I decided to book this set of tickets on Ethiopian Airlines’ official website for HK$3,411 after double-checking with different airfare search engines that this is the cheapest offer. This was a very late purchase, and I was travelling during the holiday peak season, so it wasn’t like I have a lot of options. What convinced me to fly with this airline, instead of budget airlines is that (1) the airfares were cheaper; (2) they provide in-flight meals; and (3) they allow free checked bags up to 30kg.
There was an episode worth noticing: I got quite confused about the free checked baggage allowance when information on the website and my reservation record were not consistent. The customer service staff was prompt, professional and sincere when answering my email, so props to them.
Checkin and at the Airport
I completed my online checkin process a day in advance, so I just arrived at Hong Kong International Airport 1.5 hour ahead of boarding time to check in my bags. The aisle was almost empty and the whole process was smooth and quick.
It was an afternoon flight so we went to have lunch at the airport before going through immigration. The assigned gate is 27 – super close to the security clearing and immigration control area, so we were left with plenty of time to chill out. The flight was also slightly delayed, but we were glad to have more time to charge our mobiles at the phone charging station right at the gate.
This was operated by a Boeing 787-8, with hard shell seats that are acceptable but not the best. There was a small pillow propped up in each chair before we were seated, which did make the flight a little more comfy. There was enough legroom for me even when I have put my huge backpack under the seat in front of me. The aircraft, however wasn’t properly clean, as I found a pair of used earphones and a piece of used tissue in my seat pocket.
The overhead bins are not very big – just enough to fit several small-sized luggage. I was delighted and keened to try out the dimmable windows on the aircraft, and discovered that I very much prefer them to the pull-down blinds. I have read about complaints that the windows aren’t dark enough even when dimmed to the fullest extent, but I found them to be adequate.
The inflight entertainment system can be touchscreen operated or handset operated (on the armrest), and the system offered quite a wide range of entertainment, with varied choices from classics to latest releases. I was pleasantly surprised to find a usb socket to charge my phone. The earphones the airline provided however were not too good. My ears hurt after a while of using them.
Flight and Service
The flight was smooth in general apart from a few bumps during take-off. The service was mostly professional, but the crew can work a little faster sometimes. I pressed the flight-attendant call button several times (for around 5 minutes) to ask for a new set of earphones. No one answered me for at least 10 minutes. Someone finally passed by and I asked for the earphones I wanted. And then I waited and I waited, for half an hour. So I pressed the call button again – still no answer (I made sure to check the button was actually working). I finally stopped another cabin crew member when she passed by and told her I had been waiting for 30 minutes just for a set of headphones. She finally gave it to me and apologized sincerely. But man, I did wait over 30 minutes for just a pair of earphones.
Food and Drink
Meals were served an hour after take-off. I wasn’t having too much expectation for the food, but was again surprised since it was actually pretty decent – particularly the hot dish (which was actually HOT). The presentation could look better of course but it is the quality that counts. I opted for beef and mash potato on the to-flight, and it was hot, filling and delicious. Even the side vegetables were good, and I normally hate boiled carrots and broccoli because they taste like nothing. The salad was okay, but I skipped the dessert because I couldn’t really tell what it was. For the return flight, I went with the chicken pasta dish. Not as good the beef dish I had on the way to Seoul, but still not too bad. The dessert was delicious this time.
I wasn’t sure about the airline at first due to reviews online, but this has proven to be quite a smooth experience. With a better-cleaned cabin, faster and friendlier crew service and maybe clearer instructions/ more user-friendly website, I am sure service will even be better. Despite of these, I would definitely fly with the airline again. It was a good bargain with such service at a comparably cheap price.