The front desk of the hotel said they’d called me a cab. Ten minutes later, there was no cab, I kept asking, it’s on the way. Still no cab. Ten minutes later…no cab…finally one shows up. Are you noticing a trend in Lusophone Africa? Cabs are a novelty, that take a long time to show up, even if you’re willing to pay for them. Regardless, finally it showed up, was cheap, I picked up Jordan, and we were on the way to the airport. We knew it was a small airport from our arrivals experience so planned to get there 90 minutes in advance.
Got there in plenty of time, and tried to enter the terminal, only to be told there was a tax to be paid that wasn’t included in the ticket. Seriously? That’s still a thing these days? I can count on one hand how many of my 154 countries visited do that….so congratulations Sao Tome, you’re in the company of Cameroon and others 😉
Paid my $21, and was allowed into the terminal, only to be met with this very sophisticated check-in area. For a minute I wondered how I took a picture of myself checking in, and then I realised I’d never wear cargo shorts 😉
Check-in was a manual process, no computers anywhere. There was a list with 12 names, and they crossed us off as we showed up and gave us handwritten boarding cards….without seat numbers. Basically, take any available seat! Wow, it was like flying back in time to the 1970s or something!
Security? Um, yes, it was one bored person (no metal detectors, nude-a-scopes, or similar technology here) and after 15 seconds of going through my carryons they gave up. Just couldn’t be bothered. Then, passport control was similarly lax…and literally 5 minutes from check-in to gate took 5 minutes. We really didn’t have to show up 90 minutes early. “Duty Free,” however, offered lots of treats including the suspicious Dom:
There were only four or five people in the gate area at this point, and it was not exactly interesting. This group of Chinese was soon led into the waiting area, and it appeared to be a tour of “look at how fantastic the airport you upgraded for us is!”
Complete with a Christmas Tree that makes the one in the Charley Brown Christmas special look special:
Plane arrived from Luanda right on time, disgorged its passengers, and soon it was time for us to board. This was complicated by the fact they allowed transit passengers to deplane in Sao Tome, so they all got to re-board first, and either took their original seats or better ones. We 12 boarding in Sao Tome would be left to choose from what was left.
Fortunately, there was an aisle seat left in row 2 of business class, so that worked…even if the tray table didn’t. It was going to be a lengthy flight in a rattly old poorly-maintained 737.
TAAG flight 502
Sāo Tome Island, São Tome e Principe (TMS) to Praia, Cape Verde (RAI)
Depart 16:30, Arrive 20:40, Flight Time 5:10
Boeing 737-700, Registration D2-TBF, Manufactured 2006, Seat 2C
Right after takeoff, the crew sprang into action offering meals. So far, everything looked good, until I took my tray table out. Now, I’m used to United’s fine tray tables, half of which sag poorly in the middle. This, however, was a new low. When extended, the middle of the tray table had what I’d estimate to be a 30-40 degree angle too it. Nothing was going to fit, until I put a pillow on my lap to prop it something close to level. That at least made sure my wine didn’t spill….
So, like the previous flight, I expected the hot meal to come out next…nothing..and then they cleared the trays. I had to battle for another bottle of wine…and then, the crew disappeared. An hour or so later, I hit the washroom, and decided to ask the crew where the hot meal was…the response was perhaps one of the best lines I’ve ever heard in flight. “They no load the crew meals, so we eat the passenger meals.” Um, seriously? So I asked…”wait, so, they did not give you the meals you expected, so you ate the ones they loaded for the passengers.” “Yes, what is the problem?” Whoah…I’ll never criticize United again 😉
That said, we landed on time, I had something to eat and some legroom to prop up my iPad with a pillow on my lap…so how much can I really complain? 😉 Landed in Praia ontime, immigration was pretty quick, including paying for the visa on arrival ($40 US for a US passport) and only maybe a five minute wait for baggage – not bad at all. I was liking Cape Verde already!
The airport was also by far the most modern of the trip so far, with an organized taxi queue and all! It was then off to the Pestana Hotel for dinner and bed….to complete the final stop of the adventure.