OR Tambo International

There’s not much happening at OR Tambo International in Joburg at the moment. Image: Lorne Philpot

What to expect when flying out of Joburg’s OR Tambo International

Forget shopping or last-minute errands at the airport before your flight as OR Tambo International is still operating very limited services.

OR Tambo International

There’s not much happening at OR Tambo International in Joburg at the moment. Image: Lorne Philpot

Don’t get too excited if you’re flying from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport for the first time since pre-COVID days. You’ll find the experience is rather different than it has ever been before.

Taking a flight from South Africa’s once-busiest airport takes on an unfamiliar, almost eerie, feeling. This is because the airport is not fully operational and not all airport service providers are trading at the moment.  


There are far fewer passengers moving through OR Tambo International at the moment. The COVID-19 pandemic and travel bans have resulted in a severe lack of international visitors, which are the bread and butter for Joburg’s OR Tambo International Airport.

The discovery of the new COVID-19 variant in South Africa led to additional flight and travel bans which have hammered South African tourism. According to BusinessDay, the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) reported astounding losses of R1.5-billion for the 2020 as passenger numbers plummeted by 65.8% to 7.4 million departing passengers for the year.


Several businesses and service providers at OR Tambo International Airport have still not reopened. This means the airport is not the place you want to count on to be running last-minute errands. Even Woolworths located in the domestic terminal is not open.

Of course you should not buy foodstuffs to take on board with you in any case as new restrictions prohibit the consumption of food and drinks on domestic flights.    

Terminal A, the older section of the airport, is closed and the surrounding retail stores and restaurants have also not reopened. While domestic flights have resumed and few international airlines are operational, check in and passenger handling is done at Terminal B during this period.


joburg airport
There’s not exactly a buzz at OR Tambo at the moment. Image: Lorne Philpot

There are constant announcements reminding passengers to adhere to social distancing and sanitisation protocols while in the airport building. Passengers must also scan their own boarding passes at the departure gate and at airport security.


As part of a no-touch policy, airlines are not permitted to serve meals or beverages during domestic flights. Passengers are also not allowed to bring their own food or drinks for on-board consumption. You are expected to keep your face mask on for the full duration of the flight.

Cabin crew will also remind passengers not to touch stowed items of cabin baggage belonging to other passengers when placing their baggage in overhead locker compartments. This is in an effort to reduce the touching of surfaces.


After landing, cabin crew will instruct passengers to remain seated until they are told to leave the aircraft. Passengers are usually asked to leave the aircraft one row at a time, in an effort to enable social distancing and to prevent the gathering of passengers in the aisle while disembarking.  

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