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Review: the impressive British Airways lounge at Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport

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This is our review of the British Airways lounge in Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport.

The Johannesburg lounge was one of the first international lounges to get BA’s new lounge concept, first introduced in 2018. Unfortunately, not long after it reopened, covid happened and the lounge was closed.

The lounge is now back open and, as a result of the long closure, it is effectively still brand new.

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg

As I was flying back from Mauritius via Johannesburg I thought I would give it a look, and I was impressed with what I saw.

The lounge is open daily from 3pm until 10:15pm.

Who can use the British Airways lounge in Johannesburg?

Anyone flying in Club (business class) or First on British Airways is invited to use the BA lounge in Johannesburg.

You can also get access if you are oneworld Sapphire or Emerald (equivalent to BA Silver or Gold, respectively) if you are flying a oneworld airline in any class, including Qatar Airways.

Where is the British Airways Johannesburg lounge?

The lounge is located in Terminal A, the International Terminal of OR Tambo Airport, just after security.

Head towards gates A7 to A30. It is on the mezzanine level, together with the Emirates and South African Airways lounges:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg stairs

As you come out of the escalators do a u-turn and you’ll see it directly in front of you:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg entrance

Inside the British Airways lounge at OR Tambo

After scanning your boarding pass at the reception desks you head straight in to the lounge. First up is the main bar, which you may recognise in style from some of BA’s other recent lounge refurbishments:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg bar

and

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg bar (2)

You also have some casual seating around the bar, plus bar stools and a few dining tables to the right. A big abstract painting is mounted on one wall:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg artwork

To the right of this painting is also where you’ll find the toilets and showers.

The bathrooms are very classy – on par with the Cathay Pacific lounges at Heathrow T3 (review here). They are clad in a beautiful beige stone with grey gold/brassy fittings. This is NOT a PR photo:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg bathroom

The showers, of which there are a handful, are in the same style. I didn’t manage to get a photo but I did get a peak into one whilst it was being cleaned and they look very smart. They put the showers in the Heathrow lounges to shame! It genuinely feels upscale.

The rest of the lounge is then divided into separate zones and rooms, which helps to break up the 880 square metre facility and create cosier lounge areas. Immediately after the bar you have a buffet with much more restaurant style seating:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg buffet seating

To the right is the Concorde Dining Room, which looks very classy in red velvet:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg Concorde dining room 2

and

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg Concorde dining room

This is only open to people flying on a First ticket – status won’t get you in. Unfortunately I was flying Club so I wasn’t able to try it out but my experience with Concorde Dining Rooms in other BA lounges including at Washington Dulles is very good. You can find out more about BA’s pre-flight dining here.

Deeper into the lounge you’ll find a large boardroom and high desks along the window. There are plug sockets everywhere and I imagine this would make a good spot to work from. As you can see there’s also a printer.

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg board room

The bar stools overlook the terminal concourse – unfortunately the lounge has no external windows with views across the tarmac, although it manages to do well with what it’s given and lots of clever lighting to brighten things up.

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg bar seating

Opposite the board room you’ll find a series of more casual rooms featuring armchairs:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg seating

and

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg seating 2

Again, British Airways has gone all-in on providing charging opportunities, with numerous plug sockets and USB ports at every single table:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg connectivity

The only thing missing was physical newspapers and magazines!

Food in the British Airways lounge in Johannesburg

Whilst there isn’t a huge amount of choice, the quality of the food in the lounge is good. There is a small buffet next to the bar offering bar snacks including a charcuterie and cheese board:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg bar snacks

But the main food on offer is in the main buffet next door, next to a self-serve drinks fridge:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg buffet

This includes a choice of three salads:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg buffet salads

Hot options included vegan lentil ‘simmer’ with rice and coconut chicken curry and soup:

British Airways BA Lounge Johannesburg buffet hot

Nachos were also available.

And whilst the lounge still had online-ordering stickers at tables you could only order a couple of things from the buffet this way – there were no additional items available.

Union coffee machines and soft drinks stations are dotted throughout the lounge:

British Airways Lounge Johannesburg coffee station

Conclusion

And that’s it! The lounge is bigger than it appears when you first enter, and if you don’t explore you might miss out on an area more suited to your preferred seating. In total, there is space for around 250 guests, which is about right given that BA often runs two A380s per day to Johannesburg. At full capacity, that’s around 222 First and Club World passengers, before you factor in anyone with status travelling in lower cabins.

That said, whilst it was busy when I first arrived it certainly didn’t feel crowded. It was a far cry from the Heathrow lounges where you’ll often struggle to find a seat if you’re not travelling alone. Once the A380 flight boarded (I was on the A350) it got a lot better.

The Johannesburg BA lounge is better than the British Airways Heathrow flagship lounges pretty much any way you measure it: quieter, much more modern and stylish and with bathrooms and showers look like they’ve been transplanted from a 5* hotel rather than the the smelly, plasticky toilets you’ll find at Heathrow.

We can only hope that British Airways introduces the same quality and style to their flagship lounges if and when they are refurbished.


Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (September 2022)

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

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit 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 Air Lines and Eurostar lounges.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

If you have a small business, consider American Express Business Platinum instead.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 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 you get a 20,000 points sign-up bonus.  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 (22)

  • Jane says:

    Glad to see a good review of the Joburg lounge. It used to be so bad I complained a couple of times. The Slow lounges were so much better. But I haven’t used a Slow lounge since they were sold. On my last trip from CPT on Qatar Airways, I had to use the Bidvest Premier lounge instead of the Slow lounge and wasn’t at all impressed.

  • Lady London says:

    It looks great. The food offerings look like it’s run by people that really care.

    Wonder where I can get those salad/pasta tongs? (next to the pasta-type salad)

  • Bundeera says:

    I used the lounge a fortnight ago, huge improvement on what went before. Merging the two previous lounges has created a lot more space, the bar area is very popular and has a great atmosphere, with new and enthusiastic staff serving drinks. Food has improved, I ate dinner there rather than on the flight, and wasn’t disappointed, I’m guessing they have changed caterers as well! Well done BA, the loss of Comair and the Slow lounges was a big disappointment as I travel a lot internally on trips and now have don’t have any lounge options with Safair, although I believe Airlink offer lounge access for business class tickets. Anyone know how you can gain access to the Slow lounges without being a client of RMB/FNB..?

  • John says:

    Travelling BA CW to Cape Town in November, and hoping for an aircraft change to Q-suite. What can we expect from BA’s lounge at CPT? Can Amex 2-4-1 be UUA’d to F?

  • Stuart says:

    Was in the JFK lounge last month, still ordering via QR code. So much nicer than the ‘home’ lounges.

  • Abdul says:

    Has the “n” fallen off the First Dining sign? Given the Mrs May treatment…

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