On my way…Ethiopian Airways

The first real mental challenge of my trip was coming to grips with flying on an African airline.  To the experienced traveller I am sure that sounds extremely judgmental and shallow.  For me it was real, I see news reports of plane crashes and it gave me reason to be concerned.

After some investigation, I found out that Ethiopian is rated by the FAA as a tier 1 airline (and may be the only one in Africa).  This eased my concerns, especially since their safety record is very good.  With my ticket purchased, I forgot about it until I started to pack and then came to realize I could only carry-on two small bags each with max 15 lbs.  That is very little when you have two professional camera bodies, four lenses and two flashes – checking this gear is a big no no!  After figuring out my main camera bag weighed 7 lbs, that had to go and I settled on my small bag and 18lbs in total weight (yes, still over the limit).

I had heard some airlines were very strict and so my back up plan was something I heard about on the internet where other photographers faced with checking gear would simply store lenses in the pockets and carry cameras – I was ready!

Check in went fine and as I walked in a relaxed mood to the gate I met a fellow passenger who had just emptied a bunch of books from her carry on bag because it was too heavy.  This was a very bad sign and sure enough as I reached the gate there was a man weighing every carry-on bag.  After watching other passengers get harassed, I decided to be confident and placed my camera bag on the scale.  As expected it registered 18lbs and to my surprise he simply said OK.  Needless to say I picked it up quickly and hurried on.

As I boarded the plane, I heard Ethiopian had taken receipt of several new 787 Dreamliners (and just to think I had been so worried).  Mine wasn’t a 787 but comfortable nonetheless.  What really struck me is how friendly everyone on the plane was.  As I sit there mid-flight, I noticed the passengers were very eclectic and everyone was very good-natured and generally in conversation with the person next to them.  I have to compare this to flights I take for work back home where I and my fellow passengers seem not to acknowledge anyone else is on board – I like this new experience much better!  To cap it off, the interesting young Ethiopian guy next to me gave me some local money, no strings attached.

Reflecting back, I expect this is the first of many such learning experiences.  I had been setting my expectations based on a completely false sense of superiority and limited knowledge.  I have a lot of learning ahead!

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