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First Class for the Family- SIN MEL 777-300ER First Class Review

Since discovering the Miles and Points game 3 years ago, Jeriel has now spent a disproportionate amount of time reading the T&Cs of credit cards and frequent flyer programs. His grand plans for round-the-world premium travel has taken a hit since the arrival of his daughter, but he is still determined to fly as far, frequently and luxuriously as possible on Miles and Points. Expect more family-orientated trip reports and travel tips from him!


Hacking the SQ Waitlist
First Class for the Family – Ground Experience and The Private Room
SIN MEL 777-300ER First Class Review
Krisflyer First Class Lounge Melbourne Review
MEL SIN A380 Suites Class Review


First Class for the Family – SIN MEL 777-300ER First Class Review

SQ237
Singapore (SIN) – Melbourne (MEL)
Date: Friday, 17 March 2017
Aircraft: B777-300ER
Seat: 1F/2A (First Class)

I may have given all manner of excuses for flying my family on F in my previous posts, but it’s time for some honesty; Prior to this flight, I’ve not had the chance to experience SQ’s First Class. That was pretty much the real reason why I shelled out all those additional miles.

Hindsight is 20/20, and seeing that we had already secured bulkhead J seats prior to the upgrade together with the fiasco we endured at ticketing, it was a terrible mistake. But for what it is worth, Milelion gets its very first trip report for this product!

SQ currently has 27 Boeing 777-300ER in their fleet, in 3 different configurations. The first 2 are similar, and consist of 8 First Class seats, 42 in business and 228 at the back. If you see this configuration on your seat-map, there is a 6/9 chance that you’d be flying the old 2006 product. The other 3 planes already sport the refreshed 2013 seats. I don’t think there is any practical way to determine which product you’d be flying, so it’s best to assume it would be the former. The good news is that the rest of the 77W fleet have the new products in the new configuration of 4F/48J/28S/184Y. Once you see this configuration at seat selection, you can be confident of scoring the new products (barring any last minute equipment change of course).

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Our 77W at the Gate

Our flight had 8 in First Class, and so it was a pleasant surprise when we stepped into the cabin to find that we’d be flying the new products. Having wanted to give our daughter as much undisturbed rest as possible prior to the flight, we were one of the last passengers to board, and the rest of the F cabin was already full.

I took a quick peek at the Business cabin behind, and was momentarily taken aback. In the 3-class 77W configuration, the Business cabin is divided into a small 8 seat cabin immediately behind F, followed by the main J section with the rest of the 34 seats. This makes for an extremely intimate front J section. In my late night stupor I actually thought to myself: ‘Why is it 16F on this plane?’ before I realized it was actually Business! The 2013 business class seats are really thoughtfully designed and i feel they afford a step up in privacy compared to the 2006 version, almost looking like First Class.

In terms of the hard product, the main advantage F provides over J is the dedicated legroom and additional storage space each passenger gets. Being over 6’ tall, the major gripe I have about SQ J is the small and angled foot cubby. In contrast, the F seat has a large (almost too large) cut out for your feet, and space enough for at least 2 cabin sized luggage.

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Leg compartment
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More than sufficient space for your carry-ons

In terms of numbers, the F seat is also wider at 35” compared to 28” in J, and the screen is also bigger at 24” compared to 18”. But I don’t feel it adds much to your personal comfort. The wider main seat does mean that 2 people can sit together comfortably, but you’re not allowed to do that for a prolonged period of time anyway.

In terms of seat functions, the tray is built in under the LCD screen, and just to the right of the tray lever is the usual power socket and a HDMI input. The left side has a generous storage cubby in which the Bose headphones could be found.

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Handle for tray table, power socket and HDMI input

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Cubby with Bose headphonesSeat and lighting controls where on the partition along the aisle, together with the headphone jack and little rack to hang it when not in use. The new generation entertainment controller was behind a small sliding door in the armrest. In the other armrest, there was another small compartment with a USB and charging port, presumably for your personal device.

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Small things which show the thought that went into the product – really appreciated the rack for the headphones which meant no more tangled cables in the blankets!
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Touch-screen Entertainment controller

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More small but functional storage spaces that just make sense – just remember to take your phone / personal electronic device when you deplane!The seat itself was more than adequately wide, and done up with a lovely dark brown leather. I had no issues with the extent of the recline in seat mode, but then again it was only a short while before I asked for the turn down to get some sleep.

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Picture of 1F taken after landing when there was better light

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Vanity mirror which I only found after landingOf course, First Class is never just about the hard product. The soft product is really what sets the best F experiences from the mediocre. If it is your first time flying at the very front of the plane, you should try to maximize your experience by picking a daytime flight where there will be a full service, instead of a red-eye where the service is abbreviated and you’d be wanting to sleep for most of the flight anyway. Some of the things you’d be missing out on a red-eye include the canapes (usually satay) and caviar for the appetiser. Also, each passenger only gets one meal by default; you either choose dinner (after takeoff) or breakfast (before landing).

You have to love how SQ cabin crew are trained to answer questions like politicians. On their routine welcome rounds, the following exchange ensued.

‘I see that you have placed a book the cook order for the Rack of Lamb, would you prefer to have that immediately after take off, or before we land sir?’

‘Can I have that for dinner now, and then have another meal for breakfast?’

‘Certainly! We can prepare a fruit platter for you to enjoy before we land.’

Saying yes without actually saying yes is a useful skill to master. Anyway, here are the customary shots of the menu for your reference.

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I shan’t put up the full menu here but I’ll just add quick note on the vino for those interested. I realized we haven’t covered the wine selection in our previous trip reports but I feel it’s worth a mention. We all know that SQ famously serves both Dom Perignon (2006 is the current offering now) and Krug Grande Cuvee (NV) for their in-flight champagne, but they have a well curated list of reds and whites as well.

There is usually a seasonal selection; on this flight the Penfolds RWT (Red Wine Trial) Barossa valley Shiraz (2012) was on offer. This is obviously a step below the premium Penfold’s Grange, but still runs up to about S$200/bottle at retail. I’m usually not big on Shiraz, but this was impressive with a superbly balanced palate of dark fruit and savoury flavours.

The Old World selection is typically from Bordeaux, and in this season was either Cos d’Estournel (2004) or Pichon Lalande (2004). Both are Deuxiemes Cru (2nd Growth) in the 1855 classification, and are excellent (and expensive) wines. The Pichon was the wine available on my flight, and it was a delectable pairing with the BTC Lamb Rack I had.

Rounding up the reds was the 2010 Chateau Corton-Grancey (Grand Cru, Cote de Beaune). For the whites there was a 2013 Riesling from Goldtropfchen, Mosel and a Chardonnay from Mornington Peninsula (Port Philip Estate, “Red Hill”, 2013). You can’t go wrong with a Riesling from Mosel, and I had a refreshing glass prior to landing. I didn’t get to try any of the rest though.

Crew service on this ‘Sleeper Service’ was polished and efficient, but was way too rushed if your intention is to savour the experience. The table was set and the main course was served immediately.

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Rack of Lamb

After my BTC order on my last trip from SIN LHR in R was mixed up and I ended up with a rather depressing Yu Pian Mi Fen, I just had to find out what the lamb rack was like. The meat was done to a perfect medium, and tasty with just a slight hint of the usual mutton smell. The sauce was a little too viscous and too salty for my liking though, I wonder if that was due to insufficient time for reheating.

My wife had the Boston Lobster Thermidor, which is essentially the same as what you get in Business, just with double the serving of Lobster. Every time I have the chance to BTC out of SIN, I struggle to choose between the Lobster which I know will be good or explore something I’ve not tried before. Well, this was another hit for the lobster; it was excellent as always.

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Boston Lobster Thermidor – My wife had this prior to landing (or rather, I pilfered most of it)

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Fruit platter to follow

After a rather muted fruit platter, it was time for bed. Similar to Suites class, you are also given a turndown service in First. This is in contrast to J where you’re expected to make your own bed. I took the time to change to the PJs and take photos of the toilet. Does anyone really want to see more photos of the boring SQ First class toilet though? Looks exactly like what you get in business with some leather trimmings, the same Tuscan Soul amenities from Ferragamo… Let’s leave those out.

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First Class Bed with 2 year old for scale

I couldn’t get any pictures of the bed before it was messed up as I had to get my daughter to bed, but here’s the end result. There’s more than enough space for an adult and child. That being said, it does pale in comparison with what you get on Suites class though.

I went to sleep and the next thing I knew, my daughter was stirring and it was 2 hours to landing. I was well rested, but that’s the frustrating thing about redeeming miles for a red-eye. You go to sleep and before you know it, it’s almost over!

I was given my second fruit platter as promised, and issued an express immigration pass. The priority queue was terribly hard to find at MEL though, and we ended up taking a normal lane which was empty anyway.

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Express Arrival pass

Conclusion? With the bad ground experience, limited sleeper service, and the alternative of bulkhead J seats on the same flight, it definitely felt as if the additional miles we spent on F were wasted. That being said, my daughter has now crossed her 2nd birthday and is no longer eligible for infant fares. We either have to redeem a normal award ticket for her, or pay child ticket fees which are only slightly cheaper than the usual adult fare. It is extremely difficult to find 3 F/R award seats in advance. First Class for the Family is sadly no longer practical, so I guess it was fun while it lasted.

Stay tuned for my review of the SilverKris First Class lounge in MEL, and of the MEL SIN leg in SQ Suites. Hopefully those will be completed in better time than this one!

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Busines Class ADD-DAR

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Q400 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


It was now time to head onwards to Dar Es Salaam. The Ethiopian Airlines lounge was nothing to get excited about, but at least they had a slightly unique boarding procedure for business class and Star Gold passengers.

At one end of the ADD terminal is a (poorly marked out) waiting area for priority passengers. This is a special waiting area for VIP passengers before they board.The execution is pretty poor though, as I was never told about this special area and only knew about it through my colleague who had used it previously.

As it turns out, the majority of flights from ADD board through remote gates, so ET arranges special transport for preferred passengers so there’s no need to share with the hoi polloi. Instead, when your flight is ready for boarding you’ll be ushered onto a private bus and driven to the plane.

This was the first surprise of the evening. After the claustrophobia that was the Cloud 9 lounge, it was refreshing to have some personal space as we drove to our 737.

And that’s the second surprise of the evening. Instead of pulling up to a 737, we stopped at a turboprop Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.

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wikipedia photo, obviously

I didn’t quite know how to feel about this. On the one hand, as an aspiring aviation geek I should embrace every opportunity to fly a new aircraft. On the other, downgauging from a 737 to a Q400 meant a much cozier cabin with fewer creature comforts like a simpler meal service, and I was pretty hungry after the less than robust food selection in the lounge. On the other other, the Q400s were fairly new additions to the ET fleet.  On the other other other, it didn’t mean the cabin products were new, as you’ll see below

The seats are in a 2-1 configuration in business class and a 2-2 configuration in economy. My colleague and I were the only 2 passengers in business class, which had a total of 9 seats.

We could pick any seat in the cabin, but the seats were exceedingly old. The fabric was loose and saggy in some places, and fit awkwardly in others. The reclining mechanisms were entirely manual and there was no footrest.

It definitely wasn’t the most comfortable seat for a 3 hour flight, although I’m going to apply my usual “think of the poor souls in economy rule” and shut up.

There were two crew to serve the business class cabin so there was no lack of personalized attention. One of them came around with champagne before takeoff. It’s the same stuff as on the long haul routes, Canard-Duchene.

They also distributed bottles of water. I asked them about the equipment swap and they said the 737 we were scheduled to be on had some mechanical trouble. Most of the short haul air crew were cross trained on a mixture of 737s and Q400s though, and swaps like this were not unheard of.

If it’s any small comfort, I don’t think the 737 experience would have been much better, but at least the seats looked a bit more comfortable what with the footrest and wider dimensions.

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photo: traveluxblog

We took off and climbed to our cruising altitude after which the crew got dinner ready.

I mentioned that the catering and all would have to be downgraded on account of the aircraft swap. I don’t have the full details about the galley situation on a Q400 but I imagine it’s somewhat less robust than that on a 737. Meal service reflected the limited reosurces as well, with a single tray featuring a cold wrap, cheese, some fruits and crackers. Putting two grapes with the cold wrap was an odd choice of plating, but the meal was borderline inedible anyway.

After the meal it was lights off. Nothing but the drone of the dual turboprop engines as we flew Southwards to Dar Es Salaam.

The problem I have with aircraft like this is the sheer lack of information. Because there are no overhead screens to speak of, you really have no idea how far more you have to go. You could always track via the time that’s elapsed, I suppose, but I think I’m the sort who needs the soft glow of at least a bulkhead monitor to answer the “are we there yet” question. I turned on the GPS on my phone and was able to track the movement of the plane, however.

The uncomfortable seat meant that sleep was in short supply, so the flight seemed to go by in slow motion. Thankfully, the pilot eventually came on the PA to announce we were on final descent to Julius Nyerere International Airport.

It was pitch black when we landed. We were bused to the terminal where a whole new adventure in African bureaucracy began. The arrivals area was mobbed with Westerners trying to get visas on arrival. Fortunately, Singaporeans don’t need a visa for Tanzania (I know, right?) and I managed to get through the crowd rather quickly. Not so much luck for my American colleague, who ended up having to go for his Yellow Fever jab and wait an hour for his visa on arrival. I at first felt bad about leaving him behind at the airport and going to the hotel first, but felt less bad after a hot shower and nice bed.

It’s not every day you’ll fly on a turboprop plane, especially if you’re Singapore based. So definitely a nice experience but not one I’m aching for again.

Man, I can’t wait to get to the Qatar Air trip reports…

The Milelion’s RTW Trip 2017: Ethiopian ADD lounge review, or how I plan to get into HBS

Introduction: It’s the most wonderful time of the year
A Tale of Two Lounges: SATS Premier T2 and the Qantas SIN Lounge
Malaysia Airlines B737 Business Class SIN-KUL
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Golden Lounge KUL
Malaysia Airlines A330  Business Class KUL-NRT
Japan Airlines Business Class Sakura Lounge NRT
Japan Airlines B77W Business Class NRT-LAX
The Westin LAX
The Westin Westminster
Aloft Boston Seaport
The Consolidated AA Domestic First Class Experience
American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
American Airlines B772 Business Class JFK-LHR
American Airlines Arrivals Lounge LHR
The Great Northern Hotel, London
Sheraton Grand Park Lane, London
Westin Paris Vendome
Courtyard by Marriott Madrid Princesa
Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal
The Consolidated Intra-Europe Business Class Experience
Sheraton Casablanca
Royal Air Maroc Business Class Lounge CMN
Royal Air Maroc B737 Business Class CMN-ACC
Ethiopian Airlines B787 Business Class ACC-ADD
Ethiopian Airlines Cloud 9 Business Class Lounge ADD
Ethiopian Airlines B737 Business Class ADD-DAR
Protea Hotel by Marriott Dar Es Salaam Courtyard
Tanzanite Lounge DAR
Qatar Airways A320 Business Class DAR-DOH
Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH
Qatar Airways A350 “First” Class DOH-DXB
The Grosvenor House Dubai
W Doha
Qatar Airways B772 Business Class DOH-BLR
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class DEL-HKG
W Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific’s HKG Lounges
Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class HKG-SIN


As I headed off the jetbridge into the terminal I wondered if transiting for 4 hours in Addis Ababa made me exotic enough to get into HBS. I was pretty sure I could spin a story around this, like how I went in with much apprehension, but “challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone” and “through a process of self-discovery” managed to “rewire my preconceived notions” and “push my boundaries” thereby “making me more sure than ever before that what I want to do is get into HBS, be as anonymous as possible, get my MBA and from then on be that guy who always weaves in “when I was at Harvard” into every conversation.” I figured the admissions committee would eat that sort of thing up. I was also pleased to note that visiting Ethiopia on a brief stopover made me as equally qualified as Bono to comment on the continent’s woes.

First observation. The Chinese influence is strong in ADD. Like, very, very strong. I mean, I know the Chinese government is pouring truckloads of money into Africa to pre-empt the West, but I was still amazed to see how many Chinese restaurants and duty free concessions there were.

Africanized Chinese food (let’s not go there) was abundant, and all the duty free stores sold Chinese liquor and abundant cigarettes.

The terminal was also full of Chinese travelers, and I was delighted to know that the usual Chinese voice protocol (especially regard to the use of inside voice) was firmly in effect.

Second observation. The lounge setup in Addis may be confusing because there are not one, not two but three lounges available for passengers.

The first is the ShebaMiles Silver lounge. This is Ethiopian’s lounge for its own mid-tier frequent flyer card guests (Silver being one step above regular). It’s somewhat similar in concept to The Club lounge run by EVA in Taipei. Remember that Star Alliance Silver doesn’t normally get lounge access, but airlines are perfectly at liberty to construct their own facilities for their own mid-tier members as they see fit. Even if the lounge isn’t anything to shout about, it’s still a nice touch by the airline. I could never imagine SQ doing something similar for its Elite Silver members. It did build a “special lounge” for Elite Gold members in Singapore, but that was to keep them out of the much-superior SilverKris lounge.

The second is the Cloud 9 lounge. This lounge is for Business Class passengers flying on ET (It’s called Cloud Nine Lounge 2 because this is the lounge in T2. There’s another Cloud Nine Lounge in T1) and selected other airlines (Air China, Lufthansa, Turkish). As Cloud 9 passengers, were directed here.

But the lounge was absolutely packed to the brim. There was barely any place to stand, much less sit. So we turned around and headed to the Star Gold lounge instead.

This is the third lounge that ET has in T2, and despite the fact it’s open to more customers, it wasn’t nearly as crowded. Don’t get me wrong, it was still pretty full, but at least we were able to get seats.

The lounge is functional and nothing else. There are no showers (at least, not any that you’d want to use), the seating is basic and the only distraction is the buffet. It was evening time ,and the lounge was full of people transiting to other places in Africa.

Outlets were scarce and the Wi-Fi was unusable. There were just way too many people logged in. Singtel doesn’t have a DataRoam Saver plan for Ethiopia either, so my colleague and I were forced to interact instead of staring at our phones. It was horrible.

The buffet provided a nice escape from social intercourse.

There was a mixture of Western and African offerings, most of which I never bothered to try (HBS essay: I immersed myself in the local culture, sampling the rich tapestry of flavors that the land had to offer. And in doing so, I discovered that sometimes the best management style is to just go with your gut.)

It’s safe to say the buffet wasn’t the land of plenty.

The drink selection was extremely limited too. There were only a few types of alcohol, all warm.

If you wanted soft drinks or beer, there was a fridge with a few more choices. All the soft drinks were 1.5 litre self-pour bottles. That’s less wasteful than individual cans, yet feels cheap somehow (HBS essay: It was during my time here that I learned about the importance of conservation and being a responsible global citizen. I realised how many of the modern conveniences we take for granted were harming our beautiful Gaia)

Behold my gastronomic bounty. African spaghetti bolognaise, a samosa, a crumb of fish and something I really hope was beef.

Oh. There was a desert fridge, but the selection was forgettable so I forgot.

The noise level in the lounge was well above average. It’s kind of telling that this is listed as a benefit on the website

 Passengers here do not need to worry when to board their flights as Customer Service Agents will personally come to announce the departure time for each flight.

I am absolutely confused how anyone could see this as a benefit, especially when more and more lounges are moving towards “quiet lounge” approaches. What this means is that every 15 minutes you have someone wading through the lounge shouting loudly the next set of flights to board. I mean the noise level is already so loud that a shut-eye is impossible, but do you really need to make it even louder?

After a few hours of sitting around and watching downloaded Netflix videos on my phone (HBS essay: I eagerly participated in the local festivities and traditions, in doing so learning much about a foreign culture. And the more I participated, the less foreign it became), my colleague and I decided to try the Cloud 9 lounge again.

The lounge had emptied out quite a bit by now, and there was plenty of seating. The Wi-Fi speeds, however, had still not recovered.

The food was similar to that offered in the Star Gold lounge (economies of scale, yo).

However, the Cloud 9 lounge had a proper bar. Nothing of the sparkling variety was on offer, but a lot more alcohol than the Star Gold lounge.

There was also a corner where they do a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony. (HBS essay: It was during a local tea (sounds more Eastern mythic than coffee)  ceremony with the elder tribesman that I received some invaluable career advice, something that I had never read in any management guru book- “get into HBS, be as anonymous as possible, get your MBA and from then on be that guy who always weaves in “when I was at Harvard” into every conversation”)

There was also a room with some massage chairs at the rear which was still packed with snoring passengers.

Finally, a staff member wandered through the lounge announcing the boarding of our flight and it was blissfully tie to be on our way.

I think Ethiopian has a very solid product in the air, but its ground services leave a lot to be desired. I wonder how much of this is a function of the space they have at ADD- the terminal is apparently in the midst of some expansion (interestingly enough, a VIP terminal is under construction too)  And there’s some Singaporean involvement in all this-

The new terminal is designed by a renowned Singapore architectural firm CGP while the Chinese construction firm, CCCC, is the contractor. ADPI, a French company, is the consultant of the project.

So, if you’re passing through ADD, do yourself a favor and schedule a shorter connection. The lounge experience here could be just as stressful as a short connection (HBS essay: I believe that my four hour connection in Addis Ababa was truly a life-changing, enriching experience that has given me new insights into the emerging African market. It is my hope that after I get my MBA I will one day return here to visit the noble folk I met, and to remind them all that I went to Harvard.)