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 flight from Cape Town arrived on stand at 4:15PM, while my connection to London Heathrow was scheduled for 8:25PM.
The bus ride from the remote stand to the terminal took about 10 minutes, and the driver didn’t seem to understand he had dozens of people packed like sardines standing in his bus, based on the way he was driving.
We were dropped off in the arrivals area, where I found the signage to be horrible. Seriously, I’d like to think I don’t suck at navigating airports, but this airport made me feel like a lost puppy. In the arrivals hall there was no signage towards departing international flights. I asked the person at the information desk where to go, and she suggested I should just keep walking straight ahead, which I did.
It was a rather long walk, and then eventually I found myself in the same atrium I was in several days earlier after landing from Frankfurt. From there I turned right, where I finally found a security checkpoint.
I then also cleared immigration, at which point I found myself in the departures hall. If transiting Johannesburg Airport I’d allow yourself a bit of time, because it’s not a seamless connection. Typically if you’re connecting from a domestic flight you don’t have to clear security again, which isn’t the case here.
I followed the signage towards the SAA Lounge, which was at the far end of the terminal.
I was intrigued by the duty free at the airport, much of which was very “local,” but in a way which almost felt cheesy. For example the Out of Africa store felt like Rainforest Cafe meets Cracker Barrel.
After a further five minute walk I found myself at the very end of the concourse .
That’s where several of the lounges were located, so I took the stairs up a level (though there was also an elevator).
The South African Airways Lounge was located on the right.
Upon presenting my boarding pass I was admitted and informed my flight would be departing from gate A3. I want to apologize in advance for the picture quality in this installment. Due to how full the lounge was, I didn’t feel especially comfortable taking too many pictures, since I was getting weird looks. So please forgive me for the blurriness.
The part of the lounge I had access to was located past the entrance and to the right, down a long hallway.
Once inside the lounge there were several tables with two chairs each.
While the lounge was quite crowded, I’ll say that they did a good job using a variety of partitions to make the space feel more private.
In the center of the lounge was the buffet area, bar, and some dining tables.
The food selection was decent, though due to the number of people using the lounge, everything sort of looked picked over.
There was also a limited hot selection, including soup.
Then there was bottled water and soft drinks, as well as an espresso machine, tea, etc.
There was a separate staffed bar, where you could also order custom made espresso beverages.
Then at the far end of the lounge was a counter with some high-top seats.
Across from that was a business center with a communal table.
Then by the windows were several rows of chairs, which is where most people were seated.
The lounge did have fantastic views of the apron, including of a South African A340-600, and perhaps most gorgeous of all, a TAAG 777-300ER.
Then in the back corner of that section was a rest area with some reclining seats, which looked comfy (though given how full the lounge was, and therefore how noisy it was, it still wasn’t especially relaxing).
The lounge had a strange shape, so as you went deeper into the lounge there was even more seating.
Towards the end of the room was an area separated from the rest of the lounge by a door. Rather bizarrely it was completely empty, even though it was probably the nicest space. I’m still not sure what exactly the intent of that space is, but if you’re in the lounge I’d highly recommend hanging out there.
Past that was another separate room with a kids play area.
Overall I thought the lounge was reasonably nice, though there was one major problem — the wifi didn’t work at all. This is exactly the same problem I had at South African’s lounge in Cape Town. I brought this to the attention of the staff, and they also said “it’s running a bit slow today.”
Now, before someone says “it’s Africa, what do you expect?” (as someone commented when I wrote about the bad wifi in the lounge in Cape Town), I’d like to point out that the wifi in the domestic South African Airways Lounge in Johannesburg worked just fine.
Given that the wifi wasn’t working, I headed to the Priority Pass lounge located across from the South African Airways Lounge, which I’ll be reviewing in the next installment. The wifi worked just fine there. So I blame South African Airways, and not “Africa,” as some have suggested.
After visiting the contract lounge across the way, I eventually headed to my departure gate, A3, at around 7:25PM. That was an hour before departure.
The gate was a good five minute walk away.
When I got to the gate it wasn’t staffed yet. The setup is a bit of a mess, because there’s not really any seating in the individual gate areas. Rather there’s a door where your boarding pass is scanned and passport is checked, and then you go into a “holding pen” without seats.
Finally at 7:35PM boarding began for those who needed extra time, and five minutes later it began for premium passengers.
So I followed the walkway down a couple of levels, though unfortunately the crew wasn’t actually ready for boarding, as the flight was still being catered and cleaned.
So we lined up there, and the entire plane load of passengers was in the holding pen before we were allowed to board, at 8PM. As you might expect, there was lots of groaning from passengers.
Interestingly the person in front of me was a British guy who was a retired South African Airways 747 captain, which I only know because he was talking to the gate agent the whole time. The gate agent explained there were 134 passengers (100 out of 186 in economy, and 34 out of 36 in business) on the flight, and then when boarding finally started, she yelled with pride “this man used to be one of our most senior captains!”
SAA Lounge Johannesburg Airport bottom line
The lounge itself was reasonably nice, though quite crowded. I actually preferred the domestic lounge to the international lounge, which isn’t often the case. For me the deal breaker was that the wifi was completely unusable. That’s the most basic amenity a lounge can offer.
So instead I spent my entire layover in a (mostly) crappy contract lounge so I could get work done.
Other than the wifi situation, I was impressed by all three SAA lounges I visited on this trip.
Am I the only one who considers wifi to be the most important amenity in an airport lounge?