For my forced layover in Addis due to Ethiopian Airlines, I got to use the free transfer and layover facilities that Ethiopian provides.
Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa is a major airport, but is located just a 5-minute drive from the city center along Bole Road. Addis has precious few traffic problems so it’s really, really close.
Ethiopian Airlines runs a transfer desk just between the arrival gates and the departure gates. These ladies will decide how you will spend the night – so be courteous!
The policy they follow sees you eligible for a free hotel and a free transit visa for 24 hours if there is no connection between your inbound and outbound for at least 8 hours. If it is overnight, then your cards are even better!
Ethiopian Airlines Economy Class passengers usually get the Friendship International Hotel, while business class passengers are eligible for the Hilton Addis Ababa. No distinction is made if this is on an award ticket or not.
Now I know what you are thinking – you just want to get the Hilton and not the hostel-sounding Friendship Hotel. However, the Hilton isn’t in a great location (it’s next to the Radisson Blu Addis Ababa!) while the Friendship Hotel is closer to the airport and right at the end of the restaurant and coffee strip on Bole Road. It’s also a pretty good middle-class hotel.
There is no distinction usually made between Star Alliance Gold members and other economy class passengers.
In my case, food was included as well – the hotel served me lunch, dinner, breakfast and unlimited macchiatos. The bus transfer was also included. It is great value as the single entry visa is $50 and the hotel would cost another $100 + food.
Now what if you want to see Addis but you booked the flights in a way to have a longer layover? Technically you are not eligible, but Ethiopian Airlines has so many schedule changes and ‘ghost flights’ that you can easily claim that no better connection was available when you booked it. Since it’s an award ticket, you can argue that it cannot be changed (as many non-US airlines make award tickets non-refundable or non-changeable).
This may work or not. Worst case, you will be put on a shorter connection or have to pay $70 for the transit visa and hotel accommodation. This transfer package is usually available from the ladies at the transfer desk.
This is still a great deal and Addis is a great place for 24 hours or more.
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