Who was OR Tambo?
Saturday, October 10, 2015

Until Johannesburg International Airport was renamed OR Tambo airport in 2006, Oliver Tambo was a somewhat neglected figure in the history of the struggle against apartheid. Yet it was he who held the liberation movement together during its 30 years in exile, and whilst other senior leaders including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu were imprisoned in South Africa.

Oliver Reginald Tambo (fondly known as O. R.) was born on 27 October 1917 in a rural village in now Eastern Cape. Tambo, along with Mandela and Walter Sisulu, were the founding members of the ANC Youth League in 1943.

In 1960 Tambo was sent abroad by the ANC to mobilise opposition to apartheid. He settled with his family in Muswell Hill, North London, where he lived until 1990. He was involved in the formation of the South African Democratic Front. In 1967, Tambo became Acting President of the ANC, following the death of Chief Albert Luthuli.
In 1985 he was re-elected President of the ANC. He returned to South Africa on 13 December 1990 after over 30 years in exile, and was elected National Chairperson of the ANC in July of the same year. Tambo died aged 75 due to complications from a stroke on 24 April 1993, and precisely one year before the first democratic election in South Africa.

For further reading about the Oliver Tambo, and the history of the ANC in exile seek out the excellent biography, with the same title, written by Luli Callinicos.

South Africa's First Open Access Arrivals Lounge Headed for OR Tambo
Saturday, October 10, 2015

OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) will soon be home to the first arrivals lounge in South Africa that is open to all travellers, regardless of airline or travel class.

Menzies is famed for its award-winning departure lounges at airports throughout the world and the Shongololo departure lounge was recently voted the best lounge in the Africa/Middle East region. Menzies is now the first private operator in the country to introduce an arrivals lounge.

The creation of the Sesfikile Premium Arrivals Lounge at OR Tambo (JNB), which opens late March, comes after we identified the need for international and business travellers to not only depart in style, but also to be able to freshen up and relax before the next leg of their journey or for business meetings after tiring flights. “Although arrivals lounges are a regular feature at many international airports, particularly in Europe and the USA, most South Africans and foreigners visiting the country have not yet had the chance to incorporate them into their itineraries. We believe the Sesfikile Lounge will rapidly become a popular destination at OR Tambo (JNB),” says Giles Wilson, Menzies Senior Vice President for Africa, the Middle East and India.

Giles says arrivals lounges are of particular benefit to long-haul business passengers, especially those from Europe, who need to do business on the same day as their arrival in the country.

“It provides a vitally important opportunity to catch up on business and freshen up prior to important meetings. Most long-haul flights arrive in the morning. To save valuable business time and work around late morning check-ins offered by most hotels, arrivals lounges have become a convenient option.”

In the past, passengers had to make do with public restroom facilities and check their emails at noisy airport coffee shops, but the arrivals lounge will now enable them to freshen up in style and enjoy drinks and eats as well as complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi. The tranquil and elegant private shower and bathroom facilities, which will be serviced after each use, will further invigorate even the weariest traveller before they head on to their next destination, says Wilson.

The Sesfikile Lounge will be situated adjacent to the SAA Arrivals Lounge at OR Tambo (JNB). In addition to passengers who will be able to access it as part of their airline partners’ services, the Sesfikile Premium Arrivals Lounge will also be open to walk-in travellers.

“We intend to raise the bar in terms of the offering at arrivals lounges as we have done with Menzies’ departure lounges, which are renowned and recognised for their luxury throughout the world. And as always, the real Menzies difference will be the superior quality of our service, which will ensure customer satisfaction owing to our fierce commitment to the highest standards,” Giles indicated.

World Class - Gautrain Service wins Global Excellence Award
Monday, June 30, 2014

The Gautrain’s airport service (Sandton to OR Tambo International) recently competed with the best in world on customer service and was consequently awarded the Global AirRail Alliance Award (GARA) for customer service excellence in Oslo, in May 2014.

The GARA awards are international awards dedicated to the air-rail industry, recognising the best practice in intermodal travel around the world. The awards also looks for the best services of delivering an enjoyable and stress free journey between air and rail travel. Some of the finalists included Birmingham Airport (UK), Flytoget (Oslo, Norway) and Canada Line (Vancouver, Canada).

Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Dr Ismail Vadi said “Gautrain’s airport service has been operational for four years and is popular for its time convenience as it takes only 15 minutes from Sandton to the OR Tambo International Airport Station. A simple trip by car can take up to an hour. The service is also convenient as it is integrated with the airport terminal.” We are all excited about this award as it showcases the hard work and dedication from everyone at Gautrain in ensuring our customer experience on the Gautrain is enjoyable”.

It further proves that Gautrain, an infant in the airrail industry can compete with the best in the world. The competition was eligible to systems that have been operational between February 2013 and February 2014 and judging criteria for the award included: Overall journey and transit experience Travel information provision and communication with customers Disruption management Value added services Stakeholder approval Customer feedback The GARA judges were international air and rail travel experts and some of their comments on the Gautrain entry were “Go Gautrain! The service being only four years old uses the latest innovations and technology to maximise the customer service and experience for passengers. Staff are well trained to improve the service with good engagements with customers”.

Within the first six months of the airport service’s operations it carried just over 1 million passengers. During 2012 / 2013 it carried just under two million people. Such an increase in patronage can be attributed to excellent customer service. Proof of excellent customer service lies in a 24-month Customer Satisfaction Survey benchmark of a 9.5 / 10 Net Promoter score compared to 9.2 / 10 in 2012. This was mostly contributed to convenience, efficiency and safety. As a result of the popularity of the airport service, a second interchange at Marlboro Station to OR Tambo international Airport was introduced in 2012.

In order to continue offering a safe, convenient and efficient service to our passengers, the following system enhancements are being planned for the airport service: Keeping Sandton Station parking open later at night to accommodate airline passengers with delayed flights to access their vehicles. This parking will now stay open until 24h00. Extend the OR Tambo Station platform to four and a half carriage lengths for increased capacity. This is a commercial deal and negotiations are underway. The extensions of the airport platforms is going out on tender, and we hope to have the contract by end of August 2014 thereafter the actual work commence and will take nine months to complete. Commence with the feasibility studies for the Gautrain extensions as approved in the provincial 25-Year Integrated Transport Master Plan (ITMP25). The appointment of the consultants to do the feasibility study in under way.

Johannesburg - OR Tambo International Airport Award "Best Airport in Africa 2013"
Thursday, April 03, 2014

Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport was named ‘Best Airport in Africa’ at the recent Skytrax World Airport Awards, held in Barcelona, Spain.

"As a company, we continually strive to improve our customer service by ensuring that our airports unreservedly meet passengers’ needs. - Bongani Maseko, managing director, Airports Company South Africa atated.
The awards are the benchmark for airport excellence around the world. This year's awards were based on 12.85-million survey questionnaires across more than 100 nationalities. The extensive surveys evaluated customer satisfaction over 39 key performance areas and included 410 airports worldwide.

Johannesburg - OR Tambo International Airport underwent a major refurbishment in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and boasts world-class facilities. It is South Africa's principal airport, and an estimated 50% of the country's air passengers are pass through its doors.

Other South African airports also fared well in the awards: Cape Town International Airport came second; Durban's King Shaka International Airport third; East London Airport sixth; Port Elizabeth International Airport seventh; and Bloemfontein's Braam Fischer International Airport eighth.King Shaka International Airport came first in the 'Best Regional Airport in Africa' category, while Cape Town International Airport was rated first in the 'Best Airport Staff in Africa' category.

Bongani Maseko, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) managing director, was thrilled with the results: "As a company, we continually strive to improve our customer service by ensuring that our airports unreservedly meet passengers’ needs. The awards announcement comes as we all celebrate South Africa’s 20 years of democracy and having reflected on ACSA's 20 years of business excellence in 2013."

'When all is said and done, it is our passengers who must assess whether or not we are meeting our objectives, and these Skytrax awards are the best possible validation that indeed we are. It is particularly gratifying that Airports Company South Africa has once again demonstrated its relentless pursuit of excellence by winning all three of the Skytrax awards available for the Africa region, with six of our airports ranked in the top 10 in Africa.'
In the 'Best Airport Hotels in Africa' category, the InterContinental Johannesburg - OR Tambo Airport hotel placed first, with the Garden Court OR Tambo second.

This is the fourth consecutive year that the InterContinental Johannesburg - OR Tambo Airport hotel has walked away with this accolade.

The awards were presented at an event in Barcelona, Spain, on the evening of Wednesday 26 March 2014.

Johannesburg - OR Tambo International Airport - Upgrade Quick Guide
Wednesday, January 15, 2014

OR Tambo International Airport is the busiest airport in Africa: about 18 million passengers pass through it each year.

The upgraded airport
A programme to revamp the airport and the highways that lead to it is currently underway. Once complete the airport will be a modern and attractive building that is simple to navigate and more accessible from Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Getting there
The airport is a 20-minute drive from the eastern suburbs of Johannesburg and a 45-minute trip from Sandton and Rosebank, where most hotels are found.
Visitors are warned, though, that traffic can be bad during peak hours because the roads to the airport serve some major industrial areas.

The terminals
The airport has two terminals: Terminal A receives international traffic and Terminal B handles domestic flights. The terminals are connected; passengers can easily walk from one to the other, but there are shuttles for those who need help.

Each terminal has two levels. On the top you will find departures; on the bottom, arrivals. The terminals are arranged in a long, narrow strip: the airfield is on one side and cars and buses are on the other.

A luxury hotel, the Airport Sun Intercontinental, is inside the airport complex, no more than 30 metres from the Terminal A arrivals door. This five-star hotel's major attraction is 24-hour service: you can check in or out - or order a meal - at any time.

A Garden Court hotel is less than a kilometre away, on the opposite side of the ring of highways that encircle the airport.

Other hotels, one of them at a casino named Emperor’s Palace, are a few minutes' drive from the airport.

Shops and extras
The expanded airport has become a booming mini-city. New features include a terminal for shuttle buses and taxis, a duty-free shop called Big Five (said to be the second-biggest duty free shop in the world), an emergency medical clinic, prayer centres, a library, hairdressers, pharmacies, and luggage deposits.

Transport from the airport
Across the road from Terminal B is a multi-storey parking garage that has one floor reserved for car-rental companies and another for buses and coaches.

To the right of the parking garage is a terminal for minibus shuttles and metered taxis. For those who get lost, there are plenty of information booths.

And visitors needn't tangle with taxi touts: minibus shuttles and metered taxis can be booked at the baggage-claim area. Tickets can be bought to a range of destinations - in Johannesburg or other towns.

Car rental
All car-hire companies have information kiosks on the ground floor of Terminal B. Cars are collected from the parking garage across the road from the terminal's entrance.

You can search and compare all the car rental companies deals on vehicles using our website Car Rental Search and Booking Engine, as well as tips on finding the best car for you.

Visitors should use only accredited porters, who wear uniforms of bright orange and navy blue, and carry permits. Porters are allowed to work only in the arrival and departure halls, in the connecting corridors and on the pavements. Most porters know enough to point tourists to airport facilities.

The porters are not paid; they work for tips alone. The airport company recommends a tip of R5 a bag.

Mobile phones
Cellphones can be rented at competitive rates in the terminal foyers. The GSM network in South Africa is sophisticated and covers all but the most remote areas of the country.

A mobile phone will be useful because public phones are not as widely available as they are in Europe or North America. And, because hotels charge stiff fees for calls, a cellphone may be a cheaper option.

The country has four mobile operators: MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Virgin Mobile that all offer similar services. MTN and Vodacom have a presence at the airport.

Currency exchange
There are four currency-exchange booths in the foyers of the airport terminals: Absa, Rennies, Master Currency and American Express. Visitors should cash a few travellers' cheques at the airport.

The airport, the airmail hub of sub-Saharan Africa, houses a R55-million postal centre and a terminal for speed services.

Internet connectivity
Three Airport Online facilities are available to those who need Internet connectivity: one in the international departures terminal, one in the domestic departures terminal, and one in the shopping area of the domestic terminal. The Airport Online offices provide networked computers linked to the Internet and to local printing facilities. Credit card payment is preferred, but other payment options are available. Users can also plug their own laptops into the connections supplied and work from desks at the Airport Online facility.

A wireless connectivity service is available throughout the shopping area and dining area. This allows those who have wireless cards installed in their laptops to go online from their own equipment while enjoying a meal or cup of coffee.

Find Terminal Plan on our OR Tambo Johannesburg International Airport Facilities pages.

OR Tambo International Airport Travel Blog