Africa’s biggest airport is revving back into life as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

South Africa’s OR Tambo International Airport, near Johannesburg, expects 210,000 flights to take to the spring skies over Africa, in September, as the country eases the lockdown to level two. This is merely 12% of the pre-COVID-19 traffic at the airport; in May a mere 575 passengers left OR Tambo International Airport on repatriation flights.

Airlines – many of them on their knees as COVID-19 restictions virtually shut down international travel – have booked 2500 slots for planes to take off and land in September.

“We believe that we are on the road to recovery and that demand will accelerate with Spring weather and growing trust that we are applying health protocols rigorously and consistently,”says General Manager of OR Tambo International fBongiwe Pityi-Vokwana

How Airlines Park Thousands Of Planes

Ninety-five per cent of flights are taking off on time, but the few delays are largely down to passengers forgetting to complete their pre-flight health checks.

“We have found that about 30% of travellers arrive at the airport without having completed the required health questionnaire. This can cause unnecessary delays while people fill in the questionnaire. We appeal to passengers to ensure that they complete the form before they leave for the airport,” says Bongiwe Pityi-Vokwana


The airport’s response to the pandemic included mass screening of 6 000 employees in April and May, which was made possible by the collaboration of the National Department of Health. Since Level 5 of the lockdown, a total of 110 employees out of 38 000 normally working around the airport have tested positive for Covid-19. The airport ecosystem, which has had a 100% recovery rate,currently has six active cases where the individuals are in isolation.

Despite the rigours of the lockdown, OR Tambo International Airport saw 1 555 repatriation and evacuation flights that carried more than 50 000 passengers since April.