Oliver Reginald Tambo International Airport (IATA code: JNB – ICAO code: FAOR) is South Africa’s largest airport and Africa’s largest airport in terms of passenger traffic with over 18 million people in 2010. The airport serves as a hub (along with Cape Town) for the national airline South African Airways (SAA) and smaller local airlines.
It is located at an altitude of 1,700 m in the Gauteng province (Transvaal), near the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg.
It was first named Jan Smuts International Airport (ICAO code: FAJS) in 1952 in honour of former South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts. It was renamed Johannesburg International Airport in 1994 before being named after Oliver Tambo (1917-1993), former President of the ANC, on 27 October 2006.
The airport was founded in 1952 near the Kempton Park township in the East Witwatersrand as ‘Jan Smuts Airport’, just two years after the death of the former South African head of government, Jan Smuts (1870-1950), partly in recognition of his actions in the Second Boer War and his role on the international stage, particularly in the First and Second World Wars. It replaced ‘Palmietfontein International Airport’ which had served Europe since 1945.
In the 1970s, the high-altitude Jan Smuts Airport was used for Concorde landing tests.
After the end of apartheid, the new South African government decided to stop naming airports after political figures and renamed it Johannesburg International Airport in 1994.
In 1996 it became the busiest airport in Africa and the second busiest in the Africa-Middle East region.
It was renamed O.R. Tambo International Airport on 27 October 2006 after Oliver Tambo (1917-1993), former president of the ANC1. This change thus contradicts the decision of Nelson Mandela’s government to depoliticise airport names in South Africa.
This airport was the departure point of Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771, which crashed on 12 May 2010 at Tripoli International Airport.
O.R Tambo International Airport is Africa’s busiest airport and the hub for all domestic and international flights to and from Johannesburg. The shortest route from Johannesburg airport to the city centre is 34 km and the journey in a taxi takes about 40 minutes with smooth traffic on the roads. So once the johannesburg airport taxi leaves the airport area behind, the driver will take the R24 motorway heading southeast towards the central area of Johannesburg. This motorway will gradually give way to the Albertina Sisulu Highway which runs through the heart of the city.