The airport caters for 19-million passengers a year and employs about 18 000 people to keep its modern infrastructure and comprehensive services for local and international travellers running smoothly.
Since its opening in 1952, it has gone through two name changes – from Jan Smuts Airport to Johannesburg International in 1994, and in 2006 to honour the memory of struggle icon, Oliver Reginald Tambo.
In terms of passenger traffic, it is the busiest airport in Africa, tipping Cairo to the top spot.
It plays host to 47 airlines and is one of the few airports in the world that has direct, non-stop flights to six continents.
In the 2015 World Airport Awards, OR Tambo was named the best airport in Africa, with Cape Town coming in second, and King Shaka in Durban finishing third.
OR Tambo is able to handle up to 28-million passengers a year. The terminal development has been accompanied by upgrades of adjacent aprons and the road network feeding the airport.
The upgraded terminals offer an array of restaurants and shops, a duty-free retail mall for international travellers, and a conference centre and business support facility.
The terminals were designed to encourage natural movement of passengers, as well as to cater for the needs of disabled people, with lifts placed in the centre of the terminal for easy wheelchair access.
Pick-up and drop-off facilities directly outside the terminal ensure easy access for arriving and departing passengers.
Travellers are advised to arrive at the airport at least one-and-a-half hours before the departure time of their domestic flight, or three hours before the departure time of an international flight.
OR Tambo International is 24km from the Johannesburg city centre (on the R24 Airport Freeway) so it’s a quick drive by hotel shuttle, hired car or taxi to your destination.
- For a list of car rental companies, see Driving in South Africa.
Access to the airport precinct has been simplified dramatically, with all passenger drop-offs taking place on an upper roadway and all pick-ups on a lower roadway.
With more than 16 300 parking bays, there is ample parking at the airport, including multi-storey parkades, shade parking, carports and open parking. There are also long-term parking facilities at the Super South Gate. There are 24-hour shuttle buses from here to the terminal buildings.
An even easier option is to catch the Gautrain, the rapid rail system, which links OR Tambo with Sandton; from there, the Gautrain goes to Pretoria and to central Johannesburg. It takes around 13 minutes to get to the airport on this world-class transport system. The Gautrain station is above the central terminal building.
- For a quick guide and timetables, visit www.gautrain.co.za.
There are various regular shuttle services between the airport and Johannesburg, the most well-known one being the Magic Bus, which runs every two hours from 8am to 6pm. Contact +27 11 548 0800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are also other Acsa-accredited taxi and shuttle services – be sure to choose approved operators, who are required to display the Acsa logo on their vehicles. They can be found outside the arrivals area.
Medical, business facilities
The airport’s 24-hour medical clinic offers a wide variety of services to travellers, including emergency services. The public can see a physiotherapist, consult a doctor, have their eyes tested, visit the dentist – and those worried about the lines around their eyes can go for Botox injections.
The airport has wireless connectivity, with hotspots in the domestic terminal (retail-level restaurants; departures-level restaurants and boarding gates); and in international (airline lounges; international arrivals terminal; mezzanine-level restaurants; and the duty-free mall). Pay-as-you-go vouchers are available at the PostNet on the food court level.
If you don’t have a laptop or a wi-fi card, there are also internet cafes where you can use a fixed connection network. There are two facilities in the domestic terminal (one for the general public near the ATMs on the retail level and one for passengers only beyond the security gates); and one in the international departures terminal.
Other facilities include:
- Foreign exchange dealers: International terminal
- Tax refunds: International terminal (duty-free mall)
- Lock-up luggage: International terminal (basement)
- Postnet: Domestic terminal (retail level)
- Chapel and Muslim prayer room
For more information, including passenger services, flight information, weather, maps and business opportunities, visit Airports Company South Africa.
Updated 11 March 2016
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