Why Were Two Ethiopian Airlines 777s In Miami?

Filed Under: Ethiopian

File this under “that’s kind of cool as an aviation geek,” rather than “that’s useful” (but nowadays I feel like the former is more fun than the latter, given that all the useful news lately seems to be bad news).

Miami gets so many cool airlines & flights

As I’ve said  many times before, one of the things that I love about living in Miami is how close the city is to the airport, so I get to watch planes overhead at low altitudes all day. Just about every time I hear a plane I open the Flightradar24 app.

We get some interesting planes here, from A380s full of European tourists looking for sunburns, or tans, as they call them (this was pre-COVID-19), to 64 year old cargo planes coming from Honduras.

I have a good sense of the planes we get nowadays, and often can guess what plane is overhead just by the sound of the engines and the time of day.

Cathay Pacific Cargo 747-8? That’s probably going to Atlanta or Anchorage. Turkish Airlines Cargo 777? That’s probably going to Houston. Ethiopian Airlines Cargo 777? That’s probably going to Bogota or Liege.

But yesterday I was caught way off guard when I saw two Ethiopian Airlines passenger 777s flying to Miami. And now I figured out what exactly what was going on.

Two Ethiopian Airlines 777s stopped in Miami

At least compared to most other global airlines, Ethiopian Airlines seems to be running a relatively normal operation at the moment, as many of their US flights continue to operate (I’m not exactly sure where the demand is for these flights, though?).

I have to imagine that these flights have mostly been pretty empty, and one reason I suspect that is because Ethiopian Airlines has been operating many of their westbound flights to North America nonstop.

Ordinarily these flights have refueling stops in Dublin, because the distance of a nonstop from Addis Ababa to the US, combined with the altitude of the airport, make it almost impossible to fly nonstop. However, clearly the loads must be pretty light, because these planes have flown nonstop.

Well, late Sunday night two Ethiopian Airlines flights started some very interesting journeys to the US:

  • ET500 was scheduled to fly from Addis Ababa to Dublin to Washington, but flew nonstop (the 777 had the registration code ET-ANP)
  • ET574 was scheduled to fly from Addis Ababa to Dublin to Chicago, but flew nonstop (the 777 had the registration code ET-ANN)

From there:

  • Both planes flew to Miami yesterday morning (from Washington and Chicago, respectively)
  • Both planes flew from Miami to Addis Ababa yesterday afternoon around the same time

What were the planes doing in Miami?

Not surprisingly, there’s an interesting story as to why two Ethiopian Airlines 777s flew from Miami to Addis Ababa yesterday, as reported by the Miami Herald.

Crew members of the Costa Favolosa and Costa Magica cruise ships have been stuck on ships for a couple of weeks now due to COVID-19 cases, and healthy crew members are now able to return home.

Cruise lines have been chartering several planes out of Miami, including these two Ethiopian Airlines 777s, and also some Wamos Air 747s.

The final destination for these passengers is the Philippines. For the Ethiopian Airlines flights, they operated from Miami to Addis Ababa to Manila, while for the Wamos Air flights, they operated from Miami to Madrid to Manila.

In the case of the Ethiopian Airlines flights, my guess is that the flights to Chicago and Washington operated as standard passenger flights, and then the returns were simply cancelled (which probably wasn’t a big deal, due to lack of demand), and instead these charters were operated.

Interesting stuff, eh?

  1. Wonder how the cruiselines treat those crewmembers during all this…

    I mean, Ethiopian Charters can’t be that bad, but I doubt they will get payed…

    Nice story anyway.

  2. So many crazy flights these days. I get up and spend an hour on FlightRadar24 instead of working.

    Did you see that a HiFly A332 operated CPH-SFJ today as GL6781.

  3. Wow, with loads this low, you’ll soon be able to get on a 777 and tell them where you want to go!

  4. Some other interesting flights: wizzair cargo a321neo from shanghai to budapest via Irkutsk and Nur Sultan, hi fly operating random repatriations, +a ton of cargo 747s all over Europe

  5. I think there is still demand for the Addis to IAD and to ORD flights because Ethiopian Airlines is really the last airline standing in terms of carriers that can carry people from many places in the whole of Africa to the US. I am in Zambia, and because Emirates and South African have stopped flying, I have only one possible route left to get back: Lusaka to Addis and Addis to IAD or ORD. I check everyday to make sure it is still available and that more US cities haven’t been cancelled.
    It is super interesting that the re-fueling stops in Dublin aren’t happening! And it’s good to know because if I do make the trip back, it should be a bit faster than expected. Also, if it’s that empty, probably no need to pay more for an upgrade. 🙂

  6. @Yreal its a good point. These cruise ship workers are already exploited by cruise lines (which is why they aren’t based out of the US) and I feel really bad for them given the COVID outbreak. For many of them it could literally mean them and their families starving or not.

  7. They are probably the last airline that people can still fly to connect between Europe/America and East/Southeast Asia and get home, with no transit restrictions. Also, Delta has resumed flying DL582/3 between DTW and PVG, using the A359 as a cargo plane as the cargo demand is so high that the revenue is comparable to a normal season passenger flight. United also has flown between PVG and ORD/SFO in the past few days.

  8. LATAM operated 2 days ago a GRU-JNB-DPS flight, also getting home stranded cruise ship workers. That should have been quite a sight, a South American company landing in an Asian airport!

  9. These are ships crew repositioning back from Miami. There are thousands of Filipinos who work on board both cruise liners and other freight ships. They are really hard workers and usually poorly paid taking care of not only passengers , but themselves and also worried about their families
    Also think of the oil and offshore workers on rigs who are still required

  10. @Yreal and @Abe, at least one cruise ship (Celebrity Edge) moved their crew to passenger cabins and opened the rest of the ship for their use while passenger operations are on hold.

  11. LO will be operating two repatriation flights EZE-WAW and SYD-WAW (non-stop?) tomorrow. This could be the first time their planes have ever landed at these airports

  12. Lucky some other interesting flights:

    Cargo carried by passenger aircraft:
    Air Baltic A220 nonstop China (URC-RIX)
    LO 787 china-Europe

    Wamos Hawaii-Europe nonstop 747
    Wizz 321neo LAX/JFK/YYZ repatriation via Iceland
    Air Asia to Prague

  13. I saw Wamos 744 doing El Salvador, Honduras, Miami, Madrid then, at least the one I saw, Denpasar in Indonesia.

    Thx so much for all this nice info.

  14. It’s no surprise for any airlines to do unscheduled flights , it is called chartering a flight, as long as you pay ,and an airlines could get both an airspace permission and landing ….it is actually good proposal for any of them …

  15. Yes I know. It is nice to see those surprises in our local airports. After Hurricane Maria hit we had a ton of aircraft that were not regular in sju. It was nice indeed.

  16. I like flying with Ethiopian airlines. They have always amazing crew members and great handling of passengers and luggage. Look, they are making history on serving the globe during these scary time. I feel what it mean for stranded people away from home. Thank you for sharing this story.

  17. There was a United 777-200 at CMB last week too, they normally don’t fly here. Maybe Military or Medical Aid, maybe for Embassy staff?

  18. Ethiopian has been a critical component of evacuations lately! I personally evacuated on a charter from NSI in Yaounde, Cameroon to Washington IAD on 31 MAR. A flight you would NEVER ordinarily see.

  19. Four Ethiopian B777’s (-260(LR) are flying at the moment from New Orleans to Addis Ababa.

    ET-ANC over Egypt, ET_ANR over Malta, ET-ANP over the Azores and ET-ANO over the middle of the Atlantic.

  20. Thank you for this interesting story, Ethiopian airlines is over 70 years old and a lot of experience flying the globe. Service in the plane is excellent and crews are amazing. It is a bit of silver lining for the cruise line crew that there flight back home is relaxing.

  21. Thank you! I live downtown Miami, drove by MIA on Sunday & told my daughter the same thing: “look at those 2 Ethiopian Airlines planes, I’ve never seen before, I bet they have to do with COVID…” They were passenger, right next to Air France etc

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