I guess I never actually posted any more details about my flights over here.
While Ethiopian Airlines seems to consistently delay things, the service isn’t all that bad. We had four meals on our 17 hour flight from DC to Addis Ababa. The seat’s were reasonably comfortable. I only got up twice during the flight, but I didn’t actually feel too cramped or sore. The long flight was a lot better than I expected. Got to see dusk and dawn. We took off from DC at a little after 2 PM local time, refueled in Dakar around midnight local time, and then landed in Addis at about 1 PM local time.
Once we arrived in Addis, I had to hand over my passport and wait about three hours for Ethiopian Airlines to give me my hotel voucher and transit visa. Immigration in Addis was quick and painless, it was a pain however carrying all of my luggage by myself. My checked luggage was only checked through to Addis, not all the way to Lilongwe. Some people on the flight from DC had their luggage checked all the way to their final destination (even if they were spending the night in Addis). Not sure why mine was different.
Only got a brief glimpse of Addis. The hotel Ethiopian put me up on was fairly nice. It wasn’t fancy at all, but it had a nice feel to it. Internet was extremely sporadic, we would have it for a few minutes (just in the lobby), then it would go out again. Had dinner at the hotel restaurant, learned that I don’t particularly like Ethiopian food. I tried some Ethiopian bread, along with a little meat, and some other stuff that looked like they were bread-like. The bread had a sour taste to it, I definitely wasn’t a big fan. Had a Pepsi out of a glass bottle, that was kind of cool.
Anyway, I had to wake up at 5 AM the next morning to take the bus to the airport for my 9 o’clock flight. Took about two hours to actually get to my gate after I got to the airport. First, I had to go through security to even get in to the airport building (including x-raying all my bags, even the ones I would check). Then I had to wait in line for a while to check my bags. Next I had to go through immigration to leave the country. Apparently people living in Ethiopia have to get an exit visa from the Ethiopian government to leave the country. I just had to show them my transit visa. Then I was able to go to my gate and once again had to go through security. Finally, they took us to our plane via bus and we boarded with airstairs. It looks like the gates were used mostly by the larger (757 / 767) aircraft. We were on a 737-700. I didn’t have a window seat there, so I couldn’t see quite as much – it would have been interesting to see the rift valley, Nairobi, and have a better view of Lake Malawi. I’ll probably get to see those later though.
In comparison to the flight from DC, the three and a half hour flight from Addis to Lilongwe seemed like a short hop. I was surprised that we were served a meal on this flight too (in addition to a snack). Getting off at Kamuzu airport in Lilongwe was interesting, the airport was pretty tiny compared to Addis. Thankfully all my luggage made it to Lilongwe, which somewhat surprised me. The baggage area at Lilongwe was cramped and crowded with tons of people. They drive on the left side of the road here in Malawi, it’s been a little hard to get use to (as a passenger).