MANCHESTER – This week has seen Ethiopian Airlines launch the first of its four times per week services to Addis Ababa.

The service is operated by its Boeing 787 Dreamliner (ET-AUO) and celebrates the first direct link between the airport and Ethiopia.

This route will connect fliers onwards to 58 different destinations across the African continent, which will boost tourism links between the West and parts of Africa.

Andrew Cowan, the CEO of Manchester Airport commented on this new route launch, saying how “delighted” he was to have the carrier launching Addis Ababa services this week.

“We’re delighted to have Ethiopian Airlines launching its service to Addis Ababa today. It will provide a vital route into Africa for businesses across the North, as well as helping attract visitors and potential investors to the region”.

Cowan carried on to say that “this route highlights the important role Manchester Airport continues to play in connecting the north with key global markets”.

Photo: James Field.

Tewolde GebreMariam, the GCEO of Ethiopian Airlines said that he is “elated to start our service to Manchester” and that passengers will be able to enjoy “unparalleled comfort onboard our flights, along with our African flavoured Ethiopian hospitality”.

It was announced on May 14th that Addis Ababa-based carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, will launch a new four times weekly service between Addis Ababa and Manchester Airport, in the northwest parts of the UK.

Up to 400,000 people will benefit from this new route and will be operated by a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft.

ET-AUO airside at Manchester. Photo: James Field

This will be the second UK destination that the carrier will be operating to, after having a long-standing relationship with Heathrow since the mid-1970s.

The flight will leave Manchester Airport at 19:00, arriving at Addis Ababa at 6:00. The flight will transit via Brussels. Meanwhile, the return flight will depart Addis Ababa at 00:45, landing at Manchester at 06:55 local time (all times local).

ET-AUO, the front end. Photo: James Field.

This route will be added to the set of successive destinations that the airport has secured in recent years, with routes such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Houston, Muscat, Singapore & San Francisco being among the list of international links that the Ringway-based airport has in its portfolio.

It could be argued that this route opening is a result of the expansion plan that Manchester Airport is currently implementing across the airport, with the expansion of their terminals for additional capacity.

A Taster Flight… (+Photos)

In terms of configuration onboard the 787-8, it will be arranged with a 2-class setup.

There will be 24 seats in the airline’s Cloud 9 Business Class which will be in a 2-2-2 configuration, which will offer up to 170 degrees of reclination for when fliers wish to sleep during the flight. Economy class will have 246 seats onboard, offering a 3-3-3 configuration and up to 33 inches worth of seat pitch.

The cutting of the ceremonial cake. Photo: James Field.

As part of the inaugural, Airways was invited onto a little “jolly flight” for the press to experience the aircraft over a two-hour flight.

Mentioning the 787-8 configuration earlier, this flight would be different as the carrier sent in its newest -9 Dreamliners to celebrate.

Flight Information:

  • Flight Number: ET8728
  • Registration: ET-AUO
  • Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
  • Route: Manchester-Manchester
  • Seat: 15J
  • Flight Time: 2 hours

As soon as we got to the airport, we were greeted by the press team to go and check in with our customized boarding passes for the special flight.

I met up with other press contacts and the Manchester team before heading up jointly to security, which was a breeze, bearing in mind the lack of luggage I would have onboard with me.

From there, we proceeded to Gate 202 where the ceremony took place, featuring traditional dance routines to the speeches from the prospective bosses involved with this route.

Row 15 – Photo: James Field.

We boarded the aircraft just after 1100L, where I got to know my seat, 15J. Even for Economy, the seat was outrageously comfortable and was able to stretch my legs quite sufficiently, which backs up Ethiopian’s claim of “unparalleled comfort”. On the -9, Economy was set out in a 3-3-3 configuration.

Economy in the 3-3-3 configuration. Photo: James Field.

At around 1125L, we began the pushback after all of the passengers got comfortable and ready for this two-hour flight. The sheer sound of the Rolls Royce Trent 1000s spooling up was definitely a highlight of the pushback to say the least.

Taxi time was around 12 minutes to Manchester’s Runway 23R, where we then departed at full power effortlessly off the ground. Departure was very smooth in the climb out with a couple of bumps along the way.

Whilst we continued our climb up to 41,000 feet, we were encouraged to fill out a quiz form, in which the winner would receive free flights to any destination in the Ethiopian portfolio. I unfortunately didn’t win but the lucky person who did win was ecstatic, as you could imagine.

After the quiz, members of the press were allowed to take a look inside the Cloud Nine Business Class that the carrier offers to its flyers.

Business class is in a 2-2 configuration. Photo: James Field.

On the -9, it was configured in a 2-2-2 format, with seats 1A and 1B together. We were offered the chance to sit in the seat and try it out. I have to say, it was very comfortable and your back sank right into the seat, offering a lot of comfort.

Photo: James Field.

Food was showcased inside the Business Class cabin, but as we were going to be eating in Economy anyway, the food was all on show for the press to take a look.

In-flight entertainment onboard the -9 is quite something. It features significantly large screen in economy, with a USB port and two headphone jacks to listen to music and charge cellular devices.

In-flight entertainment. Photo: James Field.

The same applies inside Cloud Nine with plug sockets and a larger screen to watch content on.

Looking at the IFE itself, the screens have been well laid out and it produces an easy perspective on accessibility. It offered movies, TV, audio, games, flight status and other applications to use.

There was a huge list of this type of content, but given the nature of the flight, we didn’t get any time to properly utilize it.

There was also a set of buttons engrained into the armrest in economy which although theoretically seems like a good idea, it did cause a problem of lights being switched on accidentally, which creates some level of inconvenience, especially when you are trying to rest your arm.

After we looked at the Cloud Nine setup, we were told to take our seats as the food and drinks were about to be served by the very kind, enthusiastic flight attendants.

In the cruise at FL410. Photo: James Field.

Meal service began upon the beginning of the hold 150 miles away from the Newcastle area, where we were holding over the North Sea towards Norway.

Drinks on offer consisted of soft drinks, water, tea, coffee and alcohol. The airline emphasized its origins of Coffee from Ethiopia, so they took great pride in wanting to sell this.

For the food, I opted for the Chicken-based tray meal with a cup of Fanta. The meal also had prawns and salad on the side with some bread and crackers followed by a chocolate dessert.

The chicken meal consisted of stuffing, carrots and spinach, which went well together, especially with the gravy-like sauce that came with it, offering a juicy and tasty offering in the overall meal.

The salad also went very well with the chicken, providing an overall nutritional meal. I didn’t have the prawns as I myself am not really a lover of fish.

We were then offered a second dish, which was an Ethiopian Curry with traditional Injera bread, which was very tasty. However, this meal in particular blows your head off with incredible spice. I as a spice lover absolutely adored this and it worked very well together.

The chocolate brownie for dessert was very tiny and was offered with a strawberry-like-based sauce. The flavouring was very nice but my only critique was how cloggy the chocolate actually was. I had to drink a lot of water in order to enjoy this properly. It was still nice nonetheless.

In all, food offered across the Cloud Nine and Economy classes is very good, especially with the metal cutlery, which has been shaped and branded into the Ethiopian theme.

Shortly after meal service, our descent back into Manchester commenced from 41,000 feet. In that time, members of the press got to have a couple of minutes with GCEO of the airline Tewolde GebreMariam who gave us some more insight into the new route.

When asked about why he picked Manchester, he said that “it is a hub in the midland and the areas of Northern England so we are going to use it as a hub for the African communities locally to add faster service to Africa”.

The carrier currently operates ten times per week to the UK, both from Heathrow and now Manchester. 

He was then asked about what made Ethiopian succeed in the current market conditions, he replied by saying that “we started doing things right at the right time and efficiently with the right business model and strategy”, hinting towards Vision 2025. 

This was achieved through the use of cargo and passenger operations being expanded to all corners of the world. 

The third question aimed at GabreMariam was regarding Vision 2025 and about how Manchester links up with other corners of the world. He said that the carrier “has a plan to grow across the UK even further, from the likes of Nigeria and South Africa”. 

Concluding the interview was about the operation of the route itself. GabreMariam confirmed that the stopover in Brussels will cease in the future, making the route non-stop going into the next 12-18 months. Brussels was used “just to test the waters”. 

We then sat back down and continued onto final approach for Runway 23R after the interviews concluded. The approach was very rapid coming down, especially with the heavy usage of flaps and speed brakes.

You could definitely feel the elements force down on your head when we were on the descent.

We then touched down at 1:37 pm to conclude what was a very stunning taster flight from the airline, offering what is most definitely “unparalleled comfort” and an overall stunning product, both in Economy and also in Cloud Nine Business.

To put this week’s route launch into a couple of sentences, this new route launch is the start of something big for the Mancunian market.

As we see the route fully operational over the next 6-12 months, it looks like the upgrades and evolution of the route will fly in.

With up to 400,000 Ethiopian customers potentially using Manchester, the airline will no doubt succeed in this area, especially with the product it has on offer with its Boeing 787s.