I went on a 30-day trip in December 2022 and January 2023 to leave the Icelandic winter behind me for some time. The trip had four main parts: visiting Sudan and Kenya; visiting friends, colleagues and relatives in Hungary and the Czech Republic; a family holiday in Tenerife and a business trip to Senegal, The Gambia and Sierra Leone.
I had a total of 18 flights, booked mostly as one-ways and one double open-jaw. Here’s my final list of flights after many cancellations, changes of departure time and aircraft type:
Keflavík to Paris CDG, Icelandair, economy class, B757 (no flight report)
Paris to Istanbul, Turkish, business class, A321
Istanbul to Khartoum, Turkish, business class, B737
Khartoum to Addis, Ethiopian, economy class upgraded to business class, B737
Addis to Nairobi NBO, Ethiopian, economy class upgraded to business class, B777
Nairobi WIL to Mombasa to Lamu, Skyward Express, economy class, Q300
Lamu to Malindi to Nairobi WIL, Safarilink, economy class, Q200
Nairobi NBO to Istanbul, Turkish, business class, A330
Istanbul to Budapest, Turkish, business class, B737
Vienna to Tenerife South, Wizzair, economy class, A321
Tenerife North to Gran Canaria, Binter Canarias, economy class, ATR42
Grand Canaria to Dakar, Binter Canarias, economy class, E195
Dakar to Banjul, Air Sénégal, economy class, A320
Banjul to Freetown, Air Sénégal, economy class
Freetown to Banjul, Air Sénégal, economy class
Banjul to Casablanca, Royal Air Maroc, business class
Casablanca to Paris ORY, Royal Air Maroc, business class
Paris CDG to Keflavík, Play, economy class
There are not many options to fly from Khartoum, Sudan to Nairobi, Kenya. Kenya Airways flies only on certain days, in the middle of the night and the prices are very high. Saudia is another option but it would have meant a red eye flight. The next option is to backtrack and fly with Egyptair through Cairo - not great. Ethiopian offered the shortest route and the best schedule with a departure from Khartoum at 11.10. The price was very high, over 400€ one-way in economy for a 2x2 hour flight but there was no better option. Business class would have cost around 1500€.
The second leg of the booking was cancelled two weeks before departure. I rebooked myself to the evening flight from Khartoum to Addis which meant that my connecting flight would arrive to Nairobi at 01.20 - not ideal but once again there were not many other options.
I got an email one day before departure that check-in was available. I was offered to make an upgrade bid for both sectors with a minimum of $210 for the first flight and $245 for the second. Guaranteed upgrade was also available for about double this price. I made a bid just $5 above the minimum. The bid for the first leg (Khartoum to Addis) was accepted the morning of my departure. The bid for the second leg (Addis to Nairobi) was accepted when my first flight was leaving Khartoum.
My first flight arrived from Khartoum ahead of schedule.
All connecting passengers had go through security; there was a separate channel for business class.
Khartoum Airport looks like a small countryside airport from the 1940s; Addis is a major international hub with tens of thousands of connecting passengers every day. Sudan and Ethiopia are neighbouring countries, their size and population are comparable (although Sudan is bigger in area but Ethiopia has a larger population). Sudan’s national airline does not seem to be operational. Ethiopia’s national airline has over 160 airplanes and its home airport became one of the largest hubs in the whole world. Why is that?
The airport was very busy but everything was well organised.
I got upgraded for my connecting flight after I had checked in in economy in Khartoum. I cleared security in Addis, went one floor up and got my new boarding pass.
I went to Ethiopian’s Sheba Cloud Nine Lounge.
The lounge is large and well designed. It was almost full with hundreds of passengers waiting for dozens of connecting flights.
The lounge has many different parts:
In-lounge showers are available.
Ethiopian coffee room.
One of the main areas.
There’s a large selection of food.
Boarding for my flight was from gate C3 but business class passengers could board from gate A12 - a half minute walk from the lounge.
There are comfortable chairs at this gate.
Boarding was by a special business class bus.
The size of the appron and the number of Ethiopian planes are very impressive.
Business class boards last, not first. Boarding was by stairs.
This flight was supposed to be a B737-800 but was upgraded to a B777-300. I was supposed to be in economy but I was upgraded to business. Good deal.
This plane looked a bit old. It was in good but not in perfect condition.
Business class cabin on this plane has four rows of seats in a 2-3-2 configuration with a total of 28 seats. Having a middle seat in business class is of course not ideal but this was a short-haul flight and load in business class was only 12/28.
The seat controls are a bit old fashioned.
The remote control for the screen.
There’s a central screen on the bulkhead wall and individual screens that can be folded out from the armrest.
Headphones were of course available.
Water, a hot towel and a welcome drink of champagne or orange juice were offered shortly after boarding.
The cabin crew was once again very welcoming.
Boarding was completed at 23.14. An expected flight time of one hour and 40 minutes was announced for a block time of two hours and five minutes.
Push-back was at 23.25 for a scheduled departure time of 23.15. We took off at 23.43.
Orders for dinner were taken only ten minutes after take-off. A choice of three hot meals for main course on a two-hour flight departing after 11pm - very impressive. Here’s the menu:
Dinner service started only 20 minutes after take-off.
Hawaiian Mixed Salad with Green Leaves, Roasted Chicken, Gherkin Salad, Mixed Pickled Vegetables, Black Olives and Cherry Tomato with Cucumber.
I would have called this salad Mustard Chicken Salad. I couldn't find anything Hawaiian but the chicken was tasty.
Oven Cooked Coconut Nile Perch served with Coconut Lemon Sauce, Mixed Vegetables and Potato Gratin with Leeks.
The fish, the sauce, the potato gratin and the vegetables were all excellent.
Orange Mousse Cake. A light and tasty cake.
The seat could be converted into a flat bed. A pillow and a blanket were provided. I only had 15 minutes or so between the end of dinner service and start of descent so I didn't sleep but it was good to rest.
We landed at Nairobi Airport (JKIA) at 01.16 and were at the gate at 01.27 for a scheduled arrival time of 01.20.
Addis Airport is huge, easy to use and modern; it was busy but not overcrowded. The Ethiopian business class lounge is well designed, has many services and plenty of food. It was also busy but not overcrowded. Flying such a short distance on a B777 is always interesting. The cabin was not the newest but it was not full and the seat was very comfortable for a flight of less than two hours. Catering was excellent. The cabin crew was friendly and professional. A very good experience overall.