Around the World on 90k Part II: Blowing Through the Horn of Africa

Filed Under: Awards, Ethiopian

Note: This post is written by my friend Andrew, who took the trip with me

At the airport, we visited the Air China Business Class Lounge. They seemed to be going for a mid-90s motif, which made me wonder if they stocked Zima and free AOL installation CDs. I took a quick shower (it wasn’t exactly luxurious, but did the trick). We debated whether to change our plans due to a terrorist threat, and decided against it. Then we boarded our flight for Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Airlines’ 787 seemed to be in better condition than the one we flew with LOT a few days earlier. The cabin itself was beautiful – I loved the color scheme. My remote control was working, and there was no masking tape holding the seat together. I had heard really positive things about the friendliness of Ethiopian’s cabin crew. Ours was merely ok – their smiles seemed as genuine as Joan Rivers’ face, and they didn’t seem interested in making conversation. It was strictly business.


I ordered the beef for dinner, which was pretty chewy and had all the flavor of bubble wrap. The meal also included a seasonal salad, which was mysteriously labeled as a “hot snack” on the menu. At least my cheesecake for dessert was good.

The seat was kind of uncomfortable, to be honest. After several consecutive flights with fully-flat seats, sleeping on angled-flat seats on this segment made me feel like I was traveling in the cargo hold. (Don’t worry, I’m only kidding…but I’ve definitely become spoiled by this trip – I usually have no trouble falling asleep in coach.) The bedding felt harsh against my skin, as did the fabric on the seat itself.

Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport was interesting. It kind of reminded me of a Costco, but with prayer rooms and leaks in the ceiling. Apparently we were not eligible to visit “Cloud Nine Lounge 1,” but they gladly let us into “Cloud Nine Lounge 2.” I have no idea what the difference between the two was. We waited there for a few hours, walked around the terminal for a bit, and boarded our 767-300 bound for Frankfurt.

ADD Airport

The experience was like going back in time, as I don’t think the cabin had changed much since the 80s. The flight attendants even looked like they had perms. Lucky was so exhausted that he napped for much of the flight, while I stayed up and sobbed silently (I was watching Downton Abbey on my laptop – nothing happy ever happens to those people!).


The menus we were given listed some food choices, but they bore no resemblance to the options that were actually on board. The “blast from the past” theme continued, as my lunch reminded me a lot of the food they used to serve in my elementary school cafeteria.

By the time we arrived in Frankfurt, I was exhausted, both emotionally (from Downton) and physically (from a full day of travel). The hotel at Frankfurt Airport is the nicest Sheraton I’ve ever stayed in…but even if it was the Hanoi Hilton, I think I would’ve slept like a baby.

The following day we completed the last leg of our trip, from Frankfurt to Washington-Dulles on a Lufthansa 747-8. This was my first long-haul Lufthansa flight, my first time sitting in the upper deck of any aircraft, and my first time on the 747-8. I was actually more excited about this flight than any of the others (maybe because from the way Lucky has always described it, Lufthansa sounds like the closest I’ll ever get to heaven). The aircraft itself is massive, and the business class cabin is beautiful. The seats themselves had some positives and some negatives.

LH Seat

On the plus side, they were comfortable (as were the blankets and pillows), there was some nice stowage space (more than any other products I tried on this trip), and the entertainment selection was decent. The food was pretty good, especially the dessert, “Charlotte Royale.” (Though that seems like a more appropriate dessert to serve on US Airways – perhaps with some Philadelphia cream cheese?)


As far as negatives go, there wasn’t much separation between me and the person next to me (I was sitting next to Lucky, but in a business class cabin I would expect that many people are seated next to strangers). We were angled toward each other, with our feet just inches apart and separated by a thin partition. There is no privacy shield between the seats, so the other person is easily visible the entire flight, including when the seats are in the fully flat position. This level of intimacy could be ideal if you’re seated next to your favorite celebrity and/or you like to creepily watch people while they sleep, but otherwise it might be a little uncomfortable. (And let’s be real: unless your favorite celebrity is a reality TV star, they’re going to be sitting in first class.)

Overall, I had an incredible trip. It was exhausting and grueling, and I’m sure sitting on airplanes for hours at a time and being presented with food constantly was not great for my waistline, but it was totally worth it. Lucky is a great travel companion, mostly because he laughs at my terrible jokes. I also owe a lot of thanks to you guys for helping to plan this itinerary! I hope you enjoyed reading about it.

  1. Considered changing your plans due to a terrorist threat? You mean one two countries away that had 0% chance of impacting you? That’s like saying you considered changing your MIA-DFW flight because the gang violence in Juarez increased.

  2. Your comment about Downton Abbey is downright hilarious! Can’t stop giggling. Nice report as usual with your own style. Thank you!

  3. When did this thing become a “trip”? Flying 5 or 6 planes one after another?
    Feel sorry for you guys..

  4. @Andrew (commenter above, not post author)

    They did stuff in Warsaw and Beijing. Considering how many internet-flying-people simply turn right around and go home, I’m not going to chide them for not properly experiencing Ethiopia

  5. @James K. Transiting in/out is perhaps the best way to properly experience Ethiopa.

    Andrew is pretty humorous for reportedly being a tax guy. His mom is right in her assessment. 😉

    How does one sign up for the next Lucky/Andrew B. tour? What fun!

  6. @James, do you think at some point it makes no sense? We make such a big effort to earn our miles and then simply waste so many on something like that? Not mentioning wasted vacation time which is even more precious. For what?

  7. @ Andrew

    “@James, do you think at some point it makes no sense? We make such a big effort to earn our miles and then simply waste so many on something like that? Not mentioning wasted vacation time which is even more precious. For what?”

    Great points, all of them! They helped remind me, and others for sure, that this piece was written solely to please *YOU*, and nothing else. If flying a lot is not how *YOU* would spend your time, then darn it, it will be judged and judged STRICTLY by…YOU. Thanks!

    We will continue, all of us, to read and form our tastes, opinions, and preferences via the blighted worldview of…Andrew, Judgey Unknown Internet Commenter.

  8. bad jokes indeed. what did the 90s do to you? felt like the “trip report about nothing.” 😛

  9. Cloud Nine 1 Lounge (C9-1) is a Star Alliance Gold lounge and Cloud Nine 2 Lounge (C9-2) is a Business Class lounge. If you have status but in Economy you cannot access C9-2 and if in Business without status you cannot access C9-1. If you really have a reason to access C9-1, you can probably ask and be let in but they do this to properly balance the load between C9-1 and C9-2 so that one or the other doesn’t get overcrowded. It used to be quite unbearable before C9-2 opened last year.

    There is also Cloud Nine Lounge Terminal 1 (C9T1) which is a miserable joke for a “lounge”. If your departing flight is from T1, you can’t access either C9-1 or C9-2 in T2. In that case, I’d rather hang out at the public restaurants in T2 than use C9T1.

  10. @Peter: how much time have you spent in Ethiopia? If quite a significant amount of time, what happened to you that was so unpleasant? Or are you saying that transiting is the best way to visit simply because it’s poor / in Africa? Ethiopia is a beautiful country with much to offer to visitors.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *