Tuesday 11 December saw the first service by Ethiopian Airlines into Manchester on its new link from Addis Ababa.
This marks the first scheduled service to East Africa from Manchester, which has traditionally only seen holiday services to African resorts in Egypt and Tunisia.
Ethiopian is opening this link, which is its second UK service after London Heathrow, which it serves ten times weekly.
The Manchester service operates with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft 4x per week, initially staging via Brussels, but ultimately looking to increase to a daily non-stop link if bookings do well.
The launch day was an opportunity for Ethiopian to show off its product and famous hospitality, and I was invited along to try it out on a specially-arranged press flight during the day.
I arrived at Manchester’s Terminal 2 at 8am. This terminal is undergoing incredible transformation into a ‘mega terminal’ which will eventually have two piers. The part of the building not yet demolished is still operating as normal, and it was a swift journey through security, before being directed to gate 202 at the southern end, where a party was planned.
There was a chance to meet and mingle with various other writers, bloggers, YouTubers, local businesses, airline and airport employees whilst enjoying some breakfast and sparkling wine.
A show of traditional dance and song from Ethiopia was put on, before some speeches from Tricia Williams of Manchester Airport, Tewolde GebreMariam of Ethiopian Airlines, the Ethiopian Ambassador to the UK, and Jeremy Lefroy, MP for Stafford and Trade Envoy to Ethiopia.
This service is seen as a key link for both airports. Trisha Williams commented that the route provides “vital connectivity to one of the African continent’s most important hub airports and unlocks onward connecting access across Africa.”
Addis Ababa has recently overtaken Dubai International as the leading gateway into Africa thanks to political reforms and relaxed visa rules.
An opportunity to experience Ethiopian Airlines’ product first hand was on offer, with a two-hour flight on board Boeing 787-9 ET-AUO, which had arrived a few hours earlier.
This aircraft represents the stretched variant of the Dreamliner now in service with Ethiopian (the airline was the second in the world to take delivery of the original -8 model).
It offers a two-class cabin with four rows of Business Class and the rest in the attractive green Economy class seating. My seat was 15H which sadly didn’t afford a window view, but there were opportunities throughout the flight to enjoy the view of the huge Trent 1000 engines and the world below.
The flight took us from runway 23R at Manchester before turning to the north east as we coasted out over Newcastle and over the North Sea, where we took up a racetrack pattern.
During this time we had chance to view the rest of the cabin, mingle some more, and experience a full meal and drinks service, followed by traditional injera bread and spices which are the national dish of Ethiopia.
Speaking to the airline’s Group CEO, Tewolde GebreMariam, he commented that he believes this new service will become a Northern and Midlands hub for communities of Ethiopians and those wishing to visit the country and onward destinations across Africa for both business and tourism.
“Unlike Heathrow, there are fewer slot constraints, and we are getting closer to the customer.”
Speaking of the hope to go non-stop, he said “We are very happy with advance bookings on the route after testing the waters with 4x weekly service via Brussels”. He added “We will go daily, non-stop eventually.”
Ethiopian is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, and the largest in Africa with over 110 aircraft in its fleet, comprising the modern Airbus A350, Boeing 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliner among others.
The Dreamliner is an incredibly quiet and smooth aircraft to fly on, and Ethiopian’s seating configuration is spacious with a generous pitch. On long flights the lower cabin altitude should keep you feeling fresher, and the onboard service was delicious, catering for both African and Western tastes.
After what felt like no time at all the flight was descending through the clouds again for a smooth landing at Manchester.
It was fun to see so many spotters had caught the flight in pictures and video from the various spotting locations around Manchester, giving a different perspective on the flight!
Here’s a video from MT Aviation, who documented the day:
My thanks to Manchester Airport and Ethiopian Airlines for arranging this trip and providing such great hospitality.
You can book your flight from Manchester to Addis Ababa (and onward to over a hundred other destinations) on the Ethiopian Airlines website.