Ethiopian Airlines joins Star Alliance and has a TON of award space

Ethiopian Airlines has just completed their integration into the Star Alliance, now offering a great new option for travel to Africa (well, sort of). The good news is that the ANA tool is already updated to show Etiopian Airlines award space, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such good award space. Ever.

For example, they fly from Washington to Addis Ababa, and I can’t find a single day that doesn’t have award space in both coach and business class.

Now I don’t know about you, but Ethiopian is near the top of the list of airlines I want to fly. I’ve seen them boarding so often at Dulles and I’ve always been curious what the onboard product is like, so I actually really want to fly them.

I know a lot of people travel to Nairobi to start tours or go on safari, and this is actually by far the easiest way to get there from the east coast. Nairobi is only about 700 miles from Addis Ababa, so this is a much faster way to fly than through Johannesburg on South African Airways. Per Great Circle Mapper:

But here’s the real fun you can have with Ethiopian Airlines. Call up US Airways Dividend Miles and tell the agent you want to book an award ticket from Washington Dulles to Addis Ababa. Make sure you say the name real naturally with no hesitation. Responses you’ll get include:

  • “Adidas? I think that’s a brand of shoe.”
  • “Addis-a-who?”
  • “Sir, you’re just pulling my leg.”
  • “That’s in Nebraska, right?”

Seriously, give it a try.

Anyway, I’m honestly excited about Ethiopian joining Star Alliance, not just because they have tons of award space, but because they’re now the most direct option to many parts of Africa.


  1. Do they still make the technical fuel stop in Rome? At least that was the case for the ET fare sale/error a couple years ago.

  2. Just changed an award flight on hold to include an Ethiopian Airlines segment. When telling them I wanted to go through Addis Ababa, the agent just goes “A-hhhhhhhhh…” so I just jump in and say “the airport code is ADD”…worked like a charm!

  3. @Michael: Star Alliance members have to meet safety requirements to join as well as I believe they also have to meet US requirements to be able to fly to IAD so it would be my last concern

  4. I wonder how will some of the agents react if someone calls and says they would like to add their ShebaMiles frequent flyer # for accrual 😉

    Yes, I definitely want to try their cloud nine product.

  5. @ patrick — It depends on which program you’re booking through. Continental/United charges 80,000 and 110,000 for economy/business respectively, and 70,000 and 110,000 for economy/business through US Airways.

  6. Look like fuel stop in FCO still exists on the return…. so the question is, do you consider this a ‘non-stop’? 🙂

  7. @ Mike — Given that I recently got an email informing me that I’m the heir to the Ethiopian Royal Family and will be inheriting a sum of $13,000,000 at my nearest Western Union location, I’m sure they’d make a one time exception. 😉

  8. I’m fairly new to the whole points maximizing thing, so this is a random question about ways to get to Nairobi with FF awards… With Delta/SkyTeam can you fly ATL or JFK to Accra on Delta and then Accra to Nairobi on Kenya Air? That would seem like a pretty direct route as well.

    But maybe Kena Airways is best avoided?

  9. @ autolycus — You could indeed, though Delta awards can be tough to find at the saver level, and finding an agent that’s knowledgeable enough to book a Kenya Airways award is a challenge in and of itself…

  10. @lucky — fair enough on both points. I booked my first award tickets to Europe a month or so back, and trying to get to BUD was a PITA. It spent hours on before finally finding the trick to checking award availability through AF’s website and then another few phone calls before I found someone who could book the flights that I already knew were available. That experience, to a large extent, was how I ended up starting to follow FlyerTalk and several blogs, yours included. A co-worker’s husband has been a travel hacker for years, and I always thought it was entertaining to hear the hoops he was jumping through sometimes. Now here I am, having taken several steps along the path to where he already was. 🙂

  11. Ethiopian is actually a good airline with an extensive African network. We flew them from ADD to NBO after using our UA awards on Lufthansa to get to ADD. FYI there is also a lot culturally to see in Ethiopia so it’s worth a stopover.

  12. lucky,

    Your post reminds of the days I worked for United. About ten years ago, they had a voice system to list for NRSA flights. They wanted everybody to call that instead of talking to an agent.

    The system was horrible. Many times I would try to do a simple Dulles – Chicago and get things like “We’re sorry, United Airlines does not serve Timbuktu airport.” Frustrating. It was always fun to stand behind other NRSA’s in the terminal, and when they were on the phone, mimic the system responses with random airports. Oh, the dirty looks 🙂

  13. I was checking out of the Westin in Tysons last week and the Ethiopain crew was just checking in. I spoke to the captain briefly, very nice. They all seemed to be in a great mood. But the poor doorman was working his a@@ off unloading all the luggage they had!

  14. When many Americans think of Ethiopia, they think of the famine. It is actually a very lush, mountainous country with a temperate climate, and Addis Ababa is one of the more civilized African capitals. The rock hewn churhces of Lalibela are well worth seeing.

    US Airways’ Star Alliance partner award chart has favorable offerings to Africa: only 110,000 for business class from the U.S. So I think you could fly from the West Coast on United, connect in Dulles, and then go to Addis and on to many places in Africa, and throw in a stop in Rome on the way back, all for 110,000 miles in business class. Not bad. Makes me want to buy US Airways miles.

  15. Lucky, any idea if Aeroplan levies fuel surcharges on Ethiopian redemptions? I don’t have many Aeroplan miles (though I do have transferable MR points), so it’s not letting me go through to the booking page that shows fees.

  16. Lucky: easy way to fly them without visa headaches would be on BKK-HKG.

    I’m almost tempted to change my upcoming TG C sgement…

  17. I can only imagine how delicious their food is going to be on those flights…..Ethiopian food is one of my favorites!!…mmmm chicken tibbs and injera !

  18. I flew Ethiopian from Nairobi to ADD an ADD to Amsterdam, In October so was bummed they werent Star alliance yet. Allright flight if you want to be crowded in with a plane full of less than hygenic Africans for 8 hours.

  19. I flew ET last year in coach and had a good experience with them. The food and service is pretty good, but the IFE is limited and the seats just average.

    Also, IAD-ADD makes a tech stop in FCO. My understanding is that once ET gets the 787, the tech stop can be eliminated.

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