Five reasons to visit Ethiopia - on the world's newest passenger plane


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Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains

Ethiopian Airlines has launched the first regular scheduled Airbus A350-XWB service from the UK.

This is the latest and most technologically advanced model from Airbus, and on Sunday Ethiopian began using it on its daily Heathrow-Addis Ababa route.

##Top five | Reasons to visit Ethiopia

  1. The rock churches of Lalibela are hewn from solid stone and represent the flourishing of 12th-century Ethiopian Christianity.
  1. Also in the north of the country, the Danakil Depression is one of the hottest places on Earth - a desert region containing a geological kaleidoscope of fantastically coloured rocks and deposits.
  1. The Simien Mountains National Park is a plateau rift by deep valleys and craggy pinnacles, covering 220 square kilometres of northern Ethiopia. It’s has outstanding trekking and rambling.
  1. In the south, Lake Langano has several eco lodges on its shores, and the ancient hilltop city of Harar is famous for its idiosyncratic relationship with wild hyenas - it encourages the beasts to roam the streets at night as a form of garbage disposal.
  1. The capital Addis Ababa sits in rolling hills 2,355m above sea level and is a safe and atmospheric city of three million people. Sights include the skeleton of Lucy (the world’s oldest yet discovered skeleton estimated to be 3.2 million years old), the palace of former emperor Haile Selassie, and the Merkato - an astonishing array of stalls that’s reputed to be the largest in Africa. The city also has a distinctive food and jazz scene.

Passenger benefits include the widest cabin of any twin aisles plane, windows that are larger than in previous Airbus models, and a cabin pressurised down to 6,000ft - similar to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner - which has the effect of reducing dehydration and helping minimise the effects of jet lag.

Women of Naregeer village

The aircraft is manufactured from 53 per cent ultra light weight composite materials, which helps to make it the most fuel-efficient Airbus aircraft yet built.

Ethiopian Airlines is a Star Alliance member and the largest and fastest growing airline in Africa. It currently serves 113 destinations with a fleet of 78 aircraft.

  • Where to stay in Ethiopia: the best lodges and hotels
  • Ethiopia named world’s best tourism destination for 2015

Non-stop flights from Heathrow or Dublin to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa take about seven hours, and while the country is booming as a tourist destination due to its unique mix of history, wildlife and culture, just 30 per cent of passengers from the UK currently visit Ethiopia. The rest are connecting to onward destinations, including Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Kigali, Seychelles, Nairobi, Mombasa, Durban and Cape Town.

The company’s A350’s are configured with 313 seats in economy (32" seat pitch, 3:3:3 abreast), and at 18" wide they are half and inch wider than on Virgin Atlantic and an inch wider than on British Airways. There are 30 seats in its ‘Cloud Nine’ business class, which are fully flat seat/beds with a 78" seat pitch and configured 2:2:2.

Economy and business class have HD and fully touch screen seat back screens showing a decent selection of films and TV programmes. The airline has won many awards for its service and crews.

Despite not having the brand recognition of Gulf carriers like Emirates, Qatar and Etihad, Ethiopian has similarly grand designs. It hope to capitalise on its strategic location between east and west to build up a large hub and spoke network. Its ‘Vision 2025’ envisages the airline carrying 18 million passengers to 120 cities by 2025.

Ethiopia may still conjure memories of famine and underdevelopment in many people’s minds, but with the continents second largest population - almost 100 million people - it has seen its GDP growing at an annual clip of around 11 per cent for the past seven years. It’s also the headquarters of the African Union and is a growing market for foreign investment.

Ethiopian Airlines started flying 70 years ago and has a strong safety record. With 12 787’s in service already (and four more on order), plus two A350’s flying (with 12 more to come) the airline has a young fleet with an average age of just 4.3 years. For more information see