The little known, and second smallest African country, Sāo Tomé and Principe, comprises of two small islands. Separated by nearly 100 miles, the easiest way of travelling between them is a 40-minute flight.
With only two flights a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, tickets go quickly, as there are only 19 seats. We were aware of a strictly enforced 15kg luggage allowance, but struggled to get a definitive answer as to whether this included hand luggage. So, to be on the safe side, we left excess luggage at our Sāo Tomé hotel, Omali Lodge, as we were returning at the end of our trip before flying home. The queue at check-in was slow, but eventually our bags were weighed jointly, and we breathed easily when they came in at 22kg, with seemingly no restrictions on either size or weight of hand luggage.
We had a short wait in the tiny departure lounge prior to boarding, when we’d read it was unallocated seating and that the right-hand side provided the best views. There was only one person allowed on the steps at once, and we were asked to leave hand luggage in a space at the back of the plane as there are no overhead lockers.
Having got ensconced, we quickly realised that our flimsy boarding pass had numbers 3b and 3C on them and we deduced that the seating was allocated from the back as the people seated in front of us had checked in after us (there was a 2 and 1 configuration).
The co-pilot made the safety announcement before returning to the cockpit, which was not curtained off, so we could see all that was happening. We took off on time and although we were on the right, we were sat over the wing and propellor and the views weren’t that great: ironically the guy who had the best view was asleep. On arrival, temperatures were taken, and we waited for a few moments for the bags to come off.
On our return from Principe nine days later, the check-in was faster, but at security we had to unlock our cases when the young lady took longer to put on her gloves than it did for her to undertake a very cursory search. This time it was free unallocated seating and we sat near the back of the plane which was incredibly hot.
If you are travelling back to Sāo Tomé to connect with an international flight, it’s advised to have a day to spare, as the flight is frequently cancelled due to bad weather.