See inside the new British Airways lounge at Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport

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British Airways has re-opened its airport lounge in Johannesburg with a new look.

In May we announced that the British Airways lounges at Johannesburg were closing for complete refurbishment. It is one of the first international lounges to get the new lounge concept BA first revealed in 2018 and which, in all fairness, is really very classy.

The refurbishment follows the same vein as the recent re-fits in Aberdeen, Rome and San Francisco. It’s best not to mention the sterile new JFK lounges which re-opened over the Summer and, unfortunately, do not follow the same design concept.

The Johannesburg lounge covers 880 square meters, making it a little larger than the recently re-opened San Francisco lounge. There is space for 247 passengers in a range of ‘zoned areas’. It features the now-standard bar that is in all of the new lounges:

British Airways Johannesburg Lounge bar

British Airways flies two A380s to Johannesburg every day, with each one carrying up to 111 Club World and First passengers with lounge entitlement before you factor in those travelling with BA Gold or Silver status, or oneworld equivalent, in other classes. Luckily the flights are offset by two hours so hopefully it is not too crowded unless one flight is delayed!

British Airways Johannesburg Loungeand

British Airways Johannesburg Lounge

Instead of having separate First and Club lounges, British Airways appears to be moving to a single-lounge concept in which facilities are shared with the exception of a ’boutique dining area’ that is exclusively for those travelling in First. Gold card holders do not get access.

British Airways Johannesburg Lounge first dining

This is probably not a bad idea given the size of the First cabins, although it depends on the execution. If the lounge as a whole is more first than business it is clearly an upgrade. If it is more business than first then it is clearly a downgrade for Gold card holders.

Those not travelling in First get access to the usual buffet:

British Airways Johannesburg Lounge buffet

This is (I think) the first time the press office has released an image of the bathrooms in a new lounge, which look good:

British Airways Johannesburg Lounge bathroomsConclusion

The photos make it hard to get a sense of the space – it feels like the lounge is several quite separate ‘rooms’ that all connect. If so, this may have the effect of breaking up the space and giving it a cosier feel.

Regardless, the new lounge concept is very good and often a genuine step up from what was offered before.  Johannesburg is lucky to be one of the first to see it.

The next lounge to have a makeover will be Geneva which is scheduled to re-open before year end. I expect we will see more lounges undergo refurbishment in 2020, although it is not clear if and when the Heathrow Terminal 5 facilities will feature the new concept.

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  1. fivebobbill says:

    O/T sorry, no ‘bits’ as I type, but lounge related.
    Looking for some advice for a lounge in Miami, am flying Y later tonight, but have a Priority Pass. Our flight departs Terminal C (Central), and likely from E Gates, but on viewing the options on the PP website it lists a choice of 4 lounges at Concourse E:
    * Turkish Airlines,
    * VIP Lounge,
    * Vienna,
    * and Air Margaritaville.
    The latter 2 however appear to require payment of some sort, and the PP gets you a discount. We’re not looking to pay anything at all, just grab a bite to eat and maybe a glass of wine or two before our flight, but I also notice that “VIP Lounge” is listed as no alcohol, only refreshments!
    Am I right in thinking that only leaves me Turkish Airlines for free food and drink?
    Would appreciate any pointers as always, as given the deadline to drop off the rental car we’re gonna be stuck in the airport for around 3 hours before our flight.

    • The Original Nick says:

      Why not lounge hop?

    • I traveled from terminal C/concourse E around a month ago. Sorry state of affairs!

      “Air Margaritaville” is simply a restaurant, landside, right opposite security. Your PP gets you credit off the bill (I think $28 per person, so $56 if you also register your wife as a guest). It looked pretty grim, and I skipped it.
      Vienna is also a restaurant, also landside. Same deal with the money off the bill. Looked a bit nicer, but I also didn’t stop here.
      Can confirm that the “VIP Lounge” had no booze, and was very far from my concept of being “VIP”!

      The Turkish Airlines lounge was still under construction a month ago, so if it’s now opened then it must be brand new, and if I were you I’d head straight there.

      • fivebobbill says:

        Thanks for the feedback CDE, already home and missed your reply but can confirm everything you said. Concourse E is awful, in fact most of MIA is an awful experience!
        Air Margaritaville I spotted whilst in the security queue, wasn’t tempted, wrong side of security for a start, and didn’t look that appealing.
        Vienna I didn’t see, and didn’t go looking for VIP with its lack of booze.
        Turkish Airlines IS now open now though, just through security, and I did get in. However we (2) were halted at the door and told they were quite busy, but admitted after a few minutes. Small lounge, but a decent selection of hot and cold food on offer, plenty of beers, wine and spirits as well. Friendly and clean, and just 10 minutes or so from lounge door to “E” departure gates (take transit).
        MIA really is an awful airport though…
        Thanks again for the info.

  2. The reason JFK’s Terminal 7 has not followed the same refurbishment concept is due to the fact that it will be demolished in 2022.

    • we know 🙂

    • Stilll getting 4-5 years of use of the lounge though.

      BA were required by the Port Authority to spend on the terminal as part of the last lease renewal knowing they would likely be moving out but BA decided how to upgrade the lounge and how much to spend and they chose not to use the new model of upgrade and go cheap and suffer the adverse comments.

  3. Scallder says:

    Not a surprise they’ve never published photos of bathrooms before. The ones at Heathrow (including the CCR) look like someone was going through a hospital catalogue for the fit out!

    • Oh, don’t get me started on the CCR’s washrooms… The design idea seems have to been: We have the smallest washrooms onboard in First. Let’s just cram a toilet of the same size into a corner, add a ton of empty, wasted space and make it nice looking by hanging a random picture on the wall.

      Maintenance had been lagging behind in previous years. Half of the male’s washrooms show more red than green when the door is unlocked, so one has too push every single door to find an empty one. This year I noticed that in addition BA seems to have reduced the amount of cleaning they do. BA’s CCR washrooms are filthier than the public restrooms in MUC.

  4. Being a gold card holder I refuse to use a business class lounge when flying long-haul. What’s the point of having a good card if there’s no First Lounge? I would select an airport which offers a One World first class lounge.

  5. It seems the First class lounge access benefit for Gold card holders is being whittled away bir by bit.

    Apart from the London airports and JFK, how many First lounges does BA have where Gold card holders/OWE have a separate lounge?

    • I don’t think BA have any. Which is why I always do my research on One World website in advance to find out which First lounges are available from other carriers. BA never tell you at check-in, they just direct you to the BA business lounge. Singapore will be getting its Qantas First Lounge with a la carte dining this month and will be very welcome for golds and F passengers, although BA will I’m sure continue to direct F passengers to use the buffet in the BA business lounge.

      • Well there are some, as I have visited Philadelphia and Toronto, but the trend is not encouraging. Good to see the investment none the less, like in Cape Town.

    • Separate from what? BA serves many airports where First and OWE have a separate BA lounge from OWS and Business class usually with some shared facilities like reception desk and washrooms (such as SEA where I was last week). JFK and LHR are the only airports, where First passengers have a BA lounge they don’t have to share with OWE. That obviously dates back to Concorde.

      • Lady London says:

        I preferred the Business side of the SEA lounge when I was there last Christmas. First side was tiny and seemed less food and drink of same type as the Business side. Coffee as better choice and taste in the Business side.

        In the old SFO lounge I also didn’t really notice First side being any better. Other than not being so crowded as the Business side.

        It seems Air France and Lufthansa are really separating class of service for First Class passengers at their home hubs. Anyone who’s just got Gold Status does not qualify for these services. You have to be travelling in First. Golds are two-a-penny on BA especially some routes like NYC. The real Gold on BA now seems to be Gold Guest List.

        • The thing is that AF and LH don’t sell First on the cheap. You get BA First < £2K at times, is that ever true of AF or LH? Can you get LH or AF First as a result of supermarket and Amex spend? It's just not like for like.
          Gold's really are two a penny to BA, you can get gold off the back of about £3K spend. What I value most from gold is extra Avios earning, extra Avios seats on RFS and no fee best seat selection. The F lounge at LHR is much better than the business ones, simply because there's less crowding. The First Wing is nice, but not a huge advantage over fast track.

        • Yes, Lufthansa is offering better service for First at its home bases, but so does BA. It’s just that LH has Frankfurt, Munich, and Zurich as hubs with international First class services plus a few more hubs like Vienna and Brussels for European travel, whereas BA really only has one hub which is T5 at LHR. BTW, in MUC and FRA there’s one First Class lounge that is open to anyone with a Centurion Amex traveling on LH in any service.

          Outside their hubs neither airlines is really offering a vastly distinct service. The FTL lounge and the SEN lounge in HAM (my home base) have the same food and drinks available. Even in MUC (their hub), the food offering between SEN and FTL has more similarities than differences.

          To me in SEA it depends on how full the First lounge is. If it’s getting full, it becomes unpleasant due to the space constraints. The non-alcoholic and food offerings are identical to the business side with the business side offering a few extra hot snacks. For alcoholic beverages there are differences. When you pick up a drink at the “bar” (that sounds like an exaggeration) you get different Gin and Champagne, when you are traveling in First or as an OWE. Wine was the same for both lounges. I don’t know about Whisky and other drinks.

  6. If I’m a Bronze member but flying from Joburg to Sydney with Qantas on a Qantas ticket in Business class, do I get the option of going to the BA lounge? I’m flying from there next January.

  7. Slightly off topic but I’ve been looking at flights to new york starting in Inverness, and often the WTP seats are cheaper than economy. Is that not uncommon?

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      I’ve seen that situation around parity or even a little beyond that before on tourist routes where economy may be heavily booked up with package deals (Orlando being the most persistent ). So not impossible. New York does sound like a strange one though.

    • Lady London says:

      It may also be a temporary situation – it’s not unknown for that to happen occasionally even between Y and J – but the market conditions may be temporary or BA’s revenue management may be around soon to tweak it – so if you might want a fare you see I suggest you grab it.

      If you do then be aware the fare conditions of your ticket may say that if you change it you would have to pay the market rate at the time you change it. So also check the cancellation fee in case that wouldnt work out for you.

  8. Speaking of Lounges. IOM is getting a refurb in Jan. Also the opening hours stated on priority pass app are wrong. It’s M-F 0545 – 2000 Sat 0545 – 1500 and Sun 1030 – 2000

  9. Yorkieflyer says:

    Lounge related question if I may? We are flying ex T3 LHR on a Saturday morning in a few weeks. I’d prefer the Aspire full English but we can pre book the Number 1 with our PP for a fiver each. Not flown ex T3 using Priority Pass before so wondering if we’d likely be turned away without prebooking?

    • Shoestring says:

      Saturday morning – definitely book No1 ahead and preferably more than a few days ahead

      Club Aspire has also turned me away, they’re both generally full up/ pre-booked at even moderately busy times

      Have a look yourself by putting in a few dummy bookings for No1 for next weekend – which reminds me, must book our Xmas No1s!

  10. TravelBunny says:

    I was at the new lounge in Johannesburg on Friday. It is indeed quite plush with a good bar and the food on offer was superb – imaginative salad platters, hot food, cold cuts not the usual BA Galleries canteen fare. The bathrooms are lovely. My only criticism is that it was extremely busy so I hope they can keep up with the inevitable wear and tear. Also the lounge areas feel a bit oppressive due to the low ceilings and no windows. Staff very efficient and helpful.

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