Published on March 23rd, 2015 | by Jim Lee0
Dublin Airport celebrates as Ethiopian Airlines ‘Dreamliner’ debuts
Celebration was in the air (and indeed on the ground) as Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’, ET-ASG visited Dublin Airport on Friday, 20th March ahead of the airline’s official launch of their new three times weekly direct Dublin to Addis Ababa and Los Angeles scheduled services in June. The aircraft’s arrival at 14:13 was the first time a Boeing 787 scheduled passenger flight touched down at Dublin Airport, although its was not the types first visit to the city. Regular readers of Flying in Ireland will recall the visit of Boeing model 787-881 N787BX which paid a two day demonstration visit from 25th-27th January 2012. Since then there have also been a number of pre-delivery visits by Norwegian 787s.
Waiting patiently on the ramp for the arrival of ‘SG was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohue, daa Chief Executive Kevin Toland and a large group of airport staff and photographers. They were joined by Ethiopian CEO Tewolde Gebremariam who travelled on the aircraft from London Heathrow. Together with an Ethiopian dance group they posed for photographs before adjourning to the airport’s Platinum VIP Suite where a large group of invited media and members of the travel trade awaited their arrival, Prior to the arrival of the VIPs, they were entertained by a four piece jazz group and the Ethiopian dance group who certainly gave a celebratory flavour to the occasion in what can only be described as a spirited performance.
daa Chief Executive Kevin Toland opened the proceedings, welcoming in particular, the Ethiopian visitors, a welcome later echoed by the Minister. Noting that Ethiopian’s Dublin route will be the only direct service connecting Africa with Ireland and the west coast of the US he said that the new service would reconnect Dublin with Los Angeles and bring unrivalled connectivity in Africa, opening up opportunities from its Addis Ababa hub to almost 50 African destinations. It was also part of a major expansion of transatlantic services from Dublin and just one of 20 new services already announced for this year. Other new services include Washington DC, Nantes and Newquay with Aer Lingus, Copenhagen and Lublin with Ryanair, Helsinki with Finnair, Paris Orly with transavia.com, Barcelona with Vueling, Reykjavik with WOW Air and Halifax, Nova Scotia with Europe Airpost. These new services should deliver significant growth in 2015 as already evidenced by the 17% increase in passenger traffic in February, when almost 1.5 million passengers travelled through Dublin Airport. Particularly notable was passenger volumes to and from North America which grew by 7% on the previous year with almost 82,000 passengers travelling on flights to and from the United States and Canada and other international traffic, principally to the Middle East and North Africa which increased by 32%, to almost 51,000 passengers. In conclusion he said that the Dreamliner was “a magnificent aircraft and the essence of comfort for any long haul flight”. “We are very much looking forward to welcoming the inaugural direct flight from Addis Ababa on 20th June” he added.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohue said that it was a very exciting day for Dublin airport and for Irish tourism and commended Ethiopian Airlines’ service which he revealed he had had the pleasure of experiencing on a previous occasion. He added that he very much looked forward to the start of new services using what he described as “the very impressive Dreamliner”. “The new routes will strengthen Ireland’s connectivity to the west coast of the United States and will provide the first direct link to Ethiopia and other points in Africa and beyond from the Ethiopian Airlines Addis Ababa hub, offering additional choice and convenience for passengers”, he added.
Ireland have already granted Ethiopian what are termed fifth freedom rights, which enable the airline to sell tickets on all sectors of the new Addis Ababa to Los Angeles route. A Bilateral Ireland-Ethiopia Air Traffic Agreement giving effect to and permitting Ethiopian Airlines to operate the services was signed in Addis Ababa on 2nd November last, by Minister for State with responsibility for Development, Trade Promotion and North-South Cooperation Sean Sherlock during An tUachtarán’s (President’s) Michael D. Higgins three week working visit to Ethiopia, Malawi and South Africa.
An obviously pleased Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group flanked by the aircraft’s flight and cabin crew expressed his pride at being “the first airline to link Africa and Ireland and bring the ultra-modern 787 aircraft to Dublin airport on a scheduled basis”. “I wish to thank the Government of Ireland and the airport authority for their tremendous support, which has enabled the start of our flight in June. Our flights connecting Addis Ababa, Dublin and Los Angeles will play a critical role in the expansion of trade, tourism and investment between the fast growing continent of Africa and Ireland” he added. He remarked that Dublin Airport had recently celebrated its 75th Birthday while Ethiopian is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its founding this year making them the prefect match. Passengers from Ireland and Los Angeles will be able to enjoy seamless and convenient connectivity options thanks to Ethiopian’s extensive network in Africa, spanning 49 destinations. Similarly, as the flights will be the only direct service between Dublin and Los Angeles, the Irish and U.S. travelling public between the two cities will greatly benefit from the opening of the route. With the addition of Dublin, the airline’s 11th European city and Los Angeles, its fourth point in the Americas, Ethiopian’s international network will cover 85 destinations across 5 continents. Early indications are that advance bookings are performing well.
Ethiopian Airlines is Ethiopia’s flag carrier and is wholly owned by the country’s government. Often referred to as simply Ethiopian, it was founded on 21st December 1945 and commenced operations on 8th April 1946. It expanded into to international flights in 1951 and became a share company in 1965 when it changed its name from Ethiopian Air Lines to Ethiopian Airlines. The airline has been a member of the International Air Transport Association since 1959 and of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) since 1968. Ethiopian is also a Star Alliance member, having joined in December 2011. Ethiopian is now a Pan-African global carrier voted by passengers as the Best in Africa for two years in a row by Passenger Choice Awards, the most comprehensive survey in the industry. The airline operates the youngest fleet in the continent with an average of less than seven years and currently serves 83 international destinations across five continents with over 200 daily departures. Ethiopian is the fastest growing and most profitable airline in Africa. In 2014, IATA ranked Ethiopian as the largest airline in Africa in revenue and profit. In its operations in the past close to seven decades, Ethiopian has been a pioneer of African aviation as an aircraft technology leader providing the first jet service in the continent in 1962, and availing the first African Boeing 767 in 1984, the first African Boeing 777-200LR in 2010 and the first African and second only to Japan Boeing 787 Dreamliner operator in 2012.
The final speaker was Her Excellency Mrs. Lela-alem Gebreyohannes Tedla, Ethiopia’s Ambassador and plenipotentiary to Ireland who assumed her duties as head of mission In January 2011. She noted Ireland’s many connections to Africa and to her country in particular and the many opportunities the new service offered to both countries. Both countries had endured hard times and she welcomed Ireland’s economic revival which should strengthen trade and improve prosperity.
After the formal speeches there were photo opportunities some of which were in front of the obligatory cake and then it was time to inspect the aircraft. This is the newest member of the airline’s fleet having only been delivered on 31st January 2015 becoming the 11th Boeing 787-800 in service out of a total of 13 on order.
A look at the aircraft
ET-ASG had operated the airlines scheduled service from Addis Ababa to London (the ET700) and had arrived there at 07:00 that morning as scheduled. She was planned depart to Dublin using the same flight number at around noon but her departure from Heathrow was delayed by about 90 minutes and this to some extent dictated her parking position at Pier B. Although parked at an air bridge steps were used to improve the flow of visitors to and from the aircraft.
Immediately noticeable on entry was the large spacious cockpit with an advanced flight deck that leverages state-of-the-art technology to improve operational capabilities and provide flight crews with a clean, simplified look and feel. It features the largest forward display screens of any certified airliner, with five multi function displays (MFDs) that measure 15 inches (381 mm) diagonally. The displays provide more than twice the area as those used on the 777, giving pilots more information and significant flexibility to tailor the display layout to their needs for each phase of flight. Also noticeable are the dual head-up displays (HUD) which projects an image onto a glass combiner mounted in front of each pilot. These display flight information so pilots can look outside the flight deck, scanning for traffic or flying an approach, and simultaneously view primary flight instruments. The dual HUDs enhance safety in all phases of flight, in both good and poor visibility. HUDs also enable lower visibility takeoff minimums by integrating with the navigation radios and flight management system to provide low visibility takeoff runway centreline guidance. The dual HUDs allow the first officer to be proficient in HUD use when transitioning to captain.
Finally the cockpit has dual electronic flight bags (EFBs). Located to the side of the pilot. These dual Class III touch screen EFBs allow for paperless flight operations while other aircraft avionics, the flight management computer, communications, and flight deck printer all work with the EFBs. The EFBs enable significant reductions in the amount of flight deck paper by providing a standard software suite. This suite contains information such as maps, charts, manuals, onboard maintenance functions, a performance tool, and a document browser, which can all be updated wirelessly or with a maintenance laptop. It also allows takeoff-performance calculations to be made in real time and transmitted to the flight management computers.
The first of seven toilets is located behind the cockpit although the two for wheelchair users are located between rows 27 and 28 in economy. Also upfront is the first of three large and spacious kitchen galleys with full range of ovens, coffee makers and cooler units. Next are the 24 seats of Ethiopian’s business class known as ‘cloud nine’. These angle-flat seats with 160 degree recline have a 65 inch (1,651 mm) pitch and an attractive red fabric which complements the bright and spacious cabin. Each seat is 20-21 inches (508-533 mm) wide and has state of the art on-demand Audio and Video services with 15.4 inch (391 mm) IFE screens and 85 channels.
Ethiopian’s Dreamliners have 246 standard reclining seats in economy with a pitch of 32 inches (813 mm) and each 17-18 inches (432-457 mm) wide. The are arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration with alternative pale green or yellow fabric with each seat having an 8.9 inch (226 mm) video screen with 80 different channels offering an array of entertainment to passengers of all ages.
Evident across both classes is the fact that Dreamliner cabin is more open with a vaulted ceiling that stretches the length of the cabin. The sidewalls are more vertical for better shoulder and headroom and windows are much larger than other wide-bodies. This gives everyone in the cabin some view outside. The aircraft’s party piece is of course is adjustable glazing which with the simple touch of a button, gradually adjusts the outside light across five settings from transparent to dark. Also noticeable was the unique cabin lighting system – the Sky Interior which provides the full-spectrum of LED lighting that brings blue skies and the feel of natural daylight into the cabin, from morning to noon to dusk to night. There are also larger overhead bins some 30% larger than the industry standard size. They close up and away – leaving more overhead space. For more views of the aircraft see http://www.ethiopianairlines.com/en/info/787_ethiopian.aspx
In flight, passengers on the Dreamliner benefit from the dramatically improved cabin pressure, air quality and smoother handling. Fresh air is constantly coming in through air scoops on the side of the Dreamliner. The cabin air continuously circulates through an advanced filtration system to make the cabin air even cleaner. This means that cabin is less dry as more moisture in the air helps your skin; eyes, lips, and nose feel more comfortable. You are also getting more oxygen. More oxygen, fewer headaches, less dizziness equals less travel fatigue.
All too soon it was time to leave this fascinating aeroplane. Shortly afterwards it was time also for the aircraft to bid fare well to Dublin and at 17:05 she departed from Dublin’s runway 28 arriving in Heathrow at 18:02. She used the flight number ET2701, the same as her later scheduled service back to Addis Ababa via Rome. She left Heathrow that night at 20:35 arriving in Rome at 22:33 (23:33 local).
Schedule and promotional fares
To coincide with the visit Ethiopian Airlines announced special promotional launch fares for the new routes, valid for travel from 20th June to 31st November 2015 with a fare of €499.00 return. either direct to Addis or direct to Los Angeles on the Dreamliner. This offer can be booked from 20th March to 30th 2015 April. Ethiopian’s schedule makes it the first of the many transatlantic flights to arrive onto the West Coast from Europe, and one of the last to arrive back into Dublin. The timings from and to Dublin enable business travellers to maximise the opportunity of arriving into LA for a full day of meetings before returning home on the same day. Eastbound the ET504 departs Addis Ababa at 23:00 on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and arrives at 05:30 the following morning in Dublin (8.5 hours). It departs Dublin at 06:30 and arrives in Los Angeles at 09:30 (11 hours). That means that the days of operation ex Dublin are Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The Westbound ET505 departs Los Angeles Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 23:30 and arrives in Dublin the following evening at 18:30 (11 hours). The flight departs Dublin at 19:30 and arrives at 06:00 in Addis Ababa on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays (8.5 hours).
Ethiopian going forward
Ethiopian currently commands the lion share of the pan-African passenger and cargo network. It has one of youngest and most modern fleets with eight Boeing 777s 10 Boeing 767-300ERs and of course the 11 Boeing 787 Dreamliners serving long haul. These are backed up by 19 Boeing 737 NG aircraft and four Boeing 757-200s offering medium range passenger services with 17 Bombardier Q400 turboprops serving regional and domestic routes. Cargo and non-scheduled services are provided by four Boeing 777-200LRFs, two Boeing 757-260FRs, two MD-11Fs and one- Boeing 737-400F giving a total operating fleet of 78 aircraft. A further 43 aircraft are on order including 14 A350-900s from Airbus.
Ethiopian is currently implementing a 15-year strategic plan called Vision 2025 that will see it become the leading airline group in Africa with seven strategic business units: Ethiopian International Passenger Service; Ethiopian Regional Service; Ethiopian Cargo; Ethiopian MRO; Ethiopian Aviation Academy; Ethiopian In-flight Catering Service and Ethiopian Ground Service. Ethiopian is a multi-award winning, including SKYTRAX and Passenger Choice Awards in 2013 and has been registering an average growth of 25% per annum in the past seven years. Only last month the airline won the 2015 “Regional Airline of the Year Award” at the 41st Airline Industry Achievement Awards held in Washington DC.
Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam is a positive man and optimistically says that airline can grow its aircraft fleet to more than 120 units (passenger and cargo fleet combined) and its workforce (now numbering around 7,000) to 17,000 by 2025 as it aims to become the leading airline on the African continent. Already it is reportedly in talks with Boeing to purchase eight early Boeing 787-8 otherwise known as the ‘Terrible Teens’ (which get their nickname due to their early place in the assembly-line order and the problems with the initial aircraft) in storage with Boeing and readily available. While these early Dreamliners weigh more than other 787s – due to custom-fitted reinforcements and post-assembly modifications – they will come at a bargain price. Expansion at this level would equal to generating $10 billion (€9.25 billion) in annual revenue by 2025 (The airline reported revenue of $1.5 billion [€1.4 billion] in 2011). He believes that Addis Ababa, located right in the middle of the line between the world’s most emerging markets – notably between Russia, India, China and Brazil – is strategically located to connect these areas both in terms of passengers as well as cargo. The airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners can reach all of these countries within a 10 hour radius with nonstop flights and Mr. Gebremariam believes that with the right product and service they can eventually compete against any of the world’s top carriers for passengers and cargo. Dublin also has ambitions for major growth and perhaps this new relationship can lead to major progress and success for now and into the future.