Ethiopian Airlines Launching Houston Flights In December 2019

Filed Under: Ethiopian

In late January I wrote about some significant changes that Ethiopian Airlines was supposed to make to their US route network. The airline announced that as of summer 2019 they’d discontinue flights to Los Angeles, and would instead add flights to Houston.

The airline has been flying to Los Angeles since summer 2015, and just couldn’t make the flight work. First they operated the route via Dublin, and then recently they switched up the route to instead operate via Lome, Togo, but I guess even that didn’t help much.

So instead Ethiopian Airlines planned to fly to Houston, continuing their trend of primarily operating to North American destinations that are also Star Alliance hubs.

Originally Ethiopian Airlines was supposed to launch 3x weekly flights to Houston as of June 23, 2019. The flight went on sale as of early April, though by early May the airline pulled availability, making it seem like they were canceling the route before it even launched.

Well, this route is now back on the table, just about six months after originally scheduled. Ethiopian Airlines has now opened bookings for 3x weekly flights to Houston as of December 15, 2019, using a Boeing 787-8.

As before, the route is operating via Lome, Togo, in both directions, with the following schedule:

ET518 Addis Ababa to Lome departing 9:30PM arriving 12:05AM (+1 day)
ET518 Lome to Houston departing 1:15AM arriving 8:40AM
ET519 Houston to Lome departing 11:00AM arriving 5:00AM (+1 day)
ET519 Lome to Addis Ababa departing 6:00AM arriving 2:30PM

A flight between Addis Ababa and Lome covers a distance of ~2,600 miles, while a flight between Lome and Houston covers a distance of ~6,600 miles.

Ethiopian Airlines has pick-up rights in Lome, so you can fly just between Houston and Lome, if you’d like. While this route will be great for those looking to connect beyond Addis Ababa using Ethiopian Airlines’ big route network, it will also useful if you’re looking to connect in West Africa. ASKY has flights from Lome to many cities in the region, and they partner with Ethiopian Airlines.

This route will once again make Houston an airport with service to six continents (meanwhile Los Angeles lost that title when Ethiopian Airlines cut flights).

The route has plenty of award availability, in both economy and business class. So this is a fantastic option for getting from Houston to Africa with miles.

Bottom line

It’s exciting that Houston will once again have service to six continents. Hopefully this route actually sticks, unlike when they started putting flights on sale for travel starting in June.

Does anyone plan on taking Ethiopian Airlines’ flight to Houston?

  1. These flight timings in LFW are suicidal – it doesn’t feed any of the ASKY banks in Lome and the Houston-Lome O&D is approximately negative three pax per week.

    The flight will need to survive on the back of India and East Africa connections from the afternoon bank in Addis, which is iffy at best. Alternatively, they can un-bank the Lome hub which they just spent 3 months rebanking after the LAX disaster.

    Lunacy – the art of doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Good luck to them.

  2. @Sean M: I’m thinking of stopping over in Addis Ababa for a week or ten days on my way to India this fall. Any advice?

  3. @LarryInNYC – 10 days in Addis is probably 8 days too many. You can easily spend 7-10 days around the country though. There is a well established tourist route through places like Lalibela, Gondar, etc… and ET provides convenient domestic flight options as well for the tourists.

  4. Flew them to JFK-LFW last year and it was totally fine. I am curious, and I’m sure @SeanM knows, why do they choose LFW for this stop? Why not Accra, Lagos, Ouagadougou (I really just wanted to type that one out…), etc. Does the new airport have anything to do with it?

  5. @Sean M — sorry, didn’t mean to imply I’d actually be in Addis for more than a night. My request was about seeing as much if the country as possible in a relatively short amount of time.

  6. I was planning on flying to Addis on Ethiopian from LAX, so I was sad when I heard the news that they stopped flying from here. On the other hand, I decided to book a flight on Qatar’s Qsuites to get me there which I’m really excited about. It wont be until May 2020, so I’m waiting ever so patiently until then.

  7. @Peter – don’t get me wrong. Lome would be the right gateway for this flight because of the ASKY hub. However, the timings are all wrong if they want to make the flight work to this hub. It has to run parallel to the Newark flight which has excellent feed. That means horrendous aircraft utility as the tradeoff (think 17 hours overnight in Houston), which ET simply can’t afford right now.

    As a result, they are gambling on an untested concept – viz. the flight being a longhaul feeder to the experimental afternoon bank in Addis and effectively abandoning a strong West African feed in Lome. They may experiment again with a Dash 8 feed from Lagos or Accra in the middle of the night (tried and failed before), but other than that they can’t do much other than rely on the HF feed from Abidjan without completely changing up that hub. The two-way Addis feed meanwhile will be restricted to Hargeisa, Mombasa, Asmara, Entebbe, Djibouti and Nairobi. You can’t build this route based on those markets.

    This WILL fail in its current avatar. No if or but about it. ET is losing its schedule discipline in the quest for higher utility and that is the exact opposite of the principles that has made them so successful over the last decade.

    As for routing this flight instead via Lagos or Accra, I cannot comment publicly. However, I presume the Ouaga suggestion was more for the amusement value of the name than any real commercial justification.

  8. @LarryinNYC, Sean is spot on, 2 days in Addis is plenty but do go to Ethiopia and visit Lalibela, Axum, Harar via Diri Dawa, Gondar… Would add that if you fly to Addis on Ethiopian, they will give you a big discount (about 50% as I recall) on domestic flights. Doesn’t have to be any kind of advance booking, just show your international arrival boarding pass at an Ethiopian ticket office or the airport and you get the discount

  9. While I appreciate the West African hub that Ethiopian has developed in Lome and is developing the partnership with ASKY, in my opinion they need to coordinate better. When I took the flight last year, Ethiopian was late departing Newark (they always seem to be generally late) but that made our arrival into Lome late. About half the plane was deplaning in Lome and connecting to various ASKY departures. Even though all the flights were booked on one ticket, we could not get our boarding pass until we landed in Lome. The ground staff were good in that they met the plane with the printed boarding passes, but due to the delay most passengers only had 30 minutes to make their connecting flight – this meant only 30 minutes to get in line to get your boarding pass, go through transfer security in Lome where ALL liquids were removed, go upstairs and wait for the ASKY flight. And even though passengers made the flight, none of our luggage made it with us – so again if they are going to continue to use ASKY and Lome as a hub, they just need to get better coordination. Also, there is a DRASTIC difference in terms of on board service and quality between Ethiopian and ASKY

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