Review: South African Airways Baobab Lounge Domestic, Johannesburg, South Africa


While we connected through O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, we were able to access the South African Airways Baobab Domestic Lounge. A lounge after a long international flight is always appreciated and the SAA Baobab experience was enjoyable despite the long distances we had travelled.

This post is one chapter on our trip to South Africa, a Safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya and Mauritius. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: South African Airways Baobab Premium Lounge Domestic, OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa

“Like many aspects of South African Airways, the Baobab Lounge Domestic at OR Tambo International Airport offers a terrific spacious place to relax before your connecting flight.”

This review is about the South African Airways Baobab Domestic Lounge at O.R. Tambo International Airport. For the other South African Airways lounge at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannsberg, please see our review of the South African Airways Baobab International Lounge.

Checking into South African Airways:

More difficulties with flight ticketing continued…

After arriving off our South African Airways Washington Dulles – Dakar, and Dakar – Johannesburg, we cleared customs, bypassed the closed SAA Arrivals lounge, and headed over to the South African Airways connections desk.

We were traveling on to Cape Town International on a separate ticket purchased on SAA via the SAA website. We had to change the dates of this separate ticket after our United Airlines Chicago – Sao Paulo flight was cancelled due to mechanical reasons. After presenting our passports and reservation, the agent seemed to have difficulty with the booking. One boarding pass spits out of the printer, despite both being on the same reference number, and we are told “You’ll have to go upstairs to check in to get the manager to hit the override button.”

With a bit of groan, we checked our only remaining bag (since the others had gotten lost en-route) and left the connections desk. We changed some money and headed upstairs to the dark Terminal B Departures hall. The hall, built sometime ago when large monolithic concrete buildings were the in vogue style, was dark and dimly lit. We found the SAA priority check in desk area for business class and Star Alliance Gold in the Terminal B departures hall. It looks brighter in these photos than it actually was. 

OR Tambo Johannesburg Domestic Check In Desks
South African Airways Business Class / Star Alliance Gold Check In

After presenting the passports and reservation and explaining the “override” story. We were told “One of your tickets did not go through. You’ll have to go over to ticketing to get it sorted out.” It indicated your credit card was declined. 

Getting increasingly bored (and honestly irritated) with this being our eighth unnecessary stop combined with all the luggage issues) with the standing at the counter waiting game, we headed over to the ticketing counter to sort the mess out. 

Over to the Ticketing Counters to use a “different” charge machine

We learned that one ticket (despite both passengers on the same PNR) did not finalize when we made the change by phone in Washington 36 hours ago. An administrative note on file indicated that the American Express credit card was declined. Further to this, the administrator notes on file indicated that SAA had allegedly emailed and SMS’ed purchaser’s account. Of course, neither message made it through to our smartphones and we had previously called Amex to advise them of our travel plans. Keeping in mind that the SAA website was unable to accommodate a simple electronic ticket change with a ticket purchased through their initial point of sale. If this was travelling in Africa in 2013, we were going to be in for a bumpy trip. 

After about 15 minutes the ticket agent was able to sort us out by running through the second charge on an old fashioned credit card embossing imprinter (click-click) of $161 to change the ticket. Of course, they couldn’t issue a boarding pass at the ticket counter. That would be too easy. “You’ll have to go back over to check in.”

We both had some steam coming from our ears by this point dealing with this at the end of an overseas flight, but we were frankly too tired to put up a fuss. Looking back in hind sight, it was more the fact that we had these inconveniences after an overseas flight, being re-directed from person to person without any real answers.

Locating the South African Airways Baobab Lounge:

We returned to check in. Our domestic boarding pass finally printed and we headed off to the smaller Terminal A gates and the domestic South African Airways Baobab Lounge.

The lounge itself was located along with all others immediately above security. It was accessed using an tiny 5 passenger elevator that smelled like the water closet of a London pub – sticky floors, an odour of stale cigarettes and filth all over the floor.

Accessing the SAA Baobab Lounge:

The lounge was accessed today courtesy of the class of service of our Star Alliance business class ticket. The lounge can also be accessed for those with a Star Alliance Gold Card, regardless of travel class.

South African Airways also affords access to those travelling on South African Airways Business Class, South African Airways Gold and higher (Platinum and Platinum Elect), and South African Airways Lifetime Platinum members. If you happen to be a credit card holder of the SAA Nedbank Premium Card and Voyager Credit Card issued by Ecobank, you also get access.

South African Airways Baobab Domestic Premium Lounge Entrance

Inside the South African Airways Baobab Domestic Lounge:

We were give access and invited into the lounge. There were only two domestic flights remaining for the day. As a result, there was lots of space here at the moment but food and beverage was pretty packed up for the night.

The lounge itself had an earth tone theme going. While this may make the place a little dated, I actually think that the earth tones fit well with the African Landscape themes.

Spacious places: South African Airways Baobab Lounge
Plenty of Space to Relax
A Relaxing Experience

Food and Beverage:

We had a small glass of wine poured in a regular water glass as they had packed up all the wine glasses for the evening.  There appears to be light sandwiches here when you visit during more regular operating hours but tonight we just had scraps available for us.

The Bottom Line: South African Airways Domestic Lounge:

While we visited towards the end of a regular day of operations, this lounge was more than I expected. It was large and had ample places to sit. There was a fair combination between loungers and tables, along with enough quiet corners in order to relax. It’s always interesting to see a country’s flagship lounge for their flag carrier and this location was no exception.

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