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Ethiopian Airlines is an airline with a history since its formation in December 1945, at the tail end of WW2. An airline that suffered from multiple hijackings and various accidents over its history- Since 1995 the airline has had four notable disasters including the hijack and crash landing of ET961 (Boeing 767), the 2010 crash of ET409 (Boeing 737-800) just off Beirut, the February 2014 incident of ET702 which resulted in the plane making an emergency landing in Geneva and the tragic crash of ET302 (Boeing 737-MAX) which lead to the grounding of the Boeing 737-MAX fleet for nearly 2 years.
Ethiopian Airlines operates 27 Boeing 787 aircraft in both the -8 & -9 models, they were the African launch customer in 2012.
Since the turn of the Millennium the airline has attempted to restore its reputation by adding the latest aviation designs to its fleet and offer Addis Ababa as a global hub for Africa and the world. During the 2010s the airline added the Boeing 787, Airbus A350 and Boeing 737-NG/MAX to its fleet to offer a competitive and safe airline, the airline has not seen any major terrorist incidents since 1996 (except the 2014 incident) and continues to be one of the safest and largest African airlines in the world.
Ethiopian Airlines has operated various Boeing long haul airliners since 1946, including 10 Boeing 777s.
One interesting route operated by Ethiopian Airlines is its ADD-ARN-OSL-ARN-ADD 5th Freedom Service with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The airline operates to both Scandinavian capitals as they are hubs for SAS Scandinavian Airlines- fellow Star Alliance partner airlines. The airline was granted the 5th Freedom rights to operated the ARN-OSL-ARN legs as well as the onward services to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia- as me and my friend found a cheap deal, we opted to fly this route.
Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767-300(WL) at Stockholm Arlanda in February 2015, the previous aircraft type that operated ET715.
After booking this route, my friend and I found out about Ethiopian offering a chance to "Bid for Upgrade" and we opted to give it a go at the minimum bid price of $95US (£77 GBP) and as luck would have it- we were upgraded!
So without further ado- let's checkout the Ethiopian Cloud Nine product on this 5th Freedom Flight!
As part of its modernisation in the 2010s to become a major African Airline the airline acquired Boeing 787-8/9 & Airbus A350-900.
This was my first visit to Oslo and Gardermoen Airport since early 2018 (when I stayed overnight in the Airport), and it hadn't changed much with SAS Scandinavian Airlines showing the biggest change as their base was now dominated by the Airbus A320-neo, with Oslo having been a big Boeing 737-NG base (partly due to their merger with Braathens in 2004). Norwegian still maintained a solid short haul pressence, and the sight of various Norse Atlantic Boeing 787's (all ex-Norwegian) decorated in the new airline colours ready for the new airline to kick off. Flyr had also started at this time and was showing up quite regularly.
SAS Boeing 737-NG are on the way out in favour of the Airbus A320-neo which is already dominating Swedish & Danish bases.
It was nice to look around Gardermoen Airport and get the "deja vu" feeling again, not feeling out of place. Even a rather "unique" piece of artwork could still be located in the check in area.
I saw this back in 2018… I really don't know what its meant to be?
We had priority security with our Business Class upgrade, so we made us of that to avoid some of the queing which was forming at the check point for the casual travellers.
Oslo Airport has a train station built into its Terminal building, which is great for commuting to/from the Airport.
Flyr is a relatively new budget airline set up in Norway with a base at Oslo Gardermoen with a fleet of Boeing 737-800 & 737-8MAX.
We passed through security and after a few moments to gather our stuff back together- we made our way to the first of the two SAS Lounges available at Oslo Gardermoen, the Domestic (also Schengen Area) SAS Lounge was right next to security and easy to locate, so we hit that one up first for a few hours.
Overall the lounge for the SAS Domestic/Schengen area was very much sporting a classic Nordic/Scandinavian design. It was quite simple and easy to navigate in layout. No hot food was offered in terms of meals, but a variety of cold items and savoury snacks were on availability with hot soups. Various breads, soft drinks as well as beer and wine also were available for those who wished to choose. Quite a nice lounge and good selection if you turned up for a short stay on a stop over and you had the status or class ticket to enter. For hot drinks you could use a coffee/tea machine or go to a Barista station for a made to order drink.
A look at the food offerings at the SAS Domestic Lounge at Oslo Airport (above & below)
In an interesting move- the Domestic SAS Lounge offered the shower facilities, and not in the long haul/non-Schengen lounge. Either way I wasn't complaining when I enquired for a shower room and I was given a key and access to one of the three shower rooms on availability.
It was a really nice way to refresh after a long day, as I had been up since 4am UK time that day and flown into Oslo before visiting a museum (see below, later) and coming to the lounge. I do enjoy the "gimmick" of having a shower in an Airport Lounge- it gives a feeling of having earned it after all the travelling I have put into these trips.
Going back to the lounge and my seat area (which my mate kept occupied) I decided to enjoy a quick snack whilst letting my travel electronics charge up. I opted for some sort of noodle dish, a Norwegian beer, tomato & herb soup with some Norwegian bread rolls.
Eventually, as the time got closer to our departure, we decided to make our way to the other SAS Lounge at Oslo, which would be after the Domestic/Schengen Area, so it would be closer to our flight which would be departing from the Non-Schengen Area as it was to finish in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).
We found the Lounge, although there was a bit of confusion on our end how to get up to it. As it was nearing the end of the day for the Lounge staff, they were not using the standard part of the Lounge for the passengers there, we were all being allowed into the Star Alliance GOLD area for the ultimate Star Alliance Frequent Flyers- which was a huge bonus for us!
This Lounge area featured a nicer selection of food and drink options (including free spirits, which aren't offered in the normal SAS Lounge). There were some nice office booths offered for people who want to work in peace or not disturb other lounge patreons.
The free bar selection, with some notable names from the spirits section!
The one critic I have of the Lounges is that neither offer a decent Airport view of the aircraft, only offering views out across the Terminal, which isn't a bit thing to worry about, but its a personal box I can't tick when making a review or ranking.
Overall a comfortable lounge and one that I would recommend to people who can access it. I visited the toilet before leaving and I took the time to grab this quick shot of it for the report. As you can see- it offers plenty of space to fit a suitcase if you can't leave yours out in the lounge.
Passing into through into the non-Schengen Area hosting the long haul flights, we quickly found our aircraft- Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, ET-AYC. It was parked next to an Airbus A330-200 of Sunclass Airlines (formerly Thomas Cook/My Travel Scandinavia). Our Boeing Dreamliner was delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in early October 2020, during the height of the pandemic, it offers 30 business class seats to 285 economy class seats. The aircraft is named after the Thailand capital city "BANGKOK".
Our chariot across the Scandinavian region, plus a SUNCLASS Airbus A330 who was parked next to us.
When boarding started they asked for everyone flying in Business Class and flying with young children, so a very small group of people were boarded first off, including us. The Business Class was really empty as there must have been (including both of us) about 6 seats filled.
A really nice cabin welcomed us, I know there has been some talk about the older Boeing 787-8 and Boeing 777 fleet having a more outdated product, but the newer Boeing 787-9 & Airbus A350-900 appear to have this newer more "Flagship" cabin for its Cloud 9 product, which I was not prepared to complain about, if you can buy this flight for the experience on a Oslo/Stockholm rotation- I would recommend it as a good taster!
This sure beats a "Euro Business" experience on SAS or even a cheap flight on Flyr or Norwegian!
The cabin crew on this flight offered me and my mate a welcome drink. It had been quite hot that day (at least by Norway standards) and with a lot of drinks prepared with not many people taking them- I opted to enjoy both a champagne and orange juice. We also got given Ethiopian Airlines amenity kits which was a huge bonus! They also asked us for our drink options during the 45 minute flight.
The flight pushed back relatively on time and the crew commenced the safety demonstration and accompanying video. The taxi didn't take long and within 10 minutes we had gotten to the runway and proceeded to take off into the lovely afternoon that awaited our flight!
It is safe to say the departure offered some amazing views as we flew out over rural Norway!
The service provided on this short flight was a bag of Italian snacks, which were really nice. I also got a glass of Ethiopian red wine (with a refill later) and a cinnamon tea, which I was kindly given a few bags to take home as I really enjoyed it!
I tried out the recline of the seat, which was really comfortable, I would be happy with this cabin on a flight to Addis Ababa or even the other 5th Freedom route (Dublin to Washington D.C). The evening began to progress as we neared Stockholm, but it allowed for some amazing views out the window on this amazing summer evening.
Unfortunately it was only a 45 minute flight, and the party couldn't last forever, our decent into Stockholm eventually began.
We arrived into a rainy and muggy Stockholm Arlanda, another place I hadn't been to since 2018 prior to this trip. The external weather was in such a condition it caused the windows to steam up from the outside. Making it hard to see anything out of the massive Boeing 787 windows on our taxi to the Terminal.
I grabbed a quick shot of the economy class from my exit of the aircraft, I might have to go back and give it a go for comparison sake on a later trip. We exited so we could go off and get into Sweden and find our way to our hostel for the night.
It was a great trip, and an amazing return to Star Alliance. Very impressed by Ethiopian from this introduction. You never know- if I need to make a trip to Africa- I might give this Star Alliance stalwart another call!
As a holder of the Lufthansa Miles & More program, I earned 250 award and status miles from this trip, which is the same as you'd get for flying in Economy Class. Ethiopian doesn't give you the business class miles pay-out if you bid for upgrade, but as someone who doesn't chase Star Alliance miles and status (unlike OneWorld) then its good.
Just off Oslo Gardermoen is the Norwegian Armed Forces Aviation Collection. One of two leading military aviation museums in Oslo, the other being in Bodo, this museum is only open over the weekends, but offers a very eccentric collection of aircraft that served in the Norwegian Air Force as well as some rare German Luftwaffe aircraft from WW2.
Some of my favourite aircraft here are the WW2 collection featuring: two Supermarine Spitfire, Heinkel HE-111, Junkers JU-52, Junkers JU-88 and a Lockheed Hudson.
The museum has a rather colourful Douglas DC-3/C-47 aircraft in its collection!
A rather more modernised addition was a Lockheed C-130 Hercules- despite being introduced into service by various North American and European air forces- its still in service today!
Various other vintage biplanes and more recent fighter jets make up the collection, but I highly recommend it if you are in the Oslo area for a trip, a more general Military based museum is located in Central Oslo. Entry to the Aviation Collection is only 100NOK (£9/€10.50)
Oslo Gardermoen- Very nice airport, though it can be a pain to navigate to the Lounges if you aren't too familiar with the Terminals, but we had no issues on getting through security or going through passport checks.
SAS Lounges- Quite nice lounges, great selection in both of the locations. I prefer the domestic lounge a little more if you could only access the basic SAS Lounges and not the premium side. Worth coming to for a good stay!
Ethiopian- I am impressed enough to want to try a more substantial flight on them. Make a note of the "bid to upgrade" scheme as it could help you on some of the quieter routes.