British Airways operate the only oneworld branded and operated lounges at Johannesburg’s O. R. Tambo International Airport. Amongst the multitude of contract lounges used by various oneworld carriers, BA’s Galleries First and Club lounges are probably the best option for oneworld travellers.
Of course it isn’t that simple. For a start – within South Africa, British Airways services are operated by a franchise, Comair, which in turn has its own ‘SLOW’ series of lounges. Those lounges are only accessible by oneworld status members traveling on Comair operated services, so for most passengers the ‘SLOW’ lounge will be inaccessible.
Whilst walking down towards the BA lounges, you stumble across the first of several ‘third party’ operated lounges: this one apparently used by oneworld members Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways. This is odd since Qantas’ website says they use the Shongololo Lounge (also operated by Menzies).
Qantas used to direct their members to the South African Airways Baobab lounge (and indeed the oneworld website still does), but have presumably changed given the termination of their previous relationship with South African Airways, who now have a partnership with Virgin Australia.
In any case, walking further through the terminal will eventually get you to the two BA lounges at O.R. Tambo. These lounges are only open from 3pm – 9pm daily to accommodate BA’s twice daily services between Johannesburg and London’s Heathrow Airport. Eagle-eyed readers will spot the request on the sign for Comair passengers to visit the SLOW lounge.
After the entrance, the right-hand side of the lounge is designated as the ‘Galleries Club’ area for oneworld business class travelers and sapphire members.
Whereas the left-hand side is for oneworld first class travelers and emerald members. Given that British Airways are the only oneworld airline currently operating first class to Johannesburg, this separation of the lounges makes sense and is appreciated.
As a result, the lounge was not particularly crowded during our brief visit (and granted, we weren’t visiting just before a BA flight was scheduled to board).
An unimpressive array of hot and cold dishes were laid out, with nothing really standing out as deserving the ‘first class’ moniker of the lounge. BA’s Galleries First lounge in Heathrow T5 is significantly better catered in comparison, yet the lounges share a common name. This is not unusual though, compare for example the Qantas First Lounge Sydney and the Qantas First Lounge Auckland.
Just in case you want the make the world’s biggest airport lounge sandwich.
The curry smelled excellent but we passed on this in favour of eating on board our flight to Sydney.
A pot roast rounded out the hot meal options in the lounge.
There was more than enough seating available in the lounge but this may be due to the fact that the departures for the London flights were still 3-4 hours away at the time we visited.
The seating seemed very disjointed, nothing seemed to match or belong, it was very much a mishmash of styles. A minor note but worth pointing out all the same.
Towards the back of the lounge is more seating accompanied by a self-service bar area. A large wine display separates the dining and bar areas of the lounge.
Here we could find a coffee machine along with various dessert / snack type options.
In the centre of this area were a selection of South African wines along with fresh fruit juices.
Next to that was the adequate beer selection.
On the counter above the beer fridge was a selection of spirits. Usually, we would expect to see something more drinkable than Johnie Walker Red Label in a first class lounge.
Just in case you wanted to grab a few packets of crisps for the flight, there was quite a selection.
Also available in the lounge are greatly appreciated shower facilities.
The end of the lounge is rounded off with more seating and a poster reminiscent of some of British Airways’ earlier days.
For the busiest airport in Africa, lounge options, especially for oneworld carriers are reasonably ordinary. If you’re fortunate enough that your oneworld flight leaves within the opening hours of the BA lounges (for example, the Qantas flight to Sydney), we would suggest making a beeline to the BA lounges (as opposed to the third-party lounges the operating airline prefers to steer you towards).