“No Problem.” I really began to hate those two words.
Let’s just start by saying that after flying 35 flights so far on our around-the-world trip, Ethiopian Airlines is by far the worst airline in the world and Addis Ababa airport is THE worst airport in the world. Our original flight reservations were on South African Airline, but without explanation, it was changed to Ethiopian Airlines. Not only did the airline route us with a 27 hour layover, they wanted to charge us an additional $70 per person to accommodate us overnight outside of the airport for an issue they created. We told them we already had a paid hotel room and only needed a transit visa, but were told they couldn’t issue just the transit visa. We finally had to go to immigration and buy a standard visa costing $50/person. At least it was twenty dollars cheaper than the airline arrangements.
It’s an airline operating first-world technology with a third-world mentality.
The next day, we waited in the worst queue for security screening I’ve ever been in; worse than China; worse than India. We were caught in a crush of people all pushing forward to try and get through security. No orderly queuing just pushing and shoving and people trying to jump the queue. We got into a shouting match with some old guy who thought he could slowly sneak by people to get further ahead. When we called him on it, he feigned ignorance and started getting belligerent. The entire time we kept telling the airline official standing nearby that our flight leaves in 10 minutes and he just kept saying “no problem” and to continue waiting in the line we were in. As it turned out, THEY were the problem. We should have been taken to the front of the queue, but they didn’t. Airport security was understaffed, lackadaisical and unsympathetic to all the passengers that were going to miss their flights, and moved at a sloth-like pace.
When we finally made it through security and arrived at the gate, we kept asking to get on the plane. After several repeated attempts to get an answer, it took us yelling loudly at the gate agent to find out why we were not boarding the plane. We had assigned seats, seats on a flight we booked 10 months earlier, and they gave them away to other passengers because they overbooked the flight. When they told us we no longer had seats, Sheri and I both exploded and start yelling at them, asking how could they give away our reserved seats when we had boarding passes with seat assignments. He told us we had no right to use profanities at him, and we said they had no right to give our seats away. When we asked what they were going to do about it, we got no response. Just to follow one of the gate agents back to where we were the day before. We told them we were not leaving the airport and that we wanted a flight out that day. Since it was already just past midnight, that gave them quite a bit of leeway. The gate agent told us that we needed to talk with the man behind the desk, the same useless guy that kept telling us “no problem” in the security queue. After two hours waiting in the queue at the service desk with dozens of other people who got bumped or missed their connection because of the security queue, all yelling at airline personnel, they finally got us on the flight in the morning. We asked to be seated in first-class for our troubles and were told that there were no seats available. (After all that, we saw several empty seats in first-class on our flight—incompetent and LIARS too.) No upgrade for our troubles, no compensation whatsoever, not even an apology. I’ve been flying for 35 years and this is the first time I’ve been bumped from a flight without any sort of compensation. We didn’t want to risk a repeat of the security line, nor go through another line at immigration, so we didn’t use the hotel voucher we were given and decided to spend a sleepless night in the airport for the next 7 hours.
We flew on a Boeing 787 that was already showing signs of poor maintenance: latches that stick, video that didn’t work, buttons on the controller that wouldn’t function. For a airplane that couldn’t have been more than a year or two old, it was in worse shape than many 737s I’ve flown on. The 767 on our connecting flight was even more decrepit, with worn out seats, seat back pockets with holes and tears, video that didn’t work, and seat backs that wouldn’t recline. If the interior of the airplane was this bad, it makes me wonder just how poorly the rest of the aircraft was maintained.
No organization, no efficiency, no responsibility, no empathy. How can this airline be part of Star Alliance and be so terrible at customer service? Everything about Ethiopian Airlines was below the standards of any airline I’ve ever flown and especially other Star Alliance airlines. It’s an airline operating first-world technology with a third-world mentality. They are an embarrassment to the other airlines in the Star Alliance.
All told, it took us 46 hours to fly from JRO to CPT, when our original reservations on South African Airlines would have taken 11 hours. A 34 hour layover versus a 3 hour layover. That’s nearly a day and a half that we lost because of a poorly run airline in a pathetically inefficient airport. Our experience with Ethiopian Airlines and the airport in Addis Ababa has left us with no desire to visit this country ever again. If we get routed through this airport for future flights, I would rather cancel our flight than have to repeat this experience.
Never Fly Ethiopian Airlines!