Johannesburg International Airport
The Johannesburg International Airport, officially known as the OR Tambo International Airport, is near the city of Johannesburg and is the major airport of South Africa. It is the primary airport for both international and domestic travel in the country. It is also the busiest airport in Africa, overtaking Cairo in 1996 and the second busiest, after Dubai International Airport, in the Africa-Middle East region. Previously, it was named the Jan Smuts International Airport and was changed to the Johannesburg International Airport in 1994. In 2006, the name was changed again to honour a former president of the African National Congress.
The airport began in 1952 as the Jan Smutts Airport, which replaced the old Palmietfontein International Airport. The Palmietfontein International Airport had handled the flights from Europe since 1945. It is famous for receiving the first commercial jet flight when a de Havilland Comet arrived from London Heathrow Airport. During the 1970s, the airport was used as a testing place for the Concorde.
The OR Tambo International Airport is 1700 metres above sea level, which means the air is thin. Because of thin air, the planes need to load less fuel than they would at other airports, and the runways are longer. This means that flights to North America need to refuel en-route, but when returning, they can load enough fuel for the full flight. Along with Dubai and Doha, flights from OR Tambo International Airport go to all six inhabited continents. It was named the second best airport in Africa after Cape Town by the 2012 World Airport Awards.
The airport has six terminals that cover international, domestic and transit passengers. There are drop-off zones just outside each arrival terminal. Vehicles should not be left unattended. There is also a Pick-up and Go parking facility opposite the international arrivals terminal. It is free for the first five minutes. Other parking facilities are free for the first 15 minutes. The parking fee decreases for parking places that are further from the terminals. The airport also has valet parking and long-term parking.
There is a wide variety of medical services available that are open 24 hours including a doctor, physiotherapist, emergency services, eye tests, dentists and Botox injections.
Johannesburg Airport Amenities
Wifi hotspots are in the domestic terminal on the retail and restaurant level, the departures level restaurants and at the boarding gates. Connectivity is also in the international airline lounges, arrivals terminal, mezzanine-level restaurants and in the duty-free mall. Vouchers for Pay as you Go are available at the PostNet on the food court level. For those without a Wifi card or laptop, there are Internet cafes that have fixed connections. There are two places in the domestic terminal. One place is on the retail level for the public, and the other is beyond security gates. There is also one place in the international departures terminal.
The airport also has luggage storage in the basement of the international terminal, foreign exchange dealers in the international terminal and prayer rooms for Christians and Muslims.
There are parking bays for disabled passengers at all levels as well as special ramps, lifts and toilets. Wheelchairs are also available. Passengers who require assistance should inform their airline at least 48 hours before departure.
The OR Tambo International Airport has a conference centre in the domestic terminal. It has three conference rooms that seat 10 to 50 and more. Each room is attractively designed and is equipped with modern technology.
There are Information Kiosks in the international arrivals and international departure halls Terminal A as well as in the domestic arrivals hall Terminal B. Requests for information will need to be accompanied by personal identification. This may vary according to the airline.
Airlines Serving Johannesburg Airport
Serving as the main international airport in South Africa, OR Tambo International Airport in the city of Johannesburg is an important hub for the country’s national airline. South African Airways connects the country’s busiest airport with more than 25 worldwide destinations. Passengers can enjoy direct South African Airways flights to European cities like Frankfurt, London, and Munich. In fact, this major airline is one of the few companies that operate direct routes between Johannesburg and Europe.
The South African Airways service reaches out as far as to the Americas. The flag carrier of South Africa operates departures to New York John F. Kennedy International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport, some of the most important destinations in the eastern United States. With direct flights to Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo, South African Airways is the main link between Johannesburg and important cities in South America.
Since South African Airways is the largest airline company on the African continent, it makes sense that this carrier connects OR Tambo International Airport with other airports in Africa. Destinations in Angola, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Malawi, Burundi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Senegal and other African nations can be reached by flying on the South African Airways fleet. All international flights offered by South African Airways can be boarded from Terminal A.
Passengers at OR Tambo International Airport who need to fly to other cities in South Africa can rely on the nation’s flag carrier for direct service. South African Express operates an air traffic corridor between Johannesburg and Durban, Bloemfontein, East London, Kimberly and George. These domestic flights depart from Terminal B at South Africa’s largest airport.
Even though OR Tambo International Airport has a relatively remote location, the airport is still served by some airlines from the Western World. The French capital of Paris is linked to Johannesburg via Air France. England’s capital city London is connected to South Africa’s largest city through British Airways. Johannesburg has a direct tie with Frankfurt thanks to Lufthansa service. Israel’s flag carrier El Al maintains a direct route between Johannesburg and Tel-Aviv. The U.S. company Delta Air Lines operates long haul flights to Atlanta, the largest city in the state of Georgia. Australia’s national airline Qantas invites South Africa’s passengers to Sydney.
The remaining airlines that serve OR Tambo International Airport are from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Examples include Air Botswana, EgyptAir, Emirates, Kenya Airways, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines. All international flights are handled in Terminal A at OR Tambo International Airport.