Ethiopian Airlines Changes Which NYC Airport They’ll Serve

Filed Under: Ethiopian, Other Airlines

Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s fastest growing airline, and they’re almost trying to turn into the Turkish Airlines of the region, in terms of trying to turn their home airport into a global hub. While they’re great for connections to destinations in Africa, they’re at a geographical disadvantage otherwise (they’re not at a geographical advantage like Dubai or Istanbul).

Ethiopian Airlines 787

In terms of service to North America, Ethiopian already flies to Toronto and Washington Dulles. They also fly to Los Angeles, a route they serve via Dublin, where they have pick-up rights (this means you can fly Ethiopian exclusively between Los Angeles and Dublin, if you’d like).

Ethiopian’s 787 business class

On top of that Ethiopian is soon launching flights to New York, a route which was first announced last year. The flight will operate via Lome Airport, in Togo. Ethiopian will have pick-up and drop off rights there, meaning passengers can fly exclusively between Lome and New York, if they’d like (I can’t imagine demand in that market is huge, but if they’re going to refuel there anyway…).


The refueling stop is necessary because Addis Ababa is at such a high altitude, so the plane is weight restricted on departure. That’s why all Ethiopian flights to North America operate with a stop (meanwhile the flights out of Toronto and Washington are nonstop on the return).

Addis Ababa Airport

What’s interesting is that Ethiopian has quietly changed which airport they’re offering the service to. Ethiopian’s New York flight will now operate to Newark rather than New York JFK. The 3x weekly Boeing 787-8 flight launches July 3, 2016, with the following schedule:

ET508 Addis Ababa to Lome departing 9:00AM arriving 11:30AM
ET508 Lome to Newark departing 1:40PM arriving 8:30PM

ET509 Newark to Lome departing 10:30PM arriving 1:20PM (+1 day)
ET509 Lome to Addis Ababa departing 2:20PM arriving 10:40PM

In theory operating to Newark makes sense, given that it’s a United hub, and Ethiopian is in the Star Alliance. At the same time, these flights aren’t timed very well for connections. The westbound flight gets to Newark so late that there aren’t many practical connections passengers can take.

So I suspect the reason for the airport change has nothing to do with Newark being a United hub, but rather more to do with Ethiopian securing a landing slot or gate space at Kennedy Airport. This change comes shortly after Newark Airport announcing that they’d lift slot restrictions, so I imagine Ethiopian will have no trouble making Newark work.


Bottom line

It’s interesting to see Ethiopian change which New York City airport they’re serving just a couple of months before the route launches. I suspect this decision came down to securing landing slots rather than the strategy of wanting to fly to Newark to allow connections on United.

While I doubt I’ll find myself on this route anytime soon, I have been wanting to try Ethiopian’s Los Angeles to Dublin flight, especially as the airline is in the process of installing a new business class product.

What do you make of Ethiopian’s switch from JFK to Newark?

  1. LFW (Lome) is an interesting stop, as it’s a hub of their partner ASKY. Easy to connect to other West-African destinations from there.

  2. Flying Ethiopian and connecting in Lome will likely be the fastest way to get to many west African countries from North America.

  3. @ Ben United still has their Houston to Lagos flight, in terms of nonstops to West Africa – lots of connections there, but not sure if LFW or LOS would be easier/faster.

  4. I agree the westbound timing is not ideal, but the eastbound timing is perfect. Departing at 10:30pm is great for feed to arrive in EWR via United Airlines throughout the day.
    I’ve flown Ethiopian Airlines back IAD-ADD and ADD-FCO-IAD (though I believe nowadays the stopover is in DUB). On that route, the westbound flight arrives in the morning at IAD, which is great for further connections via UA; but the eastbound flight departs at around 11am, which limits the amount of feed. I guess you can’t have it all.
    Eventually I wouldn’t be surprised to see EWR as the ‘star alliance’ airport of NYC.

  5. The stop in Lome, Togo is great for folks wanting to dive into West Africa. From NYC, DL has their nonstops to Dakar and Accra, as well as the Arik Air flight to Lagos. These flights are OUT OF THE ROOF expensive because people pay a huge premium to fly nonstop, instead of making a stop in Europe. Hopefully, the ET flight will drive these prices down. Also the introduction of the split service on South African Airways IAD-ACC/DKR-JNB is interesting

  6. I fly 5-6 times a year to ADD from North America and gave up on ET because they installed obsolete business seats on their brand new 777s and 787s

    They are going to struggle for East Africa against Qatar and Emirates – both of which serve ADD and both of which are expanding aggressively here

  7. Thanks for the update..booked award tickets on this flight in J on the way to JRO and back to JFK in Emirates F in December. I don’t live in NYC so this definitely complicates things! Do you have any experience in these situations having United waive award change fees? I would rather fly from IAD now but I may end up just dealing with the airport switch since I don’t believe Alaska would allow me to change my Emirates destination to IAD without re-pricing the award.

  8. ET used to connect and pick-up additional passengers on the IAD-EWR-ADD route (ADD-FCO-EWR-IAD return), which was terminated sometime in the last decade in favor or direct IAD-ADD route so it’s really more of a return to Newark.

    FYI – the high altitude is one of the factors that contributes to the great coffee.

  9. They have DUB-LAX return for €385 in October if you’re looking to travel on that route, could go with them for one leg over and try EI new business on the return either

  10. Well,even if there are practically no connection for travelers at that time slot, hotels are so cheap near Newark, it will cost the Airlines very little and only make one rested before flying further, specially after a jet lag and tropical sejour.

  11. im flying to new york but euthopian airline is stopping at newark…this is my first time. ..i hope am safe at d port of entry in newark…

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 *