Before we’d even flown with Ethiopian Airlines strategic partner, ASKY Airlines, our experience was poor. Our flight from Sierra Leone (Lungi) to Sāo Tomé, was cancelled which meant not only changing our itinerary, but touching down in Ghana (Accra), Togo (Lome) and Gabon (Libreville). Subsequent changes meant departing at 5am instead of a more reasonable 8.45am: we later discovered Lungi airport is undergoing ‘ongoing construction works on the runway’, so flights only take off from 5pm to 5am.
Having arrived at 1.57am just before the airport opened, we had a short wait before interminable checks and paperwork. But 40 minutes later we were in the departure hall.
We were sceptical on seeing our boarding pass claim we’d start boarding at 4am, but we did, after yet more security searches.
Once onboard, there was chaos: cabin crew tried to stuff oversize bags into the overhead lockers when clearly, they wouldn’t fit, and one person had forgotten to retrieve his laptop at security, and despite a tanoy announcement, only realised when the guy walked down the aisle with it. We set off 15 minutes early, for the first flight to Ghana, just over 2 hours. The plane wasn’t full and although we weren’t sat together, Roy had the three seats to himself, and I had the luxury of an empty middle seat and a well-behaved passenger at the window. Breakfast of a hot dish, roll, croissant, and fruit with tea and juice was offered but declined. On landing early, we were told the temperature was 27 degrees. However, this didn’t matter to us, as despite our travel agent telling us we would be able to get off and purchase refreshments, we had to remain on board for two hours.
New arrivals began boarding and once again, we struck lucky with empty seats and quiet neighbours.
Everyone was on by 9am, water was brought round, and we took off with a flight time of 29 minutes, arriving in Togo where a bus took us to the terminal.
Togo appeared to be quite a transit hub for Africa, and as we had a few hours to wait, we paid $50 each for access to the Union Lounge where we drank gin and lemonade in the absence of tonic, and ate the only food offered: huge portions of beef or fish with cous cous or rice with a side of a really spicy sauce.
The next leg from Togo to Gabon was 1 hour and 45 minutes, and although a hot meal was offered, we were full.
On arrival in Gabon, we had a 40-minute wait on the tarmac, before taking off again at 4.30pm, on what was once again, a relatively quiet flight. We finally arrived at our destination, Sâo Tomé, 12 hours after setting off, having visited five African countries in one day.
We had dreaded the flights, and worried about all the connections, and whilst it was a long day, it was pretty seamless and stressless, especially as our luggage had made it with us (which it failed to do so on our return home to London!).