and it was surprisingly comfy. Once the United flight left, it wasn’t crowded anymore.

The Ethiopian plane was a brand new 737-800 and was in a very clean condition. We took off right on time – just after midnight into the stormy Tel Aviv clouds.

Once the seat belt lights were off, I turned sideways and fell asleep right away. The flight turned out very bumpy about 2 hours in. That might have been the Ethiopian Plateau.

We arrived into Addis Ababa before the scheduled time at 5.30AM. While we all may think of Ethiopian as a modern airline, the airport facilities are truly old-school and decrepit. Fortunately there was no line for immigration and it was over in minutes. Almost all passport holders need to pay $50 for a 30-day visa.

I then waited for my bag for 30 minutes – but no bag appeared 🙁

The luggage-tracing staff were very friendly and opened a file right away. However, it took them 30 minutes to find a printer that worked just to give me a printout – go figure!

I mentioned compensation for the delay and the agent immediately talked to his supervisor. 10 minutes later, I had $75 in hand just for the inconvenience.

I’m a Star Alliance Gold, but I did not expect such a great reaction.

I have had bags delayed a number of times before, but usually only when connecting – I’ve never had a bag disappear (while other passengers get their bags) on a direct flight. As I learned later, Israeli security had manually searched my bag and so it never made it to the plane.

It took Ethiopian Airlines 72 hours to find and finally send my bag on the 5th flight since my flight. Sigh. It arrived in one piece and re-packed with a note from your friendly Israeli security officer.

All in all, this should have been a routine flight, but it was everything but. The security situation of countries around Israel isn’t the best, but the endless security checks and questions make Tel Aviv Airport a horrible place to connect in.

Book your flights on Ethiopian Airlines here


Book your flight on Ethiopian Airlines here.

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2.5 / 5 stars