Formerly known as Johannesburg International Airport, OR Tambo International Airport is a substantial airport located near the city of Johannesburg, South Africa.
OR Tambo International Airport serves as the primary gateway for both domestic and international travel to and from South Africa. It proudly claims the title of Africa’s busiest airport, accommodating an impressive annual influx of over 16 million passengers. The airport is also the central hub for South Africa’s largest domestic and international carrier, South African Airways (SAA), and several smaller regional airlines. Notably, the airport’s history dates back to 1952 when it was established as “Jan Smuts Airport,” two years following the passing of Jan Smuts. This marked the relocation of operations from the “Palmietfontein International Airport,” which had been facilitating European flights since 1945.
In 1994, the first renaming occurred as part of the newly reformed South African government’s national policy to refrain from naming airports after political figures. Subsequently, on October 27, 2006, it was rebranded once more, this time in honor of Oliver Tambo, the former President of the African National Congress (ANC).
The 1980s witnessed a significant international response to the United Nations sanctions imposed on South Africa in the fight against apartheid. Many countries ceased trading with South Africa during this period, leading numerous airlines to suspend their services to the airport. South African Airways, in particular, faced restrictions, being denied overflight rights in most African countries. With the end of apartheid, the airport, along with other international airports in South Africa, underwent a name change to adopt politically neutral names, accompanied by the lifting of these restrictions.
The airport features two parallel runways aligned in a north-south direction, complemented by an abandoned cross runway. Of note, the western runway stands out as one of the world’s longest international airport runways, extending over 4400 meters. The airport’s infrastructure encompasses six terminals, which can be categorized into three major areas: the international terminal, the domestic terminal, and the transit terminal.
OR Tambo International Airport offers travelers a wide array of amenities, including an abundance of shops, restaurants, and bakeries, catering to diverse culinary preferences. Passengers can comfortably relax, dine, and indulge in shopping to their heart’s content while awaiting their flights.
The airport also hosts the South African Airways Museum, a spacious facility filled with an impressive collection of South African Airways memorabilia. The idea for this museum originated with two aviation enthusiasts and eventually came to fruition in one of Jan Smuts International Airport’s buildings in 1987.
Over the years, OR Tambo International Airport has undergone substantial development and enhancement, solidifying its reputation as one of South Africa’s premier airports. Its exquisite design and decor contribute to its standing as one of the most welcoming and comfortable airports in the country.