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.
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.
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.
After leaving the customs area I found myself in a large atrium, where many people were waiting for loved ones to arrive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was admitted into the left side of the lounge — I’m not sure what the difference between the two sides is.
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.
As an aviation geek I of course loved the big model airplane they had in the center of the lounge.
Near the entrance were some TVs, a departure monitor, and some newspapers and magazines.
Past that were some communal tables, which led into the self serve food and drink area.
I loved the tiles on the floor — again, this lounge gets an A+ for design.
While I didn’t eat anything, the breakfast spread looked quite good. There were cold cuts, cereal, pastries, toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, etc.
There was also a self serve coffee machine, as well as some biscuits.
There were several dining tables around the buffet.
Then as you walked further into the lounge there was a mix of tables, lounging chairs, along with some counters with high-top seating.
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.
Naturally I ordered a cappuccino, which was delicious.
The far corner of the lounge had some seating facing the tarmac.
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.
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.
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.
There was a single boarding call for all passengers, though despite that it was a civilized process.
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.