Ethiopian Airlines Plans To Fly To Chicago Starting In June 2018

Filed Under: Ethiopian

Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s fastest growing large airline, and the amount that they’ve expanded globally the past few years has been impressive.

In terms of their North American destinations the airline presently flies:

  • Daily from Addis Ababa to Dublin to To Washington Dulles to Addis Ababa using a 777
  • 3x weekly flight from Addis Ababa to Dublin to Los Angeles to Dublin to Addis Ababa using a 787
  • 3x weekly from Addis Ababa to Lome to Newark to Lome to Addis Ababa
  • 3x weekly from Addis Ababa to Dublin to Toronto to Addis Ababa using a 787

The reason that all of the flights from Addis Ababa to North America have a stop is because of the altitude of Addis Ababa’s airport. Planes have reduced takeoff performance at high altitudes, so they can’t carry a full payload and operate ultra longhaul flights from there.

For Ethiopian’s flights to Toronto and Washington, the stop in Dublin is simply for refueling, and the airline doesn’t have pick-up rights. Meanwhile for Ethiopian’s flights to Los Angeles and Newark, the airline has pick-up rights in Dublin and Lome, respectively. I guess they figure there’s enough of a local market that it’s worth making the stop in both directions.

Ethiopian Airlines has just announced plans for their latest US expansion. The Reporter Ethiopia notes that Ethiopian Airlines’ CEO says that the airline wants to start flying between Addis Ababa and Chicago in June 2018. The flight isn’t yet bookable and exact details haven’t yet been announced, so for now I’d think that the route is likely, though not a sure bet.

Ethiopian Airlines 787 business class

What remains to be seen is whether this route will just have a standard refueling stop in Dublin, or if they’ll actually operate the flight via Dublin in both directions, and serve that market as well, as they do out of Los Angeles.

As of now Chicago doesn’t have any direct links to Africa (shockingly Global Ghana Airlines’ flight from Chicago to Accra didn’t launch last week as proised), so this will open up a lot of one-stop routings between Chicago and destinations in Africa. Furthermore, Chicago is a United hub, so they have the further benefit of potentially having quite a few connecting passengers.

I can see merit to the route, though I’m curious how they structure it, and whether they’ll have pick-up rights in Dublin (Chicago to Dublin is a big market, after all). This route certainly seems more realistic than the proposed flights to New York from both RwandAir and Kenya Airways.

What do you make of Ethiopian Airlines adding flights between Addis Ababa and Chicago?

  1. Have flown the IAD-ADD route. Honestly it was a perfectly pleasant product, and the novelty of eating misr wat on an airplane was pretty great. Can’t beat it for connections in east Africa.

  2. Didn’t know that about the altitude at ADD and always wondered why they don’t have a nonstop to NYC. Learn something new everyday. Had a sensible experience ADD-LFW-EWR and would definitely do it again.

  3. Did they recently add the Dublin stop to the IAD route? I flew Ethiopian direct from IAD to ADD in March ’16.

  4. @EbonyTatas — The flight operates nonstop when going eastbound, when taking off from IAD, as there is no altitude issue there. Westbound, the flight is ADD-DUB-IAD because the plane can’t fly ADD-IAD due to the altitude issue Ben described. Same thing with the YYZ flight.

  5. Have flown the Toronto – ADD leg. Long flight but easy to get to Serengeti, and other East African locations without having to go through Europe. ADD is certainly an interesting airport.

  6. Where is this airline getting funding for all these expansions? I keep reading that it is the fastest growing airline in Africa, which can be the prelude to a fall.

    Nothing to do with Ethiopian obviously but isn’t Kenya Airways on the verge of bankruptcy?

  7. I’m very proud as african to see, at list Ethiopian airline connecting the rest of Africa to the world.

  8. Ethiopian is the worst airline ever. Zero ground support during IRROPS and was confined to ADD for 14 hours while waiting for the next flight out. Nobody in my family will ever fly them again. Remember the low price is not always worth it.

  9. Chicago has been one of ET’s planned routes for at least 12 years now (back when the now CEO was the Head of Marketing), but with the closer integration into Star Alliance it is probably viable from a commercial perspective now due to the UA feed.

    The biggest issue ET has with Chicago operations though is that the extra 300nm each way versus IAD or YYZ means that they will struggle to hit the finely tuned Addis flight banks (evening departure, morning arrival) due to the additional 1.5 block hours per roundtrip. They can’t depart much before 1930z from Addis as that will cost them feed from the Southern Africa routes and they have to be back by 0430z for the same reason. That would leave them barely 90 minutes turnaround time in ORD which isn’t realistic especially in winter. This is based upon a flight pattern outbound via Dublin and returning nonstop.

    Their options to this are sub-optimal. If they try to route both ways via Dublin with traffic stops, they have to either sit nearly 24 hours overnight in Chicago and do a daytime transatlantic return ORD-DUB with minimal feed on either US/Ireland end, or else surrender some African feed on the Addis end to depart earlier and/or arrive later than the hub bank connection cutoffs. The former is not going to happen due to horrendously poor aircraft utility and the latter unlikely as their planning team tend to be very conservative to ensure max connectivity on new routes like this.

    The other alternative is to run a morning departure schedule via West Africa like the Newark/Sao Paulo flights do/did, but the local O&D is a lot smaller in Chicago and the Addis connectivity would be from the overnight bank (viz. primarily Europe and Asian arrivals rather than African routes) which is not the correct feed for this route (but works ok for Newark due to the local Addis O&D as well as the Lome feed from ASKY).

    I understand that ET are hoping that the A350 may give them better performance than the 787/777 in terms of ability to hit North America nonstop although they haven’t yet been able to make this work (and I doubt they will be able to do as the restricting factor isn’t really the aircraft but rather tyre technology).

    If this flight starts, it will probably follow the same pattern as IAD/YYZ but with a shorter ground time in Chicago and earlier departure (2200-2230 LT) from Addis.

  10. @Luke Mellor: No pre-clearance in DUB Terminal 1, which Ethiopian use. A real pain but sure what can you do?

  11. Was hoping they would consider IAH. I recall reading this was once an option. Star Alliance hub and a gate way to the Latin American market (if there is one?)

  12. Thought they did have pre-clearance at DUB from what I remembered from my DUB-LAX flight but maybe I’m mistaken. I guess they might not though as Ethiopian passengers are not allowed off the flight in Dublin from Addis, so there is no way to pre-clear only the Irish passengers.

    I’ve got to say though, and I appreciate ET might really be making an effort with customer service and ground service on the routes they are expanding on, however I will absolutely never fly them again. They have a long, long way to go. The on-time performance (almost 3 hours late out of LAX), on-board service (tired, pi**ed off, eye-rolling cabin crew), catering (almost inedible food), ground-service (particularly off-loading of bags in Dublin from LAX flight – we waited an hour and a half for bags to hit the belt. Dublin airport said it was ET’s fault) were all appallingly bad. Had to take them as it was a last-minute trip. Fool me once shame on them, fool me twice, shame on me. Never again!

  13. @ Sean M. Wow for the amount of information in your comment. Your past comments are also very informative. You should start your own blog!!!

  14. @Sean lots of great info. That said, how hard is it to slide some mid haul flights within Africa say 30-45 minutes? Any reason that’s not viable?

  15. Addis-Chicago would be an ideal choice for customers who live in Midwest. I hate the long connection time and inconvenience to change a plane in one of the Europe city.

  16. I think Addis to Chicago Eth air flight would be an excellent service to those of us living in the midwest. I look forward to booking my next flight from Chicago to Addis. However, lately I have been reading customer’s disappointments about Eth air flight service. I hope Eth makes efforts to improve its services.

  17. The schedule is out, here is the timing for a sample date in Oct:

    ET 511 | Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
    Chicago, IL, US (ORD – O’Hare) to Addis Ababa, ET (ADD)
    9:55 am – 7:40 am (13h 45m)

    ET 510 | Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
    Addis Ababa, ET (ADD) to Chicago, IL, US (ORD – O’Hare)
    10:15 pm – 7:55 am (17h 40m)
    Stop in Dublin, IE (DUB) 1h ground time

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