With the arrival of flight ET504 into the new Tom Bradley International Terminal on June 20th, Ethiopian Airlines officially kicked off its service between Addis Ababa and Los Angeles, via Dublin.
The festivities, punctuated with live music as well as traditional Irish and Ethiopian dancing, celebrated the first time a carrier based in Africa has served Los Angeles.
These service additions are part of Ethiopian’s overall strategy to dominate the African market. By maximizing fleet utilization and picking up a route that Aer Lingus abandoned in 2008, Ethiopian Airlines has smartly connected the large Ethiopian and Irish communities in Southern California to their respective native homelands, proverbially killing two birds with one stone.
“Our new flights connecting Addis Ababa, Dublin, and Los Angeles will play a critical role in the expansion of trade, tourism investment between the fast growing continent of Africa, and the United States and Ireland,” said Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group.
Dublin becomes the 14th European destination for the airline, while Los Angeles is the third city served in the Americas, along with Washington, and Toronto.
Connecting Eastern Africa to the West Coast, a span of over 9,100 miles, was made economically feasible with the fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Ethiopian is the first African airline to operate the type, opting for the 787-8 variant configured with 24 lie-flat seats in business class and 246 seats in economy.
“[The 787] offers unmatched on-board comfort especially for such a very long haul route with its unique features such as greatly reduced noise, higher cabin air humidity, biggest windows in the sky, and spacious cabin interior,” Gebremariam said.
Ethiopian currently operates the largest 787 fleet in Africa, with 13 in service and six more on order. The airline also has the largest total fleet in Africa with 74 aircraft, plus 45 on order.
Inaugural Flight ET504 left Addis Ababa with 208 passengers. After making the stop in Dublin, ET504 continued on to Los Angeles and arrived approximately 50 minutes behind schedule.
In a display unique to the severe drought conditions plaguing California, the aircraft was met by fire trucks with only lights and sirens, rather than the more traditional water cannon salute.
As it pulled into Gate 134, several flag-waving Ethiopian nationals and VIPs were on the airport ramp to greet the 787.
Ethiopian Ambassador H.E. Girma Birru, L.A. City Councilman Curren Price, Jr., and CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons were among the several dignitaries and officials who were on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti appeared in a video message to offer welcome and congratulations.
Even Wolfgang Puck was on hand to offer a few words, quipping that he was “proud to be half Ethiopian.” The celebrity chef was there with his wife Gelila Assefa, who is originally from Ethiopia.
After spending almost the rest of the day at LAX, the 787 will make its return flight to Addis Ababa via Dublin as ET505, departing at 11:45pm.
The current service schedule is as follows:
ET504, departing Addis Ababa at 10:50pm and arriving into Dublin at 5:05am+1
ET504, departing Dublin at 6:15am and arriving into Los Angeles at 9:15am
ET505, departing Los Angeles at 11:45pm and arriving into Dublin at 6:30pm+1
ET505, departing Dublin at 7:45pm and arriving into Addis Ababa at 6:15am+1
This story was written by John Nguyen (@VNAFlyer) for AirlineReporter.