Feb 222015
 

Up early and one last breakfast in the executive lounge. I still wasn’t feeling so hot, and it was a gorgeous sunny day so rather than run around and get myself any sicker I decided to spend a couple hours relaxing by the pool and taking it easy. Shot of the pool from earlier:

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Grabbed a light lunch in the hotel cafe/bar after the pool, and got things packed up and ready to go. Before leaving, I decided to head down to the Executive Lounge for a double espresso. The lounge was on the 10th floor, and I was on the 12th. Grabbed the espresso to go, and was waiting for the lift back up to 12, and noticed a guy standing near the elevator who had that distinct security look about him. Tried to make small talk, and he was having none of it, which only confirmed my suspicions.

Then, the elevator door opened, and emerging in all his glory was the President of Uganda – Yoweri Musevini – wearing full academic regalia / PhD robes…hat and all. Didn’t even know the guy had a PhD, but apparently according to Wikipedia he’s got at least six of them, hah. I have no idea what he was doing in the sheraton, much less in academic regalia, but I guess that will remain a mystery for the ages. If you’ve read my earlier blogs this is my second presidential encounter in hotel elevators in the last four months, the previous being President Xi of China in an Auckland Hotel elevator. It was beginning to seem a rather strange coincidence!

Traffic on the way to the airport was absolutely horrid, and it took nearly two hours to reach the airport. I’d planned on two and a half hours worst case so it wasn’t a big deal, but was still annoying. Check-in and immigration were a piece of cake, and soon I was in the business lounge which featured an actual waterfall. Pretty sure that’s an airport first!

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Boarding was a long walk along the tarmac to our plane:

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Ethiopian flight 331
Entebbe, Uganda (EBB) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD)
Depart 18:20, Arrive 20:25, Flight Time 2:05
Boeing 737-800, Registration ET-ARD, Manufactured 2007, Seat 2C

Ugh, Ethiopian…your planes are even rattier than United’s:

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What a…cute…little amenity kit. Pre-flight beverages were water or orange juice.

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Flight was only booked to 8/16 in business, but at the last moment the last eight seats filled up with folks that were clearly local important types. No idea what was going on, and it was a rather full flight so it’s possible they just upgraded people with status or something, but based on how rude they were I’m pretty sure they were DYKWIA types that Ethiopian staff upgraded for whatever reason. My seatmate, fortunately wasn’t bad….except for taking his shoes off and putting his bare feet on the seat in front of him. Gross.

The meal was, however, quite tasty for a two hour meal. Choices were fish or beef, so I went with the beef option. It could have been warmer, but I ate about half of it, which considering being sick was pretty good:

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Arrived in Addis a few minutes ahead of schedule, where we ended up parked at a bus gate. Long wait for the bus to fill up, and then it was off to the terminal where we were greeted by lots of signs warning of Ebola and nurses taking everyones’ temperature. I have to say I was rather impressed this entire trip how almost every airport was quite well-staffed to check for possible Ebola cases:

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After security there was a Lufthansa transfer desk, so I stopped there to get Lufthansa boarding passes. When I’d checked in in Entebbe they’d given me boarding passes all the way to DC, but I wanted to get the Lufthansa First ones, and just make sure I wouldn’t have any problems. Not sure what I was thinking, but I gave her my passport and she promised to come find me in the lounge.

The lounge. Yes. It’s one of my least favourite Star Alliance hub lounges in the world. It has delicious Ethiopian food and beer, so that’s not the problem, and the internet is adequately fast, but the problems are much bigger. First, there’s no first class lounge. I know, not the end of the world. Second, there’s no outlets. Anywhere. Seriously there’s like five in the whole lounge for a couple hundred people. Eventually I found one, but it was “loose” so I had to prop up my plug to get it to stay in with my luggage, lol. Third issue: like Istanbul, it was packed. So much you could hardly find a place to sit. I know late evening is rush hour at Addis, but it was bordering on ridiculous how crowded it was…and there’s a separate lounge for business passengers! This one is only for Star Gold. Now, fourth and last issue – it’s loud. On top of being crowded it’s filled with people traveling in groups and speaking incredibly loudly…and walking around with no shoes. As far as manners go, I’d say it’s one of the worst lounges in the world.

Solution? Another St George beer, more delicious Ethiopian food, sit on the computer and blog a bit, and try and tune it. It successfully worked for three hours, at which point the Lufthansa transfer agent came and found me in the lounge (she’d given me my passport back after 30 minutes) and escorted me through security and to the gate. I knew checking in with transfer security was a good idea!

Lufthansa flight 599
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD) to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (JED)
Depart 23:40, Arrive 2:25 next morning, Flight Time 2:45
Airbus A330-300, Registration D-AIKL Manufactured 2008, Seat 2K

Ahhh….things were beginning to look up quickly! New seats on this A330, and only two people in the cabin of eight!

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…and then, it got even better! Today’s champers was Laurent Perrier Grand Ciècle, which was absolutely delicious. It’s always refreshing when airlines serve high-end champagnes that aren’t Krug or Dom.

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Tonight’s menu for Addis-Jeddah which was billed as “dinner” then a “snack” (with caviar!) from Jeddah to Frankfurt plus breakfast if you want!

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The cajun chicken appetizer was pretty tasty:

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The chicken leg was pretty good too, and it was nice to see a couple small vegetables after a couple of weeks in Africa:

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Finished off with an absolutely amazing date cake…I wanted two but resisted:

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Watched tv and movies for the rest of the short flight, and soon we were on approach to Jeddah:

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The stop in Jeddah was pretty uneventful, albeit champagne-free. We’d landed over a half hour early, which meant our stop on the ground would be nearly two hours, in the middle of the night. Ugh. We were not allowed to leave the plane, and several Saudi customs officers came on board for an extended walk-around. I assume they were looking for alcohol or other violations they could fine Lufthansa for.

Lufthansa flight 599
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (JED) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 03:40, Arrive 7:45, Flight Time 6:05
Airbus A330-300, Registration D-AIKL Manufactured 2008, Seat 2K

Pre-departure beverage of…water. Oh so unfortunate. 🙁 At least the macadamia nuts were tasty.

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Oh, and “our special Saudi Arabia pre-departure beverage” a mint lemonade, which was quite tasty.

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Once up in the air, the flight purser suggested she bring the appetizers to me all together to save me time so I could maximize sleep, which I quickly agreed to. I think I spent most of the stop on the ground in Jeddah dozing off, and given how perceptive she was I’m pretty sure that’s why she suggested the expedited dinner. I wasn’t too full, but took bites of everything (and finished the caviar, of course) and it was a nice filling snack.

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The cheese was…sad. I can’t believe Lufthansa served this. It was leaps and bounds below their usual standard.

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At this point, I passed out for four solid hours of sleep, and woke up sweating just outside Frankfurt. Yes, sweating, because the purser had been sweet enough to put a duvet over me mid-flight, but (as is typical on Lufthansa) they also had the heat at like 25C so it was an oven in the plan.

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Off the plane, and there were about 10 German immigration/customs officers in the jetway checking passengers before they could get into the terminal and get mixed with all the other passengers. I didn’t have my passport handy, but they didn’t seem bothered and just waived me through.White privilege, I guess….guess I didn’t look like someone likely to declare asylum in Germany.

But, why would I? The Lufthansa First lounge awaited, complete with rubber duckies! My flight had arrived in the Z terminal, and my connection was departing from the Z terminal, and I will never understand why Lufthansa didn’t put a first lounge in the Z terminal since it’s where the bulk of their long haul flights (aka the flights that actually have first class) depart from. Anyone know? Since I had to go through immigration anyways I stopped at Starbucks for an Americano, then continued to the B terminal first lounge for a shower:

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Couple more espressos in the lounge, a glass of bubbly (because, I mean, for scientific research purposes I had to try the Gosset Rose because I’ve never tried it before) and it was time to head to the plane. Since the lounge was in the B terminal and the gates were in Z (meaning it would require clearing immigration to go between the two) Lufthansa provides a ride to the plane instead. My driver:

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…and my ride, after we’d pulled up alongside the plane

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Selfie next to my plane:

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Lufthansa flight 430
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Chicago, O’Hare (ORD)
Depart 10:40, Arrive 13:05, Flight Time 9:25
Boeing 747-8, Registration D-ABYL Manufactured 2014, Seat 3K

Welcomed aboard with more macadamia nuts and a glass of Laurent-Perrier Grand Ciècle:

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Load was light today, only 4 of 8 seats taken, and I planned to move up to row one since neither seat was taken, however, someone was upgraded/boarded/something right before the door closed and took 1A so I stayed in row 3. Not sure who he was, but the entire crew spent most of the flight fawning over him so he was someone pretty important/famous/whatever.

Today’s menu:

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Amuse bouche of sheep’s cheese with olive oil and sundried tomato puree. Super tasty.

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Mmmm…garlic bread…

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Caviar for the second time in 12 hours. Living the dream. Unfortunately they didn’t have any extras, and were actually short due to the late passenger addition, so there was no second helping today.

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Appetizers…decided to skip the crab roll because it didn’t look very appetizing. Everything else was super tasty.

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The creamy sugar snap soup with tarragon chervil oil…wasn’t too hopeful on this one, but it was actually delicious.

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Glazed duck breast with honey and pears…absolutely delicious, one of the best (if not THE best) mains I’ve ever had on a plane.

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Now THIS is how you do cheese…not that disaster on the previous flight. Selection of super tasty cheeses with sweet biscuits.

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….and going full-hog…chocolate soufflé for dessert.

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…all finished off with a couple of chocolates and a glass of Johnny Walker Blue Label.

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…aaaaand proceed to pass out for six solid hours of much-needed sleep. Fortunately this plane wasn’t the usual Lufthansa oven. I think they have trouble keeping the 747-8 noses as warm as they would like, which is absolutely fine by me. Woke up, watched a little tv, and it was time for a pre-arrival snack.

Salmon and turkey ham canapés with some stuffed olives…and a bit more Johnny Walker.

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Finished off with delicious little mini pastries.

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Arrived in Chicago about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, fairly short walk to immigration, which was absolutely packed with people. There was a United agent in the immigration hall advising people the wait for U.S. citizens to use the arrivals kiosks was over an hour due to many flights having arrived at the same time. I thought those automated kiosks were supposed to actually speed things up?

Fortunately, there was no line at all for Global Entry, and despite having a one-way ticket from Uganda I wasn’t flagged and was through immigration in less than five minutes. It was a freezing 15 degrees fahrenheit / -10 celcius in Chicago which was quite a shock after Uganda. Took the inter-terminal train over to the B/C terminal, where there was absolutely nobody around. The place was an absolute ghosttown. I know it was the middle of a Saturday afternoon in February, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen O’Hare so quiet.

Stop one, and most important, was Starbucks to try and wake up.

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Next stop was the United Global First lounge, where I was denied entry. I thought with a same-day Star Alliance First ticket you were allowed entrance to all first lounges unless otherwise indicated (like Lufthansa First, Swiss First, etc?) I know I’ve arrived on Swiss First before and been allowed to use this lounge, but according to the lounge agent “someone must have liked you and decided to do you a favour.” Ugh.

No worries, I had less than an hour until flight time so I found a quiet corner to camp out in, charge the phone, and wait for my final flight.

United Express flight 3484, Operated by Shuttle America
Chicago, O’Hare (ORD) to Washington, DC National (DCA)
Depart 15:00, Arrive 17:49, Flight Time 1:49
Embraer ERJ-170 Registration N641RW, Manufactured 2004, Seat 1A

Welcome aboard…here’s a glass of Château le Jeff, plastic cup and all. Nothing says “Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in Lufthansa First anymore” quite like Château le Jeff in a plastic cup.

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Completely empty flight, refills were offered (and declined…the one above was mainly for the photo op) and no snacks of any sort were provided on the approximately 1:40 flight. Super bumpy on the approach with some pretty serious winds in DC, and that was it. I was home 72 hours ahead of schedule, having missed two countries I intended to visit on this trip, but all in all it was rather successful and super fun.

I’d missed seeing Yemen, which was my decision based on the security situation on the ground. My Eritrea visa on arrival had never arrived, so I had no way to reroute via Eritrea. Despite it having been six weeks since I applied, it never showed up, so there was no way to do that. I’ll confess that had I made it to Yemen I was going to try and show up in Eritrea (there’s a Sana’a to Asmara flight) and try for visa on arrival. I figured if they didn’t grant it, the Turkish flight I was going to take left 4 hours later, so worst case they’d kick me back out to Turkey and I could beg Turkish to take my ticket a day early. Without Yemen, there was just no way.

So, the trip ended 72 hours and two countries short…or…so I thought. Less than 24 hours later there would be more serious travel drama that meant this trip wasn’t really quite over yet…


  One Response to “Entebbe to Washington, DC in Ethiopian Business and Lufthansa First”

  1. Here’s my own Ethiopian Airlines story. This was about 10 years ago, I was flying Nairobi to Addis I think, in economy class.

    I was one of the only white dudes in the departure lounge. I lined up to board, handed the gate agent my boarding pass, he says “Wait.” Meanwhile other passengers are boarding. I wait a few minutes as a long line of passengers continues filing on the plane. I go back up o the gate agent, give him the boarding pass, again he says “Wait.”

    At this point I’m sort of fuming because almost everyone has boarded and this guy won’t let me board and I don’t know why and I assume he’s being racialist. Finally after everyone else has boarded I walk back up to him, give him the boarding pass, and he swaps it for one in business class. Nice!

    I sit down in my seat next to perhaps the only other white guy on the plane. It turned out he was a doctor who worked for US embassies in East Africa traveling around treating sick embassy personnel.

    The flight attendants must have known who he was, because when they set down his meal they said “Doctor.” Then they set down my meal and said “Doctor” also.

    All I could think of was the Bob Hope line from the film Spies Like Us – “Glad I’m not sick.”

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