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


We decided to get the most value out of our reward ticket by not ending our journey in South Africa, but in Mauritius. We added on South Africa as a stopover on our journey, and got the Mauritius part mostly for free. 

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 International, OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa

“Like many aspects of South African Airways, the Baobab Lounge International at OR Tambo International Airport offers a large windowed space to relax before your connecting flight.”

This review is about the South African Airways Baobab International 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 Domestic Lounge.

Checking into South African Airways:

We took the Gautrain back into the airport from our stay at the Hyatt Regency Johannesburg. Jo’Berg airport is a place from the 80’s. The place is dark and uninviting. Although the airport makes use of natural light, it is limited and selective in it’s approach. Furthermore, at night, there aren’t enough lamps to make up for the lack of natural illumination. 

Today’s check in was again at the South African Airways Premium Check in for Terminal B, the same place we checked in for our South African Airways Johannesburg – Cape Town domestic flight. We decided to go again without the plastic wrap on the bags, although many passengers leaving on regional flights were opting to take the plastic wrap for 60R ($6 USD). Check in was handled promptly and priority tagged bags were loaded without incident. 

We passed through security and passport control in a dark Terminal A. There were no Priority Lines available at security today so it was a short wait for us. Terminals A & B are located right next to each other and are really just at opposite ends of the airport. 

A long walk down a long concourse of shopping that rivalled Heathrow, Dubai or Singapore in size. It also had a curved storefront face, which although was interesting, made it difficult to see what stores or merchants were coming up next. The shopping included every type of African Souvenir, including camping gear and full zebra pelts. MrsWT73 got some “very very good” Clinique deals here at Big Five Duty Free. Some boutique South African wines Kanonkop, Meerlust and some 50+ other wines were available at the duty free so there was perhaps limited need to purchase and pack wines from the Cellar Door of wineries in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

O.R. Tambo International Departures Secure Side
JNB Departure Screens

Locating the South African Airways Baobab Lounge:

After some souvenir shopping, we headed over to the SAA Premium Baobab Lounge which was located at the end of the shopping strip. It’s officially described on the South African Airways website as being in Terminal A, International Departures Duty Free area, up the escalator on the left after Carol Boyes and then turn to the right-hand side. Unlike the the domestic lounge, the lounge is accessible by escalator and there is no stinky or cramped elevator to ride.

Accessing the SAA Baobab Premium 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 Premium Lounge 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 International Premium Lounge Entrance

Inside the South African Airways Baobab International Lounge:

The lounge was designed much like the airport, lots of different nooks and crannies that would take hours to explore. It was pretty busy when we were here, with some challenges locating a quiet seat. Most high value real estate around the windows were fully taken throughout our entire stay, so we ended up in the back.

Full Seating at the Lounge
Window Seating with Food Stations on the Right
A Busy Place Today

The lounge, like it’s South African Airways Cyobab Lounge Cape Town sister, also had excellent views of airside operations. We were able to get in views of the the Nigerian based Arik Air, B737-7 and the Queen of the Skies British Airways B747-4.

Arik Air B737
British Airways B747-4

Unfortunately, at the time of both our visits at around 8 AM when most regional flights were leaving, the lounge was at near capacity with few places to sit. The lounge appears to have wasted a lot of space in making it a full featured lounge, in that they scrimped on the actual lounge seating itself.

The lounge contained a business center, several stand alone tower internet computers, free wifi for 3 hours with a code, and separate tables, group workstations, and lounge chair areas. 

Table and Chairs Zone
Communal Business “Board Room” Long Table

There were some quieter areas in the back that were without windows and faced inwards towards the terminal. We ended up setting up camp there for the duration of our stay.

Vacancies at the Rear of the Lounge

Like our experiences in the other South African Airways Lounges, there was a kids area in the corner that was surprisingly empty of toys.

Kids Area

Food and Beverage:

We were visiting during breakfast hours as we had a 9:40 AM departure. We enjoyed some light breakfast food snacks today. The catered muffins and sandwiches that tasted like they’d traveled a long way to get to the table…

Breakfast Muffins
Breakfast Croissants and Sandwiches

Boarding was announced in the lounge and we proceeded to gate A21, which was approximately a 7 minute walk from the lounge. Boarding today was from a non gate position. Although there was a dedicated priority boarding line, it only got you onto the bus quicker where we waited until the bus filled up with all the other passengers.

The Bottom Line: South African Airways International Departures Lounge:

Overall, it was a more than adequate place to hang out for a few hours, but don’t miss out on the last minute shopping in favour of the lounge. The best part about the lounge was the large windows that offered great airside views.

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