Review: South African Airways Domestic Lounge Johannesburg Airport

Introduction: Star Alliance To South Africa
Review: Four Points By Sheraton Vancouver Airport
Review: Air Canada Domestic Maple Leaf Lounge Vancouver Airport
Review: Air Canada Business Class 787 Vancouver To Toronto
Review: Air Canada International Maple Leaf Lounge Toronto Airport
Review: Air Canada Business Class 787 Toronto To Frankfurt
Review: South African Airways Business Class A340 Frankfurt To Johannesburg
Review: South African Airways Domestic Lounge Johannesburg Airport
Review: South African Airways Business Class A319 Johannesburg To Cape Town
Review: Westin Cape Town
Review: South African Airways Lounge Cape Town Airport
Review: South African Airways Business Class A340 Cape Town To Johannesburg
Review: South African Airways International Lounge Johannesburg Airport
Review: Mashonzha Lounge Johannesburg Airport
Review: South African Airways Business Class A330 Johannesburg To London
Review: Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge London Heathrow Airport
Review: Air Canada Business Class 777 London Heathrow To Toronto
Review: Air Canada Domestic Maple Leaf Lounge Toronto Airport
Review: Westin Wall Centre Vancouver Airport


My connection in Johannesburg wasn’t especially long. I arrived at 7:05AM, and then my connecting flight to Cape Town was at 9:10AM.

Upon deplaning I headed towards the immigration hall, but not before snapping a picture of our beautiful A340 after the flight from Frankfurt.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 1
South African Airways A340-600 upon arrival in Johannesburg

Immigration was a bit confusing, as there were lines for SAA nationals, foreigners who need a visa, and foreigners who don’t need a visa. As someone with US and German passports I knew I didn’t need a visa in advance, but I wasn’t sure if I technically needed a visa on arrival (which is often as easy as them swiping your credit card).

I assumed I didn’t need one, though based on looking at the people in the queue, I wasn’t feeling especially confident in my decision. Most of the people in the non-visa line seemed to be from Africa and the Gulf region, while most of the Europeans from my flight were getting into the line for visas. I showed my German passport, and had no issues getting processed in that line.

Immigration only took about 15 minutes, and the line moved pretty quickly. Once through immigration I followed the striped path to customs, which I was through in a matter of minutes as well.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 2
Johannesburg Airport international arrivals hall

The arrivals hall was rather crowded, and I noticed there was a South African Airways arrivals lounge there, which I didn’t realize they operated. However, I decided to head straight to the domestic terminal.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 3
Johannesburg Airport international arrivals hall

After leaving the customs area I found myself in a large atrium, where many people were waiting for loved ones to arrive.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 4
Johannesburg Airport arrivals hall

I found the signage at the airport to be poor in terms of figuring out how to get to my connecting flight. This isn’t my first airport rodeo, so I don’t think it was just me.

Typically when you arrive internationally and exit the immigration hall there’s clear signage pointing you towards connecting flights, though that wasn’t the case here. So I took the stairs up a level to the check-in hall, which seemed logical to me.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 5
Heading to domestic departures at Johannesburg Airport

The problem was, the check-in hall only displayed check-in counters, rather than departure gates (as is often the case outside the US). I couldn’t find any departures monitor, and there was a shortage of staff hanging around to ask questions. There were two security checkpoints I could head towards, and I didn’t know where my flight would be departing from. So I gambled and headed towards the one at the far end of the terminal, which ended up being the right decision.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 6
Check-in hall at Johannesburg Airport

Security was quick, despite their inefficient setup, where only one person could start placing their bag on the belt at a time. Within a few minutes I found myself airside in the domestic terminal.

Just inside the airside terminal I turned right, and then took the elevators up a level to the second floor, where lounges are located.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 7
Elevators to domestic lounges at Johannesburg Airport

I presented the friendly agent with my boarding pass, and after admitting me she also quickly checked on my departure gate, and wrote it on my boarding pass.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 8
South African Airways Lounge entrance Johannesburg Airport

I was admitted into the left side of the lounge — I’m not sure what the difference between the two sides is.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 9
South African Airways Lounge entrance Johannesburg Airport

I didn’t know what I was expecting going into the lounge, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The lounge was quiet, and had beautiful decor, which was in some ways furnished like a lodge.

Upon entering there were long leather benches along the left side of the lounge, with more traditional lounge seats along the center section.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 10
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 13
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 14
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 15
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

As an aviation geek I of course loved the big model airplane they had in the center of the lounge.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 11
South African Airways Lounge A320 model Johannesburg Airport

Near the entrance were some TVs, a departure monitor, and some newspapers and magazines.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 12
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

Past that were some communal tables, which led into the self serve food and drink area.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 16
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

I loved the tiles on the floor — again, this lounge gets an A+ for design.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 17
South African Airways Lounge buffet area Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 18
South African Airways Lounge buffet area Johannesburg Airport

While I didn’t eat anything, the breakfast spread looked quite good. There were cold cuts, cereal, pastries, toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, etc.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 19
South African Airways Lounge breakfast spread Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 20
South African Airways Lounge breakfast spread Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 21
South African Airways Lounge breakfast spread Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 22
South African Airways Lounge breakfast spread Johannesburg Airport

There was also a self serve coffee machine, as well as some biscuits.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 23
South African Airways Lounge breakfast spread Johannesburg Airport

There were several dining tables around the buffet.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 24
South African Airways Lounge dining area Johannesburg Airport

Then as you walked further into the lounge there was a mix of tables, lounging chairs, along with some counters with high-top seating.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 25
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 27
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 28
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 29
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 32
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 30
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

Possibly my favorite feature of the lounge was that they had a barista with a proper espresso machine. That’s also where a fridge was located with all kinds of soft drinks.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 26
South African Airways Lounge cappuccino bar Johannesburg Airport

Naturally I ordered a cappuccino, which was delicious.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 31
South African Airways Lounge cappuccino Johannesburg Airport

The far corner of the lounge had some seating facing the tarmac.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 33
South African Airways Lounge seating Johannesburg Airport

Unfortunately the views weren’t unobstructed due to the roof of the level of the terminal below, but it was still better than nothing. It’s always amusing to see British Airways 737s at Johannesburg Airport.

No, they’re not lost, but rather British Airways’ subsidiary, Comair, operates flights in South Africa, and they have the full British Airways livery.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 34
South African Airways Lounge tarmac view Johannesburg Airport

For the brief time I spent in the lounge I connected to the (relatively fast) wifi and caught up on some work. The lounge was fairly quiet, though I’d note that about half of the guests were pilots in uniform. I guess SAA gives their pilots lounge access? I don’t have an issue with that as such, but it just always seems a bit odd.

I headed to the departure gate at around 8:30AM, in anticipation of boarding at 8:40AM.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 35
Johannesburg Airport domestic terminal

The walk to gate D7 took about five minutes, and I was a bit surprised when I arrived and found no gate agents at the gate. Sure enough, they showed up about two minutes later, and immediately commenced boarding.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 36
Johannesburg Airport departure gate to Cape Town

There was a single boarding call for all passengers, though despite that it was a civilized process.

South-African-Airways-Lounge-Johannesburg - 37
South African A319 taking me to Cape Town

SAA Lounge Johannesburg bottom line

This lounge greatly exceeded my expectations. In general I have pretty low expectations of domestic lounges, but the lounge was beautifully designed with comfortable seating, had a good food selection, was quiet, and even had made to order espresso drinks. What’s not to love?

If only their international lounge was as nice… stay tuned for that.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. Wow, this lounge is nice. I was there in September 2015, and the lounge was closed for refurbishment. The temporary space they used instead was about as relaxing and comfy as a medical waiting room. Glas to see the end result is so welcoming.

  2. Lucky, I have used the lounge earlier this year and fully agree with your comments! cappucino was indeed great. I also used the shower facilities and they were very clean – great domestic lounge!

  3. You went the wrong way – there is a different route for domestic connections. When you come out of customs (past the arrivals lounge entrance), turn left before the Domestic Re-check In desks and take the escalator up a level. The route is well signposted for Domestic Connections if you go that way.

  4. Regarding pilots and lounges, SAA does give pilots access to their lounges, though I’ve rarely seen them in the lounges in SA (JNB, CPT, or DUR). Where I would see them the most was in the SAA first class lounge at LHR, back when SAA had their own business and first class lounges (first class turned left, business class turned right). I didn’t really care that the pilots used the lounge, but when there were four of them in it at the same time it could feel a bit tight.

  5. The right section of the lounge is the VIA Platinum lounge, which is exclusively reserved for SAA Voyager Platinum Card holders. Incidentally, it’s not that great — more private, but also pretty small, and with far less amenities:
    https://loungereview.com/lounges/south-african-airways-via-platinum-lounge-jnb-domestic/

    I agree that the VIA lounge is outstanding for a domestic lounge.

    Looks like you missed the Arrivals Lounge which is small but features great showers.

  6. That’s a gorgeous domestic lounge! With a decent food spread too. Delta tried to charge me for Orange juice at the JFK Sky Club one morning. And they serve int’l business class passengers there!

  7. that plane with the green livery you can see from the lounge is pretty cool, do you know which airline it is?

  8. @William,the green plane is Kulula. It’s a low-cost carrier in SA. A subsidiary of Comair (mentioned by Ben, earlier in the post)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *