Trip Report: Ethiopian Airlines BKK-KUL
In Thailand your length of stay is limited to 30 days. Want to spend more time in Thailand, it’s simple just hop over a border and return the same day. But there are hundreds of possible options. If you want to hop over a land border and return you only get a 15 day limit of stay which is not economical if you’re a long term traveler, but if you arrive by air you get a 30 day length of stay. Time for me was running short. So I needed to find a solution.
Fares to KL on AirAsia were the cheapest but like an idiot I waited a few days only to find the fares to go up to an uneconomical level. I looked at other options including Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Air to Cambodia was ridiculously expensive. Laos could have been an economical option if I went by land into Laos and back by air. Myanmar was also an excellent option but I once again procrastinated and the fares went up. All I was looking for was the cheapest way to do a visa run that involved entering Thailand by air. Malaysia is the only country that borders Thailand that does not require a visa for Americans so my efforts turned back to Malaysia. I was searching around some consolidator fares and discovered I could take a day trip on Ethiopian Airlines to KL for only $112. Seemed like a good value to me and not wanting the fare to go up again I bought it.
Check-in involved no queue at all. The Bangkok airport is a bit rough around the edges but it gets the job done on things you would only notice if you worked behind the scenes at an airline or airport before. Only about 15 boarded the 767 from Bangkok making an easy day for the four agents manning the gate.
The seat was a typical 767 economy seat. I’ve only flown the 767 on Delta and United so it’s comparable to their offerings in seat pitch and width. I love the 767 in economy due to it’s 2-3-2 layout, with that you only have a 1 in 7 chance of getting a middle seat if you did not pre-select. The flight was only 30% full so I got a window seat with nobody next to me. Don’t remember much about the beginning of the flight as I usually sleep until the beverage/meal service starts. An airline usually makes or breaks it’s image on the quality of the in-flight service. I flew the same route (BKK-KUL) early last year on Lufthansa and received a sandwich. I was expecting something similar for the two hour flight on an African airline. Nope, the flight attendant in her colorful wears hands me a full hot meal complete with cheese and crackers. I have my economy class customary beer but I am disappointed that Carlsberg is the only choice. Carlsberg is a good enough airline beer but I was expecting something from Ethiopia. For a two hour flight you can’t have everything right. For the entertainment the Life of Pi was showing on the video screens which is not a bad movie selection for a two hour flight. The in-flight magazine had some interesting travel articles on various spots on the globe. The flight ended rather humorously for a westerner since every Ethiopian got up after landing to collect their belongings during taxi. I’ve seen this happen a few times before on Cathay, Air India, and Air France but on Ethiopian the flight attendants make absolutely no attempt to get people back in their seats. I don’t see the harm in it as the plane is big and taxis rather slowly, so who cares. American and European flight attendants look at you as if you were a terrorist if you get up during taxi, but coming from a guy who studied Aviation Management in college I don’t think it is a big deal safety wise.
I had five hours and a half to spend in KL. If I went to the city I would realistically only have two hours max to do anything so I just explored the airport. Prices were really expensive obviously but I have been living on cheap eats in Bangkok for the past month so prices probably looked more expensive than they really were. I have not had western food for two weeks and Burger King seemed to be the only cheap place that accepted my Visa card and since I was not going to exchange currency for a short visit I ate there. The KL airport is rather interesting as it is probably the biggest market in the world without an American carrier flying there. All of the big European and Asian carriers fly there, don’t know why United or Delta don’t.
I nearly fell asleep at the gate and was the last person to board. The flight was rather forgetful as I was sleeping most of the time. The plane was at around 70% capacity but I still had no one next to me. The meal was comparable to the flight over to KL. In Bangkok only about 20% of the passengers disembarked. Immigration lines were unusually short for that time of night and for my first visa run not a question was asked. I would definitely fly Ethiopian Airlines again for the value the airline gives. Few national airlines give you an inspiration to travel to the country but Ethiopian Airlines promotes itself and the country rather good for an African carrier. Given the word of mouth I’ve heard about Ethiopia it sounds like a good country to visit for my first experience of Africa. I even have a possible business prospect that might come from Ethiopia so I am keeping my ears open.