Africa: Ethiopian Airline? Never Again
In the past three years, I have always registered and confirmed my participation in the New York Times Travel Show at Jacob. K. Javits Convention Centre, New York City, US, but I always ended up not being able to attend this biggest tourism show in the North America, majorly because of my commitment to have a law degree as the dates of the event always clashed with my School’s academic calendar.
Thus, after the completion of the academic endeavour, I made up my mind to witness the show last January to fill the gap of waiting for the call to the Bar.
After Adenike Olarenwaju, a Nigerian, who is the PR Head for New York Times Travel Show sent the confirmation and badge that would facilitate my entry into the show, another cog which threatened my attendance of this year’s show reared its head.
In Nigeria, the month of January has never been a good month for workers who earn salary from a source.
January is viewed as the harrowing month by workers in Nigeria because, it is the month which follows December – a festive period when most people would have been carried away by the spirit of the festive period and overspend their budget failing to remember that January is the month when the children will be returning to school!
January is a month when most parents experience high blood pressure because of the fact that the children’s school fees must be paid and having exceeded one’s budget in celebrating the Yuletide season, my chance of attending the 2019 New York Times Travel show was about to kiss the dust.
The reasons were, that, as an African man, we don’t like to count the number of our children and also as an Usi Ekiti product, I have been indoctrinated with the fact that I should subjugate and relegate my personal comfort or desire in lieu of my children’s education.
Secondly, the cost of travelling to New York for this event is not only to be borne by me, but I have not, for once, demanded been offered a complimentary ticket by any airline in Nigeria despite having written and published their news without demanding for gratification.
Thirdly, the time was been eaten up, I was trying to get a ticket on January 20 for an event coming up on January 25. The prevailing price of ticket in naira was killing as it rose and synchronised with the beats of the dollar… The least I got then was 580,000 naira!
Yes, over half a million naira. And this is exclusive of the hotel, transportation, feeding and other side attractions.
So, I picked my phone and called Funmi Rotiba, CEO, Special Tour and Travel, based in Ibadan who is my travel manager to cease action on booking the hotel since I could not afford not to pay my children’s school fees going by the prices of tickets online.
She pleaded for more time to enable her search for price busters or comparative price list and that I should not cancel the trip yet
After four hours, Funmi put a call through and enthusiastically informed that she had secured a seat for me on an Ethiopian Airlines flight via Abidjan!
‘What, which kind of connection is that? I queried.
And why Ethiopian Airlines?
Why Abidjan again?
What manner of connections are you plotting for me, Nigeria to Abidjan – Ethiopia – New Jersey, Rubbish. I screamed.
I don’t like Ethiopian Airlines. I don’t believe in its propaganda of being one of the best airlines in Africa. Funmi, I better forget this trip if the only airline you can get for me at this auspicious time is Ethiopian Airlines. What about other famous classy, dependable and efficient world acclaimed Airlines?.
As Funmi was trying to calm me down, I fired again “Imagine me spending so much time in Abidjan and heading to Ethiopia just because I wanted an airline which is not only cost effective but of a better service.”
As she tried to calm me down with soothing words, she asked me why I disliked Ethiopian Airlines.
I gave her a lot of hearsays supplied by friends against Ethiopian Airlines and that the airlines doesn’t serve whisky and brandy to passengers in the economy class.
She diligently, as a professional tour operator, extolled the virtues and achievements of Ethiopian Airlines to me, which I took with a pinch of salt.
Grudgingly I accepted to fly Ethiopian Airlines going by the fact of time and the price it offered.
The first embarrassment commenced from Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, where I had queued at Ethiopian Airlines desk only to be told that should look for Air Cote d’Ivoire desk to check in!
I angrily searched for Cote “D’ivoire Check- in desk where I met friendly officials who attended to me decently.
“You are having a stopover in Abidjan,” “the nice man informed me.
The Abidjan-bound plane took off at exactly 09:55, time set on the ticket and the plane was piloted by a sensible guy who never allowed us to know that the tyres had touched the tarmac at 10: 33, two minutes earlier than the time scheduled for landing.
In Abidjan, we spent only 1 hour 40 minutes before the Newark-bound Ethiopian Boeing 787 Jet landed and we were ushered in by beautiful ladies and men who dressed in Ethiopian national colour.
As I stepped inside the belly of the big flying whale, my nostril was lovingly assaulted by the aroma of authentic coffee, which reminded me that Ethiopia was the first place Coffee was discovered in the world.
My eyes brightened up, I managed a wry smile. My brain sent a signal of ‘you are likely going to enjoy this flight.”
I tried to surprise the thought.
I planted myself on the seat allocated to me. Looked back to see there were some free seats to sleep because I envisaged the 11 hours 15 minutes scheduled to Newark would be boring.
However, Ethiopian Airlines had overloaded its entertainment machines with programmes and the ladies and guys detailed as hostesses were trained to kill off boredom as they were harkening to one’s demands intermittently without expression of being tired.
Save for the absence of whisky and brandy, the hostesses were never tired supplying me coffee, red wine, white wine, food and banter which helped me to consummate the lessons and tricks in some of the movies I watched and which never allowed me to know that the 10 hours trip was over.
The pilot also failed to spend the scheduled time because instead of 11 hours 40 minutes, we ended spending only 11 hours in the air.
The service was excellent. The flight was super smooth, yes, I did not have the eerie feeling that I was in the air for once; the air or cabin attendants were exceptional, polite decent and all possessed a robust sense of being a perfect first impression managers and the sweet smell of original coffee from the source was nice and arresting.
Throughout my stay in the US, the treatment and benchmark of service inside the belly of Ethiopian Airlines lubricated my urge to do well what I was pursuing with assurance that I would be conveyed back home by an Airline which knows how to serve and service passengers welfare on its cabin.
The return trip was even very exciting, for instead of 11 hours which was spent from Abidjan to Newark, it took the return trip only 9hrs 40 minutes to Abidjan!
Apart from the fact that I had a blissful exploit of my assignment in the US, visiting Maryland, Philadelphia, New York DC and New Jersey, Ethiopian Airlines’ superlative service capped the trip and made is so thrilling, captivating and evergreen trip that I have decided that never, I say, never, will I fly out of Africa with any other airlines except Ethiopian Airlines, but the airline should include brandy and whisky in its drinks order.
No wonder, Ethiopian Airlines winning trails of many awards
And like I said, Ethiopian Airlines, never again will I forsake you. Never. Truly, you’ve got the service.
By Wale Ojo Lanre