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Ethipioan Air Trip Report/Complaint

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When I posted my trip report about my August 2005 Tanzania trip, I reported that we flew Ethiopian Air and would give a full report when I saw how they resolved my complaints. Well, they have not addressed them at all--even after numerous emails all I hear is, "We're checking into it" and I only even get a response when I cc the CEO.

So here's the story (a warning to anyone enticed by their cheap fares from Washington, D.C.):


Our experience on each flight was unacceptable, as was the overall service from Ethiopian Air. The problems were beyond the normal difficulties and discomforts of travel. Certainly some delays and problems are expected. The service from Ethioian airlines, however, was well below the normal standard for an international flight.



Our poor experience began when I called on August 3, 2005 to confirm the departing flight time. The ticket and your company’s recorded message indicated a 7:30PM flight time, but when I had called on August 1, 2005 a representative said the flight was at 8:30PM. I therefore asked again on August 3rd whether the 8:30 PM time was correct but the customer service representative rudely said that I had already confirmed and did not need to call again.



On flights August 3d the flight crew did not have vegetarian meals for me. I called Ethiopian Air on August 1 to request vegetarian meals for all my flights but they were never provided on these flights.

When we arrived from the first leg in Addis Ababa, we had a lengthy layover. After waiting through that layover, we were delayed in our flight by five hours. At first, we were not even told there was a delay. After waiting for 40 minutes past the designated departure time, we were finally told there would be an additional one hour delay. But this delay was again lengthened. We were then told that the flight was ready and we waited at the exit for some time before being told there was a further delay. Finally, we boarded the transport bus to go to the plane and it still was not ready. We waited another 20 minutes in the hot, very crowded transport with no further communication or information.



While delays are certainly a risk of flying, this one was excessively long. We were scheduled to arrive at Kilimanjaro at 5:00AM; we arrived near 10:00AM. Furthermore, the manner in which the delays were handled was discourteous. We never had any information about the delay and were never properly told the cause or the length of the problem.



Our return flights to the United States were equally bad. On the first leg, the cabin crew was inattentive and rude. One attendant refused to help my husband find a place to stow his small carryon luggage. Once we were in flight, I had to sit with my empty meal tray for well over an hour after I finished eating. My husband, seated in a different part of the plane, was served his meal so late that he barely had time to eat before the landing. As I sat uncomfortably with my empty meal tray, a flight attendant from first class came back to economy and brought first class drinks to two nearby passengers she had become friendly with. She laughed and talked with them but was unconcerned with the other passengers sitting uncomfortably with their empty meal trays.


The worst experience was on the final leg. On check in, I indicated to a crew member that we had had a bad experience on your airline. She offered no comment or apology, only a rude stare. On the flight an attendant told me that because the woman behind me was complaining of discomfort, I could not recline my seat for the duration of the flight from Rome (the refueling stop) to Washington, D.C.. Thus, while I was also very uncomfortable, I was unable to recline my chair for even slight relief.



In addition to this problem, the flight attendants completely ignored a serious in-flight problem. There were about nine children traveling unescorted. The youngest of these played in the aisles and bounced in their chairs, often hitting other passengers. While I do not expect the flight crew to regulate such behavior when children travel with an adult, this was not the case here. Instead, crew members let the behavior go unchecked to the point that another passenger and one of the children entered into a serious and almost violent confrontation. The two were yelling at each other and throwing garbage. They threatened to fight each other and were thwarted only by another passenger.

During this incident the flight crew did almost nothing to stop it. One crew member came to see about the problem but left it to the intervening passenger to prevent the fight. Furthermore, once the confrontation was stopped, the flight crew never took any action to reprimand the woman or the children or to ensure that the situation was not repeated. They left things as they were. This was a huge and dangerous disturbance that went completely unchecked by the inattentive and disinterested flight crew.

This incident was scary and dangerous and uncontrolled. This is a serious problem considering the worldwide concerns with terrorism on airlines and in the air. I have grave concerns for the passengers on Ethiopian Air if the crew’s response in our instance indicates their general attitude toward such dangers in the skies.

Well, that's my 2 cents. I figure forewarned is forearmed.

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