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My review of the SAA Premium Lounge at Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport

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This is my review of the South African Airways Premium Lounge at Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport.

This is the last part of my review of South African Airways business class, flying from London to Johannesburg and back.  You can find my SAA A330-300 business class flight review here.   Today I’m looking at the business class ‘Premium’ lounge at Johannesburg O.R. Tambo International Airport.

At the airport

The South African Airways check-in desks were at Terminal B which is the domestic terminal.  My ticket told me to go to Terminal B, although my flight was actually out of the international Terminal A.  This meant it was quite a walk from check-in to security.

When I arrived at security I found myself in a very long queue as there was no fast track for business class passengers.  It looked as if even first class passengers had to try their luck in order to use the fast track lane which was solely for crew, diplomats and disabled passengers.  A Russian couple in front of me with first class Emirates tickets were told by airport staff that they were ‘only VIPs on the plane and not on the ground’ – ouch.

After about 30 minutes I reached the bag check after which I had to queue for another 20 minutes until I could go through passport control.

So, if you do want to spend time in the lounge, I suggest getting to the airport 2 1/2 – 3 hours before your flight.

The SAA Premium Lounge

The SAA lounge was a further 5 minute walk away.  It was on the first floor surrounded by a number of other lounges including the British Airways lounge.

As you walked through the glass door there was the Platinum Lounge to the left, solely for SAA Voyager elite members, and the Premium Lounge to the right.

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

I went up to the Premium Lounge reception, showed my boarding pass and was told that there were no announcements in the lounge except for when flights were being cancelled.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

The design of the lounge was very interesting. There was a longish hallway along a rounded stone wall from reception …

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

…. to the first seating area.

I’ll try to explain the layout as best as I can. The picture below shows the first ‘room’ to the left which I will explain in the following few pictures. To the right is the continued hallway which goes along various separate rooms and ends by the toilets and shower facilities.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

The staffed bar had a selection of red and white wines as well as mixers and various soft drinks and water. Unfortunately they ran out of sparkling wine after my first glass.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

If you followed the bar around to the left you found a cold buffet with salads, dips, cheese and the largest bowl of olives I’ve ever seen in an airport lounge.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

It was quite busy in the lounge when I got there so I ended up sitting on a bar stool by a (what looked like a sponsored by Samsung) tablet and phone area near the large windows overlooking the tarmac. I used my own laptop and the wifi quality was perfectly fine.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

Along the window front and in the middle of the room was more seating.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

The hot buffet was opposite the bar on the other side of the room.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

The lounge also had a smokers lounge and the smell didn’t seem to escape into the room. If you’ve ever been to a German airport, you might have noticed these small glass smoking booths where the doors don’t shut properly which means you can’t really sit on the chairs nearby.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

Opposite the smokers lounge was an area with bar stools and computers and behind that wall was a decent work area.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

Further down the hallway along the wall was the TV room called ‘audio visual lounge’ which was very busy and so difficult to photograph.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

Next to the audio visual lounge was a separate kids lounge.  It was a great size but it looked like there were no toys provided.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

Opposite the kids lounge was a further food station with fruits, cakes and a coffee machine.  There was also more seating.

South African Airways SAA business lounge Johannesburg

Even further down the hallway were the toilets and showers.  I stayed in the lounge for about an hour and started walking to the gate 40 minutes before departure as advised by my boarding pass.

Conclusion

I liked the layout of the South African Baobab Premium Lounge.  There were lots of different seating areas and even though the lounge was busy there was space for everyone.  That the bar ran out of sparkling wine was a bit unfortunate …..

The food was very good and the kids lounge looked like a nice big area for children to wear themselves out before a long flight.

Given that security is exceedingly slow with no fast track options, I would suggest that you get to the airport early and then have a drink and a bite in the lounge before the flight.


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (October 2021)

As a reminder, here are the three options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit or charge card:

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here

You also get access to Plaza Premium, Delta and Eurostar lounges. The card has a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points which is a special offer running to 2nd November 2021.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with two free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here

Additional lounge visits are charged at £20.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  

There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and a special 30,000 points sign-up bonus until 9th November 2021.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network.  Guests are charged at £20 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.

The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer.  Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.

PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.

Comments (7)

  • Mark says:

    Star alliance

  • Stephen Perry says:

    There is a second security/passport control area in the international terminal at JNB. Instead of going to the area behind check-in, turn around, walk out of the check-in area and turn left towards the domestic terminal. After passing the escalators to the Gautrain on your right, you will see the other security area. It is always less crowded and security/passport control usually take no more than 10 minutes.

  • Roger I* says:

    Gosh, talk about timely! Thanks especially for the warning in your first few paragraphs.

    We’re just about to leave for JNB for our Swiss JNB-ZRH(-LHR) flight. I’m assuming we’ll end up in the SAA premium lounge. Forewarned is forearmed, so we’ll allow plenty of time. Even if we have to use a different lounge, I’m happy to get there early.

  • Kevin says:

    Nice review. We travelled with Qatar. They used to use the Shongolo lounge I think but we were given the Bidvest Premier (which you can also use with premier pass and lounge key). I actually visited three Bidvest lounges on our trip. The lounges in the domestic JNB terminal and at Cape Town are a bit nicer than the JNB international one but the food and drink offering is quite similar in each. They’re a worthwhile option.

  • Roger 1 says:

    I was wrong! Swiss use the Aspire lounge, or as the invitation said, the Swissport Aspire lounge. 🙂 Very small, with an interesting selection of warm and cold food. I went for butter chicken and rice. Both were cold. The chicken mayo wrap was a better deal.

    So that’s another JNB lounge – my 6th, I think, and in spite of it’s limited size, I preferred it to the BA and AF lounges. My favourites are the two SLOW lounges.

    We were much too early and beat the normal p.m. check in crush.

    • Roger 1 says:

      The apostrophe in ‘it’s wasn’t mine. Curse predictive text .,.

  • Ant says:

    ‘only VIPs on the plane and not on the ground’

    That is brutal! (I’m going to use it)

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