f you can help it, try to avoid flying Ethiopian Airlines. The only connections with Ethiopian that are more or less acceptable are the flights between major western cities (London, Frankfurt, Washington, Dublin/LA) and Addis Ababa. Also try to avoid flying Ethiopian if you have to connect at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. I will give detailed reasons for my bad review below.
First of all I would like to clarify on what experiences this review is based. Over the years I have flown Ethiopian Airlines on over 10 flight segments, involving destinations in Africa, Europe and Asia and numerous connections at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport. Additional information used for this review were obtained by Ethiopian Airlines staff, by a representative of an international airline cooperating with Ethiopian Airlines as well as from an official dealing with air travel in a Western destination country of Ethiopian Airlines.
Ethiopian Airlines has a fleet with some very old and some very new airplanes. For example, Ethiopian has bought a number of new Boeing Dreamliners and has signed a contract to buy 14 Airbus 350 extra wide body aircrafts. Ethiopian is currently in the process of expanding its fleet, and as long as you are lucky enough to fly on a Dreamliner (or an A350 after May 2016), you will probably have a pleasant flight experience. The service on Ethiopian Airlines is not far behind that of other international airlines, though flight attendants are - as a general rule of thumb - less professional but at least as friendly as with other airlines. The food on all flights is sub standard when compared to other international airlines. I have also heard form several reliable sources (mentioned above) that Ethiopian is struggling to keep up with safety standards in the USA and the EU. The airline has faced repeated scrutiny by agencies in the US and the EU due to poor safety and maintenance, nevertheless there has been no major security incident involving the airline in the last years. You will realise that even the relatively new Dreamliners look very worn out in the cabin. The planes generally look “dirty” considering that they are so new, toilets are frequently damaged and the seat numbers and plastic parts on overhead lockers are torn off. This is one of the indications that the maintenance of the planes is not on par with other international airlines.
Your real problems start if you have the bad luck to catch one of the old Boeing 767 on a long haul flight. These planes are decades old, dirty, uncomfortable and in some cases do not even have screens with on board entertainment at each seat but have one screen for 3-4 rows without the possibility to choose a movie yourself. If you have the bad luck to fly Ethiopian on long distance flights (e.g. to Bangkok our Rio de Janeiro) and end up in one of the old planes you have one of the worst flight experiences of your life cut out for you. I have had 2-3 of these flights with Ethiopian, and after the last one I swore to myself never to book Ethiopian again if I can help it.
Last but not least the main hub of Ethiopian, Bole International Airport, is chaotic to say the least. Ethiopian airlines has grown rapidly in the past couple of years, and the airport has not kept up with that growth. There are huge queues at the security checks, the personnel at the security is incompetent and extremely rude. The entire airport is baldy managed and if you have a problem expect to be greeted with attitude instead of advice or help. If Addis is your final destination, good luck finding the correct belt where your luggage will be delivered. It is always a guessing game. I also have never waited longer for my luggage anywhere in the world.
I will personally never book Ethiopian airlines again after several very unpleasant experiences. Service and food are worse than on other international airlines, the very old planes used on many connections, the maintenance and safety issues as well as the catastrophically managed hub of the airline are further arguments to stay well clear of Ethiopian Airlines.