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Forums » Ethiopia » Ethiopian Quadarants - Travelers Beware

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nbeinhac

Ethiopian Quadarants - Travelers Beware

by nbeinhac »

We started planning our month long Ethiopian trip about a year in advance. Ethiopian Quadrant (EQ) was picked as our tour agency even though it lacked online reviews, because - it seemed more timely and responsive to our requirements, it was listed in Brandt's and it was an in country agency. By experience our choice turned out to be a very bad mistake.

The trip was to cover the major parts of the country and be all overland. It was to be based on "best available" accommodations and services. We arranged for, and incurred the added expense, for both a driver and a guide to ensure that someone was available to deal with any problems that might develop. We wanted responsive and quality service from EQ to met our very specific trip requirements. EQ initially indicated that they both understood and would provide just that. Initially, all our emailing was with Tony Hickey, the owner of EQ.

Based on information provided by EQ we decided on an itinerary. The information provided later became a significant issue.

The first problem developed (and this should have been a warning about what we would experience) when at time of payment, the price was increased by about 20% over Tony's initial estimate. We accepted Tony's explanation and made the payment.

Our arrival in Addis went well. However, our guide, as he would do throughout the long trip, tried to turn "our" trip into "his" trip. We wanted to focus on what he called and correctly understood to be "people activities" -- on the people of Ethiopia and their daily activities. He wanted to focus on Ethiopian history, which he told us was his main interest. Just how many names and dates and museums do you need to see? Much of his type of information can be read in a good book or online -- which we did. It became a recurring struggle to see and do what we wanted. Our guide, a nice guy, often did not listen to what we said. More than once we found that he had not read the itinerary that EQ said was "our" trip. The guide often said he would show us what he always wants to show his clients. In addition, he was generally slow and passive in responding to problems involving both accommodations and tour services. And this was a guide assigned to us after our making our requirements very clear to EQ. A basic problem with EQ ... in reality, based on our experience ... they do not listen.

The next issue was the Nissan SUV assigned to us for almost a month's overland trip across some of the worst roads in Ethiopia. Imagine how we felt when we saw the cracked windshield on the SUV ... and this was from a company that said they cared about and provided quality service! We did not comment at this point because we had been assigned an excellent driver ... and car and driver went together.

As we proceeded on our trip it became clear that the planning information provided by EQ -- which was the basis of accepting the itinerary -- was seriously deficient. First, daily driving times were underestimated by two to four hours. We were often in the car for excessive hours over very exhausting roads -- an unplanned for surprise. This also meant that we often arrived in the evening instead of in the afternoon as planned and indicated in the itinerary and without a chance to relax or take advantage of what the better lodges had to offer. At least three time we had to drive at night, a potentially dangerous situation on Ethiopian roads. Again an unplanned, unpleasant surprise to which we never would have agreed had accurate and detailed information been provided.

Accommodations were a second issue. We were told "best available" and usually no added information as to the actual conditions (toilets, hot water, electricity, available food, level of service, etc.) were provided. In one case we were not told that we would have to share a bath with all the guests in a guest house. No options as to accommodations were given nor were there options to avoid what were known substandard places to stay. Even in some locations where we discussed, on our initiative, potential accommodation problems, and assurances were given that we would be in the "new wing" or have the better room ... it turned out not to be so. Since our guide was not aggressive in dealing with the problems that developed we had to deal with these issues over and over again. Broken lights, toilets that did flush, lack of hot water, sewer odors, freezing rooms, no towels, being treated as second class tourists (a recurring problem in Ethiopia in which most hotels are primarily interested in large budget tours and not in the independent higher end traveler), fecal matter backing up into the tub, lack of lighting, being asked why you wanted extra toilet paper or did not want to eat the unappetizing food that was served as a buffet or being told that they did not have the food that was on the menu when they did. All became our problems since EQ in effect never handled or took responsibility for them ... or even made the attempt to contact us, a customer service basic.

When we asked why we were never contacted when they knew about our experiences, Tony's reply was that his tour operations manager "saw you as a compulsive complainer and fault finder, whom no apologies or explanations could ever appease." Is this a company that you want to take a chance on doing business with?

In our follow up emails with Tony, we were blown off. It was all about his excuses and how busy and wonderful EQ was. He attempted to deal with one or two individual complaints making it appear that it was us not EQ or not the hotel, or lodge. After all the embassies in Addis like this hotel or this tour operator insists on that hotel ... as if our experiences were not real and did not count. However, beyond all this, and most important, he never acknowledged this fundamental issue of his failure to provided accurate and detailed planning information on which to base an itinerary acceptable to us. Tony and EQ failed in both the planning for the trip and in the services provided during the trip and failed to accept responsibility for any of this.

There are over sixty licensed tour operators in Ethiopia ... why take a chance on Tony Hickey and Ethiopian Quadrant? We did, and at considerable expense, and regret it.

For background, we are an older professional couple who have lived outside our country and have travelled extensively, especially in the developing countries of the world from Central America, to the Middle East, to India and the former Indochina and most especially in all parts of Africa. This was our worst experience with any tour operator (and we always use in country agencies).

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nbeinhac

RE: Ethiopian Quadarants - Travelers Beware

by nbeinhac »

My wife and I flew Ethiopian Airlines as shown:

1 Nov 13, EA 501, Washington DC to Addis Ababa on “Dreamliner.”

29 Nov 13, EA 815, Addis Ababa to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

10 Dec 13, EA 814, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania to Addis Ababa

10 Dec 13, EA 500, Addis Ababa to Washington, DC on “Dreamliner”

All travel in Economy.

Absolutely the WORST flying experience that my wife and I have had in over 50 years of international flying.  Ethiopian Airlines is a third world airline for third world passengers that tries to pass as a modern airline. It is something like a third world dictator all dressed up in a fancy uniform  … sound and fury signifying nothing and with no regard for the people that should be served.

The flight to Addis was a hellish, nerve racking, almost fifteen hours, of non-stop shrieking children. The vast majority of the passengers were of Ethiopian origin, many with little children. Parents made little if any effort to control or quiet their children. Despite repeated complaints to flight staff to intervene they were non responsive and did nothing. Repeated requests to be relocated meet with similar indifference and non-responsiveness. The entire flight staff was unsmiling and removed from any semblance of customer support.  The Dreamliner was more of a Nightmare. The cabin was hot … we were told that the Ethiopians liked it that way. The power ports for computers did not work despite being assured by an email from Ethiopian Airlines that power would be available. In fact, the inflight entertainment system did not work at the start of the flight. Food was barely edible. Once in Bole Airport it took one and one half hours for the bags to be off loaded at the terminal and there were no airline representatives available to provide any information.

 

The flight to Kilimanjaro followed a similar pattern. Ethiopian Airlines provided misinformation sending us to the wrong departure terminal. We had to go through security twice and had to rush to another terminal to catch our flight. The conditions at Bole Airport were totally chaotic with no support personnel from Ethiopian Airline present to provide information. Once again an aircraft full of screaming unruly children not controlled by parents and without any interference on the part of the we can care less flight crew. Fortunately, a short flight into the more civilized environment of Tanzania.

The flight back to Addis Ababa was another disaster. There were passengers awaiting the flight that was booked for the previous day on Ethiopian Airlines. They arrived at the terminal and waited and waited until they were finally told that the flight had been cancelled. Although Ethiopian Airlines knew of the cancellation before their arrival at the terminal they were not told and were checked in as if there was going to be a flight. No explanation provided. They had to “fight” with Ethiopian Airlines to get hotel vouchers in Addis and the airline refused to pay for or help with the temporary visas they would need since they were required to stay over night in Addis before catching their connecting flights to Europe.  All swore never to fly Ethiopian Airlines again. The flight we were booked on arrived about an hour late and during this entire time no Ethiopian Airline employee was available to provide any information … for all we knew another cancelled flight. Additionally, our previously confirmed seats were not available on check in despite having a long-standing confirmed reservation. We arrived late in Addis and had to rush to make our connecting flight to Washington DC. Again, no help and were put on the wrong bus … it took us to the wrong terminal. Similar situation with screaming children that put your nerves on end.

The Dreamliner flight back to Washington DC was again a Nightmare experience.

It was even fuller with screaming, shrieking, uncontrolled children. There were a significant number of lap children (imagine holding a child quietly in your lap for fifteen hours). The crew was even surlier, more incommunicative and more negative than on the initial flight. They refused to do anything about the “children situation”, not even talk to the parents. The children roamed the isles some with their rear ends bare. Impossible to sleep, relax do anything but being subject to shrill, continuous crying and shrieking’s. Although other seats were available all requests to be moved were refused. The Captain (and his flight staff) refused to talk to us. When asked for real milk to have with coffee we were refused, although milk was available. When asked for an extra package of cheese, because the food was too spicy to eat, the response was only one piece to each customer – even though they had a draw full of extra cheese.

Getting off the aircraft in Washington DC was like being released from captivity.

The blatant non-responsiveness of Ethiopian Airline personnel was all too typical of service contacts that we had during our month’s stay in country. It was all about them and not the customer … they have no concept of customer service. Ethiopian Airline, based on our experience, is geared up to support diaspora Ethiopians and applies Ethiopian values to international flights. As we departed the aircraft a staff member commented “unruly passengers.” To them, if you complain and do not meekly accept substandard service you are “unruly.”

Unfortunately, as long as this attitude prevails the country is doomed to remain one of the poorest in the world. Avoid Ethiopian Airlines, there are options … take them.

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