This is a short review of the Ethiopian Airlines lounge at Addis Ababa Bole International airport.
This is from the perspective of a business class flight back from the airport with Ethiopian Airlines.
The lounge is used not only by those flying business class on Ethiopian Airlines,, but also those flying business class internationally with other airlines, and whose carriers have negotiated access to the lounge.
Addis Ababa Bole Airport is a short drive (traffic permitting) from the city centre. We had been staying at the Golden Tulip Hotel, which is close to the airport – about a 10-minute drive away.
There are two sets of security at the airport.
The first is just after you enter.
This is quite thorough in that you have to remove shoes, belts and even watches to go through the X-Ray scanner. On the other hand, it is also quite lax. One of our party actually forgot his wheelie bag and only remembered a few minutes later when he was checking in for the flight. He went back and found the bag standing by the scanner.
The second set of security is at the gates.
After check-in there is then the immigration check, and you then take an escalator up to the departures level where the Duty Free shops are.
One note on this.
There are plenty of shops, but beware.
It seems that if you buy any duty free alcohol it will be confiscated if you try and take it onto an international departure to Europe or the U.S. I don’t know why.
I was told that arrangements could be made for the purchase to be checked in to the hold of the aircraft. I have no idea how this would work, and I can’t imagine anyone would voluntarily do it, but perhaps they would. It certainly kept our own purchase to dry goods such as Ethiopian Coffee.
In addition, there is some kind of scam going on in the airport with regard to currencies.
The Ethiopian currency is the Ethiopian Birr. Rules say you are not allowed to enter or leave the country with more than 200 Ethiopian Birr.
Depending on the airport shop, if you try and buy something with Birr, you will either be refused or charged a higher price than if you pay in U.S dollars.
Some shops won’t take credit cards (or will say the credit card machine is broken) and will only take dollars.
Yet if you try and get dollars from the currency exchange, you are then given Ethiopian Birr rather than dollars (they say they have no dollars). They also seem reluctant to give receipts for the currency they have given you, though they will if you insist.
It’s not an easy place to shop!
On the Departures level there are three lounges in total.
The first lounge you see is the Star Alliance Gold Lounge for gold card members of that Alliance. Walk past that and then turn left and then left again, and you will find the Cloud 9 lounge on your right.
This is for business class flyers (Cloud 9 as Ethiopian calls it) along with all business class flyers for other airlines who have contracted to use this lounge. Finally there is a Silver lounge but this is only for silver flyers with Sheba Miles (the loyalty programme of Ethiopian Airlines). This was being renovated at the time of my visit to the airport.
The Cloud 9 lounge has free internet (ask for a code at the reception).
There are several areas for working, eating, drinking and relaxing.
The food selection was fairly sparse mid-morning, but I’d had breakfast and we were going to eat on the flight back. From the dishes it looks like there is the option of hot food.
Flights are called from the lounge, with ladies walking around calling the flights.
The lounge is large, and at this time of the day (0930) it was quiet, presumably because the domestic departures had left.
When your flight is called, if you turn left out of the lounge and then right, you will see a Star Alliance Gold security door – use this since it is quicker than the main security.
Again, this seems very thorough – one member of our party even had to remove cufflinks, but later we found that one of our party had brought through a full bottle of water onto the aircraft through both sets of security, so perhaps security is concerned about items which set off the scanner rather than items that might be a problem. I hope I’m wrong.
The lounge is comfortable, with fast wifi and a lots of places to sit, eat and work. The real test would be at a busy time of the day, but it was also clean and the staff were helpful.