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Air travel in South Africa

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Air travel in South Africa

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SAA at Cape Town International

South Africa is the most developed country in Africa, with one of the strongest economies on the continent. Therefore, a high number of flights in Africa are destined to or originate from South Africa.



South Africa is a major hub for air travel in the Southern African region.

The two most used airports for international flights are Cape Town International and OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

There are regular flights to South Africa from major centers throughout Africa including Blantyre, Cairo, Gaborone, Dar es Salaam, Harare, Lilongwe, Livingstone, Luanda, Lusaka, Kinshasa, Maputo, Manzini, Maun, Mauritius, Nairobi, Victoria Falls and Windhoek.

Direct flights also arrive from major European centers, including: Amsterdam, Athens, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich and Lisbon.

There are also direct flights from Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Dubai, Doha, New York, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Sydney, Perth and Tel Aviv.


There are multiple daily flights between all the major airports within the country. Contact any of the airlines for details. The low-cost airlines Kulula and Mango are usually the cheapest and prices can be compared online. Kulula is actually the low-cost brand of local British Airways affiliate Comair, while Mango is the low-cost brand of national flag carrier South African Airways. It is also worth comparing both against SAA regular flights as they usually have online specials which are very reasonable.

See also Discount airlines in Africa.


South African Airways[edit]

South African Airways

Flag carrier. Has a big network to most South African cities and operates a wide range of International flights to/from North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.


  • Code: SAA
  • Phone: +27 (0)11 978-5313
  • Homepage: [26]



Affiliate of British Airways [27] in South Africa. Operates to most major cities.


  • Code:
  • Phone: +27 (0)11 921-0111
  • Homepage: [28]


One of the smaller airlines of the country. Mainly operates to destinations in Central Africa.


  • Code:
  • Phone: +27 (0)11 616-0636
  • Homepage: [29]

SA Airlink[edit]

One of the regional arms of SAA and operate mostly to smaller airports from Johannesburg and Cape Town or on low-density routes.


  • Code:
  • Phone: +27 (0)11 978-5313
  • Homepage: [30]

Other airlines[edit]

  • [31] was the first sub-saharan discount airline in Africa. Part of Comair.
  • Mango [32], the new kid on the block, started operations in November 2006 with flights between Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Bloemfontein. Part of SAA.
  • South Africa is well-known in the airline business as a graveyard for many short-lived independent low-cost airlines that have tried and failed to break Comair and SAA's control of the domestic South African passenger air market. Recent examples include 1Time and Velvet Sky.

Smaller airlines like Civair [33] or NAC [34] normally operate charter flights, but sometimes have a few local routes. Federal Air [35] is well-known for operating small planes used by tourists to reach airstrips at remote game reserves.

A real adventure is flying with an old classic airliner. There are some tour operators offering such flights, mainly in the Gauteng region. One example is Rovos Air [36], a divison of Rovos Rail.

See also Discount airlines in Africa.


OR Tambo International in Johannesburg and Cape Town International are the two major international gateways for tourists and foreign visitors. All the larger airports in South Africa used to be state owned, but has been privatised and are now managed by the Airports Company of South Africa [37].

O. R. Tambo International[edit]

O.R. Tambo

JNB, +27 11 921-6262, [1]. Johannesburg, International Port of Entry (-26.140,28.250) edit

Located in Kempton Park, about 20km east of downtown Johannesburg, OR Tambo serves as the major hub for sub-Saharan aviation. More than 40 airlines operate scheduled flights. Everything you would expect from a large international airport is here: plenty of restaurants, shops and ATMs. The airport has completed a huge renovation and expansion project begun in advance of the 2010 World Cup.

The post-apartheid Government of National Unity renamed many older government buildings (including airports) to neutral geographical names, as part of its policy of promoting racial harmony and reconciliation. Later, the ANC cemented its control over the government and began a controversial project of renaming everything again to honour leaders (from all racial backgrounds) of the apartheid resistance. Thus, Jan Smuts International Airport was renamed to Johannesburg International Airport, and then renamed again to O. R. Tambo International Airport.

The airport is located at the intersection of the R21 and R24 freeways. From Johannesburg, follow the R24 east and take exit 46; from Tshwane, follow the R21 south and take exit 46.


The airport is organized into two main terminals, linked by a common atrium: Terminal A and Terminal B. Terminal A (the northern one) is for international flights and Terminal B (the southern one) is for domestic flights. Unfortunately, that distinction holds only for the gates which flights depart from. There is no consistent organization at OR Tambo as to which terminal one must check in at. For example, the vast majority of international check-in counters are in Terminal A, but South African Airways international passengers must check in at SAA's counters in Terminal B even though their flights will depart from Terminal A.

O. R. Tambo's directional signs are notoriously vague and confusing. Ask for directions whenever you feel lost. For example, when you first approach the check-in counters in Terminal B, you will see many signs designating the counters by numbers, but no signs indicating which airlines correspond to which numbers. Some of the signs in Terminal A imply that the fastest way to the Car Rentals area is to walk through the parkade at ground level, which is incorrect (it is very easy to get lost in the parkade if you follow the signs literally). The easiest way is to use the escalators on the western side of the airport's main atrium to descend into a well-lit underground corridor that runs under the access road, then use the escalators there to ascend into the Car Rentals lobby area within the parkade.


When planning connections to domestic destinations within South Africa, note that O. R. Tambo lacks a direct link between the secure arrival area of Terminal A and the secure departure area of Terminal B. There are no direct airside transfers. Like the United States, you will have to pass through customs and immigration if O. R. Tambo is your first stop in SA (even if you are merely connecting to another country). Also, note that Terminal B does not have jetways or aircraft parking spots within walking distance for the domestic E Gates. In other words, the E Gates are actually a tarmac-level bus terminal for buses that take you to aircraft sitting at very remote parking spots.

Thus, to be assured of a smooth connection from international to domestic SA flights [38], you need to incorporate a minimum of at least two hours to pass through immigration control upon arrival at Terminal A, retrieve your baggage and go through customs, check your baggage again at the Connecting Flights counter on your left after exiting Customs, walk over to Terminal B departures, pass through Terminal B security control, and then walk to your gate. You may also have to take a lengthy bus ride if your aircraft was assigned to an E gate.

Finally, the Connecting Flights counter is small and understaffed and lines tend to accumulate quickly. It's not a mere bag drop. They will have to look at your papers just as when you checked in. Since you will have to pass through Terminal B security anyway, it may be faster to take your baggage over to the domestic check-in counters if the lines are long and your connection period is very tight.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that some of the airlines, like Kulula, do not allow check-in staff to accept money of any kind at the check-in desk. If you are planning on checking in with a domestic airline like Kulula and will need to check in excess or overweight baggage, you must include another 10 minutes to walk over to the separate cashier desk to pay baggage fees and obtain a receipt.


The terminals themselves are heavily secured with 24-hour CCTV coverage and patrols by both private security and the South African Police Service. As with most international airports, the only major issues to worry about within the terminals are petty crimes like pickpocketing.

However, O. R. Tambo has quite a reputation for baggage handlers who pilfer an astonishing amount of personal belongings from checked baggage, despite periodic crackdowns. Use a good baggage lock, consider using a baggage wrapping service in the terminal before you check bags, and do not check baggage unnecessarily early (that is, more than two hours in advance of your flight's scheduled departure time). Anything of value, like jewellery or electronics, should go in your carry-on bag whenever possible.

As of 2013, baggage wrapping currently costs R60.00 at O. R. Tambo and is cash only. However, to accommodate tourists who forgot to convert enough of their home currency to rand to cover baggage wrapping fees, some services accept US dollars as payment. Even if you don't see a price posted in US dollars, it doesn't hurt to ask.

Furthermore, note that O. R. Tambo has a history of gangs identifying suitable targets in the terminals, following them towards their destinations on the freeways, and then ambushing them either on the freeways or at their destinations. Watch out for suspicious people following you when you leave the terminals by any form of ground transport (even escorted tour bus) and be prepared to divert to a police station, petrol station, or other appropriate public facility to seek assistance.


  • Airport Clinic and Travel Vaccination Centre, (Ground Floor, new domestic arrivals terminal), +27 (0)11 921-6609. GP, dentist, vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis  edit
  • ATMs, (Located at international arrivals and the shopping level in the domestic terminal). All of South Africa's major banks are represented, including Standard, Nedbank, and ABSA.  edit
  • Baggage storage, (Below international arrivals on the upper level of the underground parkade, near the main lift lobby.). Open 24 hours. R50 per item for the first day, R40 thereafter.  edit
  • Baggage wrapping in plastic, (Below international arrivals on the upper level of the underground parkade, near the main lift lobby.). Open 24 hours. R35 per item.  edit
  • Foreign exchange, (Located in international arrivals area and also east of main atrium). ABSA, American Express, Rennies, Travelex, and Master Currency all have outlets at OR Tambo.  edit
  • Mobile phone rental, (Located in Terminal A, ground level, just west of the main atrium). The Vodafone shop is the only one at the airport that rents mobile phones for a minimum per-day fee, plus a per-minute fee. This is of particular importance to tourists coming from countries like the U.S. where mobiles are traditionally locked to domestic networks, roaming on international affiliates of domestic networks is wildly expensive, and unlocking mobile phones to take foreign SIM cards is also either difficult, dangerous, expensive, or prohibited. The nearby MTN and CellO shops do not rent phones but will be happy to sell you phones or SIM cards, which the Vodafone shop can also do. Note that the Vodafone shop's computers are frequently down. Formerly, they had backup paper procedures by which they could still rent you a phone, but now they simply cannot rent a phone if the computer is not working.  edit
  • Post office, (Located in Terminal B, ground level, just east of the main atrium). For last-minute shipping and mailing needs. There is a small post box accessible 24 hours in front of the post office, but it is large enough only to accommodate letters and postcards; packages must be mailed at the counter when the post office is open.  edit
  • VAT Refunds, (Mezzanine level, International Departures, just after you have passed passport control), +27 (0)11 394-1117 (), [2].  edit

Car hire[edit]

Car hire companies are all located on level 0 in the multistory parking area opposite the domestic terminal.

  • Avis Car Rental, +27 (0)11 923-3660.  edit
  • Budget Rent A Car, +27 (0)11 390-1924.  edit
  • Europcar, +27 (0)11 394-8831.  edit
  • Hertz Car Hire, +27 (0)11 390-2066.  edit
  • Imperial Car Hire, +27 (0)11 390-1481.  edit
  • Khaya Car Rental, +27 (0)11 390-2347.  edit
  • National Car Rental, +27 (0)11 394-3580.  edit
  • Sizwe Car Rental, +27 (0)11 390-2340.  edit
  • Tempest Car Rental, +27 (0)11 394-8626.  edit
  • First Car Rental, +27 (0) 11 390 2342.  edit
  • Xtreme Car Rental, +27(0) 11 394 0771.  edit

Airport transfers/shuttles[edit]

O. R. Tambo is connected to Gauteng's rapid transit rail service, Gautrain. Unlike Gauteng's existing commuter rail system (that is, Metrorail), Gautrain was designed from the ground up to attract upper middle class commuters and tourists, with new rapid transit stations and train sets.

A trip from the airport to the popular Sandton central district will set you back about R130 but it is well worth the money if you are traveling to Sandton and beyond. Pre-paid cards are used to access the service and are available at the station in the airport either st the ticket office of the automated machines which accept cash and major credit cards. The train travels at 160km/h and the trip to Sandton is a safe, speedy 15 minute ride. Gautrain buses connect passengers to the areas surrounding each station. Payment for the bus service is made via the same pre-paid card used on the train and costs R6 per trip.

Gautrain is extremely clean and safe, as the trains and stations are still relatively new and are heavily patrolled and monitored by Gautrain's own dedicated security force. Be aware that chewing gum is NOT permitted on the carriages. The service can be used to connect to major centres within Johannesburg and Pretoria but keep in mind the last train departs at 8:30 pm. The routes are limited and therefore simple to understand and are displayed widely at the stations and on board the trains.

Many tour operators offer transport/shuttles to and from the airport. Having someone who knows the area drive you around will give you more peace of mind.

Scheduled services[edit]
  • Magic Bus, (Located in the multi-storey parkade opposite the domestic terminal, but you can also email or phone them and request that you be met at the gate when your flight arrives), +27 11 394-6902 (, fax: +27 11 466-2565), [3]. Every two hours 08:00-18:00. Offers a scheduled service to most major hotels in Johannesburg/Sandton To Sandton: adults R120, children R90.  edit
Unscheduled services, book in advance[edit]
  • Deeprift tours and transfers, +27 (0)824764175 (, fax: +27 (0)86 5529334), [4]. Shuttles from OR Tambo and Lanseria Airports to anywhere in South Africa.  edit
  • Airport Shuttle, +27 (0)861 748-8853 (, fax: +27 (0)86 501-0715), [5]. To Sandton:R275 for max 3 passengers, R390 for max 7 passengers. To Sun City: R1200 max 5 passengers and a range of options in between.  edit
  • Commalong Tours & Transfers, + 27(0) 82 926 0646 (24 Hours) (+27 (0)82 926-0646, , fax: n/a), [6]. 24 Hours. Door to door transfers, conference transport solutions, party busses, bachelor tours, soweto guided tours. Caters for all group sizes. To Sandton: R550 for up to 3 passengers, R50 for any additional passengers.  edit
  • Your Choice Tours and Shuttles, +27 (0)845804802, [7]. 24Hours.  edit
  • Cab4U, +27 (0)725438849 (), [8]. 24Hours. Mini-buses and cars available for any number of passengers and luggage.  edit


  • Always On Wi-Fi, +27 (0)11 575-2505, [9]. Simply connect to the access point and you will be given the opportunity to pay for access by credit card. From R15 for 10 minutes or R60 for 100MB.  edit

Cape Town International[edit]

CPT/FACT, +27 (0)21 937-1200, [10]. Cape Town, International Port of Entry (-33.960,18.600) edit

The second biggest airport in South Africa. It is located around 20km east from the city centre of Cape Town. It is easily reached by all National Roads and is situated directly at the N2 near Bellville. There is also a bus connection to the Civic Center in downtown Cape Town which runs several times per hour.

Unlike Johannesburg, Cape Town has only a handful of jetways and most flights must use airstairs on the tarmac.

A growing number of international airlines fly directly into CPT. Among them are:

South African Airways operates some international routes from CPT, but for the majority of destinations you will have to fly via Johannesburg. Some flights offered are to Frankfurt, London, Gaborone, and few cities in Namibia.

Note that CPT is located just north of the notorious Cape Flats area of Cape Town. The Cape Flats includes areas like Nyanga and Mitchells Plain, which are notorious for some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Even if you are staying south of the Cape Town CBD in areas like Hout Bay or Kommetjie, do not attempt to save time or go sightseeing in the Cape Flats by using Google Maps to plan creative shortcuts across the Cape Flats on major corridors like Lansdowne Road or Eisleben Road. It is far safer to take the N2 west as far as Athlone before turning south on the M3 or M5.


  • ATMs, (In all terminals).  edit
  • Baggage storage, (In the Domestic Arrivals terminal), +27 (0)21 936-2884.  edit
  • Clinic, (Southern Office Block), +27 (0)21 936-2277.  edit
  • Foreign exchange, (Located in International Arrivals and Departure Terminals). Master Currency and ABSA  edit
  • VAT Refunds, (International Departures, between passport control and the gates), +27 (0)21 934-8675 (), [11].  edit

Car hire[edit]

  • Avis, +27 (0)21 934-0330.  edit
  • Budget, +27 (0)21 934-3180.  edit
  • Europcar, +27 (0)21 934-4750.  edit
  • Hertz, +27 (0)21 934-3913.  edit
  • Imperial, +27 (0)21 934-8600.  edit
  • National Alamo, +27 (0)21 934-7499.  edit
  • Tempest, +27 (0)21 934-8650.  edit
  • Dollar Thrifty, +27 (0)21 934-0266.  edit
  • First Car Rental, +27 (0) 21 934 7499.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • City Lodge, (Right next to the airport), +27 (0)21 934-7303, [12].  edit


  • Always On Wi-Fi, +27 (0)11 575-2505, [13]. Simply connect to the access point and you will be given the opportunity to pay for access by credit card. From R15 for 10 minutes or R60 for 100MB.  edit

Kruger Mpumalanga International[edit]

MQP/FAKN, +27 (0)13 753-7500, [14]. Kruger National Park, International Port of Entry (-25.390,31.100) edit This airport is located just a 30 minute drive outside the Kruger National Park.

Distances to Kruger National Park entrance gates 76 km to Phabeni Gate 63 km to Malelane Gate 82 km to Kruger Gate 40 km to Numbi Gate


Sleep[edit][add listing]

King Shaka International Airport[edit]

DUR/FADN (durban), +27 (0)31 451-6758, [15]. Durban, International Port of Entry (-29.970,) edit

King Shaka International Airport, 35km north of Durban, is served by all major South African airlines. Flights to most cities are operated. A number of smaller cities are however not connected from here. Also provides flights to Mauritius

International flights take place to Mauritius (Air Mauritius), Dubai (Emirates) and Swaziland (with Swazi Express Airways [39]).

King Shaka International opened in May 2010. The old Durban International was deemed to small to handle the increase in commercial and tourist trade through Durban.

Gateway International Airport[edit]

PTG/FAPB, +27 (0)15 288-0122. Polokwane, International Port of Entry (-23.850,29.460) edit

Bloemfontein Airport[edit]

BFN/FABL, +27 (0)51 407-2240, [16]. Bloemfontein, International Port of Entry (-29.090,26.300) edit

East London Airport[edit]

ELS/FAEL, +27 (0)43 706-0306, [17]. East London (-29.090,26.300) edit

George Airport[edit]

GRJ/FAGG, +27 (0)44 876-9310, [18]. George (-34.010,22.380) edit

Kimberley Airport[edit]

KIM/FAKM, +27 (0)53 851-1032, [19]. Kimberley (-28.800,24.770) edit

Lanseria International Airport[edit]

HLA/FALA, +27 (0)11 659-2750 (), [20]. Johannesburg, International Port of Entry (-25.940,27.930) edit

Mainly for smaller charter, cargo and classic airlines flights, it is in fact busier than Johannesburg International and sees more air traffic. [40] is currently flying a commercial flight to Cape Town from the airport.

Port Elizabeth Airport[edit]

PLZ/FAPE, +27 (0)41 507-7319, [21]. Port Elizabeth (-33.980,25.620) edit

Upington Airport[edit]

UTN/FAUP, +27 (0)54 337-7900, [22]. Upington (-28.400,21.260) edit

Rand Airport[edit]

QRA/FAGM, [23]. Johannesburg  edit Primarily a business and general aviation airport.

Grand Central Airport[edit]

GCJ/FAGC, [24]. Johannesburg  edit Located just off the N1 between Johannesburg and Pretoria this airport is primarily a business and general aviation airport.

Pilanesberg Airport[edit]

NTY/FAPN, +27 (0)14 552-1261, [25]. Pilanesberg, International Port of Entry  edit Located just outside Sun City provides daily flights to and from Johannesburg

Pietermaritzburg Airport[edit]

Phone number: +27 033 392 3100 Pietermaritzburg Pietermaritzburg Airport offers daily flights to Johannesburg. Service can be slightly erratic or heavily booked, so keep that in mind when booking important flights.

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