Ethiopian Airlines Cuts Fifth Freedom Flights Between LAX & Dublin

Filed Under: Ethiopian

This is an update to a post I wrote earlier.

Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s fastest growing airline, and it’s incredible the route network they’ve managed to build. While South African Airways is perpetually on the brink of liquidation and Kenya Airways is doing what they can to recover, Ethiopian Airlines is thriving.

The airline has just announced a significant change to their LAX route, and I suspect there’s more to it.

In June 2015, Ethiopian Airlines launched flights between Addis Ababa and Los Angeles. The flight stops in Dublin in both directions, and Ethiopian Airlines has pick-up rights there, meaning that passengers can choose to just fly between Los Angeles and Dublin, if they want to.

That sure is an exotic way to fly between Los Angeles and Dublin! It has also often been one of the best options for scoring a Star Alliance transatlantic business class flight out of LAX.

Earlier today it looked like Ethiopian Airlines was going to cancel the route altogether, as they pulled inventory for the flight. That’s not the case, however. Instead Ethiopian Airlines has simply stopped accepting bookings for the fifth freedom flights between Dublin and Los Angeles.

As a refresher, this 4x weekly flight operates with the following schedule with a Boeing 787-8 aircraft:

ET504 Addis Ababa to Dublin departing 1:25AM arriving 6:50AM
ET504 Dublin to Los Angeles departing 7:50AM arriving 10:35AM

ET505 Los Angeles to Dublin departing 11:35PM arriving 5:35PM (+1 day)
ET505 Dublin to Addis Ababa departing 6:35PM arriving 5:25AM (+1 day)

This is a rather bizarre move. The airline can’t operate the route between LAX and ADD nonstop in either direction, so they need to make a stop. As of now it even appears like they’ll continue to stop in Dublin. But they won’t have pick-up rights anymore.

As a point of comparison, Ethiopian flies to three other US destinations, and only in one of them do they pick-up passengers for a fifth freedom service:

  • The Chicago route is operated nonstop eastbound, and has a refueling stop (though no pick-up rights) in Dublin westbound
  • The Newark route is operated via Lome, Togo, and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on alternating days in both directions (with pick-up rights)
  • The Washington Dulles route is operated nonstop eastbound, and has a refueling stop (though no pick-up rights) in Dublin westbound

Bottom line

Unfortunately Ethiopian Airlines is no longer an airline you can book exclusively between Los Angeles and Dublin.

I suspect there’s more to this. It’s not logical for the airline to simply maintain the schedule while no longer taking fifth freedom bookings, because presumably some people were using the airline to fly between Los Angeles and Dublin.

My guess is that the airline may be making bigger changes to this route, which is why they’ve stopped accepting bookings between Los Angeles and Dublin. I can’t personally vouch for this, but reader John notes the following in the comments section:

I just looked on the Ethiopian Airlines Ireland Facebook page. The moderator just posted this update:

“the Los Angeles flight is in the system but operating from Lagos. It will no longer have a European stop.”

This actually sort of makes sense — Los Angeles to Lagos is within the range for the 787-8, the stop is on the way, and it could explain why they closed bookings between Los Angeles and Dublin.

If a nonstop Los Angeles to Lagos route happens, it would also means that LAX joins the “six continent” airport club, as the airport already has service to five continents.

What do you make of Los Aneles to Dublin no longer being open for bookings on Ethiopian, and of the Lagos rumor?

  1. @Lucky
    Have you read of the frequency changes on KQ’s flights to JFK?

    A week after launching the daily service they’ll reduce frequency to 5-6weekly for the month of November.

    I wonder if ET is considering SFO which is a hub of their skyteam partner United.

  2. @Debit apply for a few credit cards and you can get the trip there for freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
    Did you know that African women LOVE the AMEX GOLD card? Go for the pink gold version and you may get lucky.

  3. So is Addis – Dublin cancelled too? I know it’s on other routes but without pick-up rights.

    Flew with them DUB-ADD-MOM in March, was great to have that option.

  4. Lucky, LA actually has a fairly sizable Ethiopian population, but it still probably wasn’t big enough to sustain this flight, especially with the refueling stop (which kills some of its advantage over potentially cheaper connecting flights) and the additional competition on the Dublin leg from Aer Lingus.

  5. Currently booked on that route for spring break 2019 and then on to SEZ. Any idea whether this would be refunded or rerouted?

  6. As an former Dubliner, it’s always disappointing to see Ireland lose another connection to the world. But I believe this flight could not use the pre-clearance in Dublin? Not having that would put it at a major disadvantage vs Aer Lingus.

    Anyone know how Cathay’s route to HKG out of DUB is going?

  7. @VT-EXU
    Oh sorry. Yes i meant Star Alliance.

    Interesting enough, they are continuing the Madrid flight to Dublin as ADD-MAD-DUB probably to keep a hold on their slots making me think that they will be launching a new trans atlantic route via DUB.

  8. I just looked on the Ethiopian Airlines Ireland Facebook page. The moderator just posted this update:

    “the Los Angeles flight is in the system but operating from Lagos. It will no longer have a European stop.”

  9. The ADD-DUB-LAX flight is bookable well through 2019 on the airline’s website. I don’t think this flight is canceled, and if anything, wouldn’t expect ET to cancel it when it’s peak holiday travel season.

  10. I contacted Ethiopian’s Twitter account asking if it is true that the LAX-ADD route is being discontinued in December and just received this response:

    “We do fly from Los Angeles to Addis Ababa via Dublin we just don’t sell the Dublin-Los Angeles sector separately anymore.”

    And @Ten is correct that ADD-DUB-LAX is still bookable in 2019. It looks like a lot of this information still needs to be verified.

  11. I have used this airline and loved that it brought us all the from Nigeria and back. My mom used it too and it’s her best from Lagos, Nigeria to Los Angles. This sad for me

  12. Did a family trip with some legs on ET (ADD-JRO, JRO-ADD, ADD-CDG). From what I’ve seen of other airlines, ET is tops in Africa. It’s not the fanciest airline in the world, but it is the fanciest and widest spread in Africa. 🙂 Also, bonus points for being with Star Alliance (I’m in Canada).

  13. With such a large Ethiopian and Eritrean population in the San Francisco Bay Area – I’m surprised they don’t fly to SFO.

  14. I hate to see Ethiopian go hungry. Maybe all the music stars can get together to record a song for them, “We are the World”.

  15. Well it probably is because they are filling their seats from Addisa Baba to LAX and dont want to cede capacity to low yielding fifth freedom traffic. Going non stop will allow them to compete better with european carriers offering one stop connections from many african destinations.

  16. A stop in Lagos would make sense. Wasn’t ET ‘involved’ in the failed attempt to relaunch a ‘Air Nigeria’? They must have good ‘connections’ with the gov and they quite invested in West Africa with what was actually their subsidiary.

    Routes online also reports that they are relaunching flights from their newly unified neighbor Eritrea (Asmara) to LHR in December.

  17. I have an o/w award ticket already booked on this route (DUB-LAX) for next May. No indication thus far from the ET website that there had been a rescheduling. Booking page still looks like nothing has changed.
    I will be watching this closely…

  18. Will they still honor our reservation LAX to DUB in May 2019? I used UAL miles to get two business class seats.

  19. LOS is about 1,000 miles farther than LAX-ADD nonstop or LAX-DUB-ADD. So if the change happens it will be more about LAX-LOS than the fifth-freedom route.

  20. I flew ET DUB-ADD last year which was a convenient routing for me, connecting in ADD to SEZ. On boarding in DUB I had to turf a sleeping Ethiopian out of my business class seat, who then reluctantly when back to economy. I asked the hostie for a G&T and was handed a glass of neat gin. “We’ve no tonic on board”…I was told!

  21. The altitude of ADD is the reason for a stopover in the first place. It can’t take off fully fuelled. It’s a pity LAX-DUB is being pulled. I flew it return last year and it was by far the cheapest option available.

  22. If Ethiopian could fly from ADD to DPS(Bali) then have a 5th freedom flight with pick up rights from DPS to Perth. I reckon they could make a killing. Not only from the 5th freedom flyers but the also Aussie or European pax wanting to visit either Australia or Europe sure its 2 stop but they could possibly make it work if the aircraft has the range from ADD to DPS.

  23. Lucky, I just got off the phone with Ethiopian Airlines Dublin call center. They said that the agreement to switch the LAX-ADD flight to stop in Lagos instead of Dublin has not yet been finalized with the Nigerian government. It sounds like it’s going to happen however. They said to check back in a couple weeks and that they are hoping that the change will begin in December. I’m flying LAX-ADD next year so I’m following this closely as I have a connection in ADD that I hope will still work if this flight does indeed change to stop in Lagos.

  24. This is not sounding good for our LAX to DUB flight in May. Please report any future information. We used UA f.f. miles…will we just be SOL if the route cancels or will UA have any responsibility to get us to DUB ? Thanks.

  25. @mlm
    I’ll definitely report any future information when I hear it. Right now it’s all tentative but based on all the research I’ve done, it seems more likely than not that Lagos will be the new stop for the LAX-ADD flight.

    If you’re ticketed LAX-DUB and it turns out that the route is indeed cancelled, United would likely re-accommodate you, most likely on their own metal through EWR, ORD or IAD. You might get lucky and be rebooked on Air Lingus non-stop since they are partners with United. I would look for availability from now if I were you.

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