OR Tambo International airport

"Johannesburg Airport" redirects here. For the other airport in Johannesburg, see Lanseria International Airport.

O. R. Tambo International Airport
Johannesburg International Airport
WMO: 68368
Airport type Public
Owner Airports Company South Africa
Serves Johannesburg, South Africa
Pretoria, South Africa
Location Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, South Africa
Hub for
Elevation AMSL 5,558 ft / 1,694 m
Coordinates 26°08′21″S 028°14′46″E / 26.13917°S 28.24611°E / -26.13917; 28.24611Coordinates: 26°08′21″S 028°14′46″E / 26.13917°S 28.24611°E / -26.13917; 28.24611


Location in Greater Johannesburg

Direction Length Surface
ft m
03L/21R 14,495 4,418 Asphalt
03R/21L 11,155 3,400 Asphalt
Statistics (2012)
Passengers 18,681,458
Aircraft Movements 203,007
Economic impact $3.2 billion[1]
Social impact 128.2 thousand[1]
Source: Passenger Statistics[2]

O. R. Tambo International Airport (IATA: JNB, originally JHB, ICAO: FAOR) (ORTIA) is a major airport in Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, South Africa,[3] near the city of Johannesburg. It serves as the primary airport for domestic and international travel to/from South Africa and is Africa's busiest airport with a capacity to handle up to 28 million passengers annually.[4] The airport is the hub of South Africa's largest international and domestic carrier, South African Airways (SAA), and a number of smaller local airlines.

It was formerly officially known as Johannesburg International Airport and before that as Jan Smuts International Airport[5] (hence the airport's former ICAO code, "FAJS") after South Africa's internationally renowned statesman by that name. The first renaming was done in 1994 when the newly reformed South African government implemented a national policy of not naming airports after politicians. The policy was however reversed later, and the airport renamed again on 27 October 2006 after Oliver Tambo, a former President of the African National Congress.[6]


The airport was founded in 1952 as "Jan Smuts Airport", two years after his death, near the town of Kempton Park on the East Rand. It displaced the "Palmietfontein International Airport", which had handled European flights since 1945.

It was used as a test airport for the Concorde during the 1970s, to determine how the aircraft would perform while taking off and landing at high altitude.[7] During the 1980s, many countries stopped trading with South Africa because of the United Nation sanctions imposed against South Africa in the struggle against apartheid, and many international airlines had to stop flying to the airport. These sanctions also resulted in South African Airways being refused rights to fly over most African countries, and in addition to this the risk of flying over some African countries was emphasised by the shooting down of two passenger aircraft over Rhodesia,[8] forcing them to fly around the "bulge" of Africa. This required specially-modified aircraft like the Boeing 747-SP. Following the ending of apartheid, the airport's name, and that of other international airports in South Africa, were changed and these restrictions were lifted.

The airport overtook Cairo International Airport in 1996 as the busiest airport in Africa[9] and is the second-busiest airport in the Africa–Middle East region after Dubai International Airport. The airport is one of the 100 busiest in the world.[10] In fiscal year 2010, the airport handled 8.82 million departing passengers.[11]

On 26 November 2006, the airport became the first in Africa to host the Airbus A380.[12] The aircraft landed in Johannesburg on its way to Sydney via the South Pole on a test flight.

Airport information

O. R. Tambo International Airport is a hot and high airport. Situated almost 1,700 metres (5,500 feet) above mean sea level, the air is thin.[13] This means some aircraft must reduce weight by loading less fuel than they would otherwise. The thinner air is also the reason for the longer than usual runways. On some routes such as to North America it means flights from Johannesburg need to refuel en-route while the return flight originating from a lower altitude airport can upload enough fuel to reach Johannesburg non-stop.

O. R. Tambo International Airport is one of the few airports in the world that has non-stop flights to all six inhabited continents (others include Dubai International Airport, Abu Dhabi International Airport and Doha International Airport).

On 10 January 2013 the airport's ICAO code was changed from FAJS to FAOR.[14]


There are two parallel north-south runways and a disused cross runway. The western runway, 03L/21R, is over 4400 m (14,000 ft) long, making it one of the world's longest international airport runways. Fully laden aircraft require a far greater length of runway to achieve take-off velocity at this altitude. Both runways are equipped with Instrument Landing Systems (ILS). Furthermore all runways are equipped with Approach Lighting Systems with sequenced flashers, and touchdown zone (TDZ) lighting. Runway 03R/21L is 3,400m (11,155 ft) long and is also equipped at both ends with ILS, ALS with sequenced flashers, and TDZ lighting. The airport used to have a third runway but this was closed due to the danger it posed. It is now a taxiway.

During busy periods, outbound flights use the western runway for take-off, while inbound flights use the eastern runway for landing. Wind factors may cause numerous variations, but on most days flights will take off to the north and land from the south.

South African Airways

O. R. Tambo International Airport used to serve as grounds for the South African Airways Museum. This room full of South African Airways memorabilia was started by two fans of the airline as a temporary location until they could set it up in one of Jan Smuts International's buildings in 1987. The museum has since relocated to Rand Airport (FAGM).


Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) reported that major new developments took place at the airport, in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The development includes expansion of the international terminal, with the new international pier, which house the new Airbus A380 and increase capacity at the same time. A new Central Terminal building, designed by Osmond Lange Architects and Planners, is under construction. An additional multi-storey parkade is being built at a cost of R470 million opposite the Central Terminal Building, plus Terminal A is also being upgraded and the associated roadways realigned to accommodate more International Departures space.

The Central Terminal Building (cost: R2 billion) will boost capacity at the landside of the terminal in 3 levels, also allowing direct access from international and domestic terminals. Additional luggage carousels will be added to accommodate the Airbus A380. Arrivals will be accommodated on level 1, with departures expanded on level 3; level 2 will accommodate further retail and commercial activities. The Gautrain Rapid Rail Link station is above the terminal.

The new International Pier development (cost: R535 million) will increase international arrivals and departures capacity in a double storey structure with nine additional airside contact stands, four of which are Airbus A380 compatible. Air bridges are already in place and the existing duty-free mall will be extended into this area. Additional lounges and passenger holding areas will be constructed on the upper level.

A second terminal between the two runways has also been mooted, which is proposed for completion by 2012. It will contain its own domestic and international check-in facilities, contact stands, shops and lounges and is projected to cost R8 billion to complete. Growth at the airport is expected to reach 24 million passengers per annum by 2015.

In November 2009 Air France announced the scheduled flights of their Airbus A380 into Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International Airport.[15][16] Air France started A380 flights to Johannesburg on 17 February 2010, initially thrice weekly, now increased to daily. Lufthansa started twice weekly A380 flights into Johannesburg on 12 September 2010.[17] Lufthansa is now operating the A380 daily into Johannesburg. Emirates Airlines started an A380 daily service to Johannesburg from 1 October 2011, replacing one of their 3 daily 777-300ER flights, which was later cancelled. British Airways confirmed on 24 July 2013 that it will also start A380 services into the airport from 12 February 2014. Initially it will operate the aircraft three times weekly, then increasing to six times weekly from March 2014.


There are six terminals at the airport, but these can be broken down into three major areas: the international terminals; the domestic terminals; and the transit terminals. The transit terminal housed disused parts of the old domestic terminals. It has been mostly demolished to build a new Central Terminal that will provide an indoor link between domestic and international terminals, as well as a central passenger check-in area and more gates. It was constructed for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Terminals A1 and A2 handle international passengers while the other two terminals handle domestic passengers. Due to the airport's design, departure and arrivals terminals are considered separate terminals. The Central Terminal that is under construction will be named Terminal A3 and it will be used for both international and domestic passengers. The airline Mango has its head office on the mezzanine level of the Domestic Departure Terminal.[18]

The two terminals A and B have been restructured. Several airlines now use terminal B for all check-ins (top floor, adjacent to the arrivals atrium), for both national and international flights. The airlines that moved check-in to Terminal B include SAA, SA Airlink, SA Express, Air Mauritius, Qantas and Thai Airways International.[19]

Airlines and destinations

Passenger Airlines

Airlines Destinations Departure Terminal
Air Austral Saint-Denis de la Réunion A
Air Botswana Francistown, Gaborone, Kasane, Maun A
Air France Paris-Charles de Gaulle A
Air Madagascar Antananarivo, Nosy Be A
Air Mauritius Mauritius B
Air Namibia Windhoek A
Air Seychelles Mahé A
Air Zimbabwe Harare, Victoria Falls A
Airlink Antananarivo, Beira, Bulawayo, Harare, Kasane, Lusaka, Manzini, Maseru, Nampula, Ndola, Pemba, Tete, Vilanculos B
Airlink Nelspruit, Phalaborwa, Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane, Umtata, Upington B
Arik Air Lagos A
British Airways London-Heathrow A
British Airways
operated by Comair
Harare, Livingstone, Maputo, Mauritius, Victoria Falls, Windhoek[20] A
British Airways
operated by Comair
Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth B
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong A
Compagnie Africaine d'Aviation[21] Kinshasa-N'djili, Lubumbashi
Delta Air Lines Atlanta A
EgyptAir Cairo A
El Al Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion A
Emirates Dubai A
Ethiopian Airlines Addis Ababa A
Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi A
Fastjet Dar es Salaam[22] A
Interair South Africa Bamako, Brazzaville, Cotonou, Ndola, Ponite-Noire, Saint-Denis de la Réunion A
Kenya Airways Nairobi-Jomo Kenyatta A
KLM Amsterdam A
Korongo Airlines Lubumbashi A
Kulula.com Cape Town, Durban, George, East London B
LAM Mozambique Airlines Beira, Inhambane, Maputo, Pemba, Quelimane, Tete, Vilanculos A
Lufthansa Frankfurt A
Mango Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, George (begins 18 November 2013),[23]Port Elizabeth, Zanzibar [24] B
Qantas Sydney B
Qatar Airways Doha, Maputo A
RwandAir Kigali A
Saudia Jeddah A
Singapore Airlines Singapore A
South African Airways Abidjan, Accra, Beijing-Capital, Blantyre, Brazzaville, Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Bujumbura, Cotonou, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Douala, Entebbe, Frankfurt, Harare, Hong Kong, Kigali, Kinshasa, Lagos, Libreville, Lilongwe, Livingstone, London-Heathrow, Luanda, Lusaka, Maputo, Mauritius, Mumbai, Munich, Nairobi-Jomo Kenyatta, Ndola, New York–JFK, Perth, Pointe Noire, São Paulo-Guarulhos, Victoria Falls, Washington-Dulles, Windhoek B
South African Airways Cape Town, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth B
South African Express Gaborone, Lubumbashi, Maun, Walvis Bay, Windhoek A
South African Express Bloemfontein, Durban, East London, George, Hoedspruit, Kimberley, Nelspruit, Pietermaritzburg, Richard's Bay B
Swiss International Air Lines Zürich A
TAAG Angola Airlines Luanda A
Thai Airways International Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi B
Turkish Airlines Istanbul-Atatürk A
Virgin Atlantic London-Heathrow A


Traffic and statistics

O. R. Tambo International Airport recorded 18.6 million passengers in 2010–2011, up from 17.6 million passengers the year before. Of those passengers, 8 million were international and 9.7 million domestic, with the remainder being classified as "regional" or "unscheduled". 212,918 aircraft traffic movements were recorded; the majority being domestic services. The statistics firmly entrench O. R. Tambo International Airport as being the busiest airport in South Africa.

Annual passenger traffic for O. R. Tambo International Airport[25]
Year International Regional Domestic Unscheduled Total
Passenger movements  % Change Passenger movements  % Change Passenger movements  % Change Passenger movements  % Change Passenger movements  % Change
2006–07 6,958,277 no data 651,642 no data 10,094,758 no data 89,423 no data 17,794,100 no data
2007–08 7,645,647 Increase9.9% 714,717 Increase9.7% 11,009,841 Increase9.1% 87,293 Decrease2.4% 19,457,498 Increase9.3%
2008–09 7,480,461 Decrease2.2% 730,387 Increase2.2% 9,582,332 Decrease13.0% 91,679 Increase5.0% 17,884,859 Decrease8.1%
2009–10 7,489,211 Increase0.1% 762,033 Increase4.3% 9,270,478 Decrease3.3% 74,481 Decrease18.8% 17,596,203 Decrease1.6%
2010–11 7,965,594 Increase6.4% 794,477 Increase4.3% 9,732,250 Increase5.0% 150,824 Increase102.5% 18,643,145 Increase5.9%
2011–12 8,088,013 Increase1.5% 846,067 Increase6.5% 9,985,246 Increase2.6% 84,216 Decrease44.2% 19,003,542 Increase1.9%
2012–13 8,276,845 Increase2.3% 826,676 Decrease2.3% 9,437,069 Decrease5.5% 80,669 Decrease4.2% 18,621,259 Decrease2.0%

Annual aircraft movements for O. R. Tambo International Airport[26]
Year International Regional Domestic Unscheduled Total
Aircraft movements  % Change Aircraft movements  % Change Aircraft movements  % Change Aircraft movements  % Change Aircraft movements  % Change
2006–07 53,003 no data 17,684 no data 114,917 no data 26,037 no data 211,641 no data
2007–08 59,031 Increase11.4% 18,799 Increase6.3% 121,621 Increase5.8% 29,591 Increase13.6% 229,042 Increase8.2%
2008–09 57,559 Decrease2.5% 17,965 Decrease4.4% 109,372 Decrease10.1% 28,297 Decrease4.4% 213,193 Decrease6.9%
2009–10 59,382 Increase3.2% 19,732 Increase9.8% 103,166 Decrease5.7% 20,252 Decrease28.4% 202,532 Decrease5.0%
2010–11 63,414 Increase6.8% 19,846 Decrease0.6% 105,627 Increase2.4% 24,031 Increase18.7% 212,918 Increase5.1%

Top 12 Routes

Weekly One-way Seat Capacity for March 2013 [27]
Seat Capacity
1  South Africa Cape Town International Airport 47,132
2  South Africa Durban-King Shaka International 29,461
3  United Kingdom London-Heathrow 10,169
4  South Africa Port Elizabeth Airport 10,151
5  United Arab Emirates Dubai International Airport 8,400
6  South Africa East London Airport 6,336
7  Germany Frankfurt 5,901
8  Namibia Windhoek-Hosea Kutako 5,288
9  South Africa George Airport 4,960
10  Zimbabwe Harare International Airport 4,454
11  Kenya Nairobi-Jomo Kenyatta 4,375
12  Botswana Gaborone-Sir Seretse Khama 4,231

Other buildings

South African Airways is headquartered in Airways Park on the grounds of O. R. Tambo International Airport.[3][28][29] The building was developed by Stauch Vorster Architects.[30] Airways Park was completed in March 1997 for 70,000,000 Rand.[31] The fourth floor of the West Wing of the Pier Development of O. R. Tambo has the head office of SA Express.[32][33][34] Federal Air its the head office in Hangar 14.[35]


In late 2005, a name change was proposed for the airport to "O. R. Tambo International," after former ANC President and anti-apartheid activist Oliver Reginald Tambo, an apparent change to the precedent of neutrally-named airports. The name change was formally announced in the Government Gazette of South Africa on 30 June 2006, allowing a 30-day window for the public to register objections. The name change was implemented on 27 October 2006 with the unveiling of new signs at the airport.

Critics noted the considerable expense involved in renaming the airport, and the decision to use a politician as the name would be obscure, confusing and in some instances, offensive. Corne Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus has stamped the renaming "nothing less than political opportunism and attempts by the ANC government to dodge the true socio-economic issues of the country".[36]

Unnecessary confusion can be caused, for O. R. Tambo is also a District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, seated in Mthatha. It has an International Airport known as the K. D. Matanzima Airport or (Mthatha Airport), named after Kaiser Matanzima.


Rail transit

A transit terminal has been built between the domestic and international terminals. It houses the Gautrain station linking the airport to Sandton, one of the metropolitan area's main business districts and a primary tourist area, and, from there, the rest of the Gautrain system.

In September 2006 Gauteng Province contracted Bombardier Transportation for a rail link connecting Johannesburg, Pretoria, and the airport, with construction to begin immediately.[37] The section linking the airport to Sandton in Johannesburg was completed on 8 June 2010 in time for the World Cup. Trains run 90 trips per day and carry an estimated 8000 passengers daily.[38]


The airport is easily accessible by car and it is located in North-East Johannesburg on the R24 Airport Freeway, which can be accessed by the R24 (South Africa) and the R21 highway. The R24 intersects with the R21 near the airport and with the O. R. Tambo Airport Highway. This highway goes through the airport terminals, separating them from the parking bays, but it branches off into two directions: "departures" and "arrivals", and then it rebranches into the intersection. Car rental companies serve the airport, with rental locations located on and off the airport.


Five bus city lines, operated by Metrobus and Putco, pass through the airport twice a day. The buses are accessible in the morning and the evening, when there are many passengers departing and arriving. There are also private bus lines operating express buses to the CBD of Johannesburg, as well as other locations.

Accidents and incidents

  • 20 October 1957 – A Vickers Viscount G-AOYF, operated by Vickers was damaged beyond economic repair when the starboard undercarriage collapsed following a heavy landing.[39]
  • 1 March 1988 – An Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirante, ZS-LGP, exploded in mid air whilst on final approach for landing. All seventeen occupants were killed. A passenger was suspected of detonating an explosive device but to this day it has never been proven beyond all doubt.[40]
  • 22 April 1999 – A Boeing 727-23 was damaged beyond repair by large hailstones while on approach for landing at FAJS. Aircraft landed safely with no loss of life.[41]
  • 3 November 2001 – A Reims-Cessna F406 crashed shortly after takeoff from runway 03R, killing all 3 occupants. The aircraft did not have a valid certificate of airworthiness at the time of the incident.[42]
  • On 9 April 2004, an Emirates Airbus A340-300 operating a flight from Johannesburg to Dubai sustained serious damage during takeoff when it failed to become airborne before the end of the runway, striking 25 approach lights, causing four tyres to burst which in turn threw debris into various parts of the aircraft, ultimately damaging the flap drive mechanism. This rendered the flaps immoveable in the takeoff position. The aircraft returned for an emergency landing during which the normal braking system failed as a result of the damage. The aircraft was brought to a stop only 250 metres from the end of the 3,400 metre runway using reverse thrust and the alternate braking system.[43] In their report, South African investigators found that the captain had used an erroneous take-off technique, and criticised Emirates training and rostering practices.[44]
  • 25 March 2006 – Gunmen held up guards at the airport gates. Others armed with AK-47 assault rifles held up guards and police at a South African Airways aircraft and helped themselves to bags of pound sterling banknotes flown in from Britain. Several airport security staff were implicated in the heist.[45]

See also

South Africa portal
Aviation portal


External links

  • O. R. Tambo International Airport Homepage
  • Johannesburg Airport Information

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