Review: Federal Air Lounge Johannesburg Airport

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Our two safari destinations in South Africa were Singita Boulders in Sabi Sands Reserve, and Singita Lebombo in Kruger National Park. Getting to & from these parks required taking three flights — one from Johannesburg to Sabi Sands, one from Sabi Sands to Kruger, and one from Kruger to Johannesburg.

We flew Federal Air for all these flights, so in this post I’ll review their lounge in Johannesburg, and in the next installment I’ll review the actual flights.

What Is Federal Air?

Federal Air is an airline based at Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport that operates flights primarily to & from remote bush lodges. They have a fleet of 18 props, including five different types of planes (all three of our flights were operated by three different types of planes, which was pretty cool).

While there are a couple of airlines offering this, Singita works with Fed Air, so that’s what we flew. I’ll talk about the booking process and pricing in the next installment, but in this installment wanted to talk about the check-in process and also the lounge they have for all passengers at Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport.

Getting To The Federal Air Terminal In Johannesburg

Our Federal Air flight from Johannesburg to Sabi Sands was scheduled to depart at 10:30AM, and we were told to be at check-in by 9AM. The chart we were sent for finding Federal Air check-in seemed super straightforward, though ended up being more challenging than we thought.

Here’s the map:

The key detail that was omitted was that their counter is actually in the bus terminal. If we had known this it would have been super easy, but when the map kept leading us there we figured we had to be in the wrong place, and then looked elsewhere.

Johannesburg Airport bus terminal

Once in the bus terminal, there’s a Federal Air counter in there, where an airline representative was waiting.

Johannesburg Airport bus terminal

Federal Air counter Johannesburg Airport

This isn’t actually where Federal Air’s flights depart from, though. Rather this is just where they pick you up. So the Federal Air representative took us outside into a van and drove us 10 minutes to the Federal Air terminal. While they also depart from OR Tambo Airport, they depart from exactly the opposite side of the field, so it’s quite a distance.

Federal Air shuttle Johannesburg Airport

The Federal Air departure area was super charming. There was an outdoor check-in area where we were promptly checked in.

Federal Air lounge Johannesburg Airport

We were presented with “boarding passes” for our flight, though in reality these were just generic cards for “Flight No. 2.”

Fed Air boarding pass

Federal Air Lounge Johannesburg Airport

Federal Air has a lounge for all passengers. This is essentially their departure gate as well, since they just have this one area you depart from.

The lounge was super cute — when we first got there we were the only ones.

Inside the entrance and to the right was a small room, which had a sliding door that could be closed. There was a couch and several chairs.

Federal Air lounge Johannesburg Airport

Federal Air lounge Johannesburg Airport

Then next to that were a couple of couches and rows of chairs.

Federal Air lounge Johannesburg Airport

Then the largest part of the lounge was next to that (inside the entrance and to the left).

Federal Airlines lounge Johannesburg Airport

Federal Airlines lounge Johannesburg Airport

Federal Airlines lounge Johannesburg Airport

As you can see, the boarding gate was at the very end of the lounge.

Federal Air boarding gate Johannesburg Airport

They do sort of have a security checkpoint here, though not really. They ask you to put your bags through the x-ray, though it doesn’t seem the metal detector you walk through works. For what it’s worth, there was no security of any kind at the other airports we flew from (one of which was a dirt strip).

Fed Air security Johannesburg Airport

The lounge also had a really beautiful outdoor area.

Federal Airlines lounge outside area Johannesburg Airport

Federal Airlines lounge outside area Johannesburg Airport

The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful, so this was the perfect place to sit.

Federal Airlines lounge outside area Johannesburg Airport

Federal Airlines lounge outside area Johannesburg Airport

The lounge also had a gift shop.

Federal Airlines lounge gift shop Johannesburg Airport

Then there were well maintained bathrooms, though there were no showers (which obviously wasn’t a big deal for us, but if someone was coming off a long haul flight I could see it being more significant).

Federal Airlines lounge bathroom Johannesburg Airport

The lounge also had a selection of complimentary drinks and snacks. Snacks included all kinds of muffins, cookies, pastries, yogurt, etc. Then to drink there was coffee, soft drinks, water, and more.

Federal Airlines lounge snacks Johannesburg Airport

Federal Airlines lounge snacks & drinks Johannesburg Airport

Federal Airlines lounge snacks Johannesburg Airport

We had some coffee, cookies, and yogurt.

Federal Airlines lounge coffees Johannesburg Airport

Federal Airlines lounge snacks Johannesburg Airport

Everyone working in the lounge was super friendly. At around 10AM the Beechcraft 1900 that would be taking us for our first flight was towed right in front of the lounge.

Fed Air Beechcraft 1900

We’ll pick up there in the next installment.

Federal Airlines Lounge JNB Summary

What an awesome departures experience when you consider this is something that all passengers have access to (then again, flying with them isn’t cheap). This lounge had local charm, an awesome outdoor sitting area, friendly employees, and some pretty decent snacks.

While fares on Federal Air are expensive, there are all too many small airlines to luxury destinations that offer a no-frills experience (like flying to the Four Seasons Desroches Island). So it’s nice to see an airline that actually tries to make the experience special for passengers.

This is certainly all more than I was expecting flying with a small airline to a reserve.

  1. Hi Ben

    As a patriotic South African I’m following your reports of your trip to SA with great interest. So far it looks like a case of so far so good! I hope the rest of your trip lived up to your expectations or exceeded them. It is nice to see Federal Airlines tries to give you a taste of the Bushveld experience while you are still in Johannesburg. Looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Reminds me of Cape Air. From White Plains, NY, they fly tiny 8 passenger turbo prop planes to a couple of destinations in the northeast. Check in is in a hangar next to the main terminal, and there’s no security (other than ground staff telling an elderly passenger she couldn’t keep her walking stick with her in the cabin because “it could be used as a weapon”). Unfortunately the passenger lounge is extremely bare bones compared to Federal’s. At least they have free coffee.

    But nothing can beat sitting right behind the pilots, with no door between the cockpit and the cabin. While on the ground, when they wanted to cool down, they just opened their windows and let the prop wash ventilate the cabin. So cool!

  3. Really great looking terminal/lounge.

    May just be me, but you seem to overuse ‘cute’. A travel blog obviously does not need to be literary highbar, but perhaps expand the adjectives. Constructive criticism.

  4. What would be really nice is if your dad would write a first person blog post of the trip, or at least part of the trip. He seems like a super guy!

    Glad your mom is doing well. Thanks for sharing that.

  5. It looks like Federal Air is using a map that’s at least 10 years old.

    I would expect better considering the price one is paying…

  6. TravelInWilly, that map looks perfectly accurate to me. I’m based at CPT but I regularly travel through JNB. In fact that map would be incorrect 10yrs ago

  7. I’m doing the same Singita combo next month with the wife and really looking forward to it. On the other hand I’m eager to read the rest of your trip report but then again thinking it might be a spoiler (like I haven’t already spent countless of hours researching it before…). Life is hard like that.

    But, no bubbly in the lounge?

  8. Hi Ben,
    when you get to the actual safari part, would you mind sharing who did you book this safari with? which agent or agency you used? how satisfied you were with their services? unless you booked directly with Singita?

  9. @Lucky – Is this the Federal Air facility located between Solenta and GoldenWings on the Northern Perimeter Road? I’ve seen it a hundred times from the outside (I’ve done multiple C-checks at both Solenta and GW AMOs over the years), but never realised it was so nice inside.

    Interestingly, despite its upmarket brand, Fed Air is owned by the same Solenta Group that also controls FastJet (the incredibly unprofitable so-called pan-African LCC).

  10. We go at least once a year to Singita. Glad to see you stayed at the intercontinental. It’s what we do to rest like you did before going on safari as this is full on. Federal air will actually pick you up at the hotel. Not sure why you weren’t told this.
    The room with the sliding doors is the lounge for the Singita/ Federal Air jet service to the Singita airstrip Sabi Sands. This a great addition to the Singita experience. The flight time is only 30 minutes. It is a direct flight i.e no stop offs.

  11. I spent most of that trip report thinking they serviced only two airports. A place called Johannesburg and a place called Tambo and that you kept emphasising you could take the service at either Joburg or Tambo.

  12. Loved the review. I was there long ago and it looks the same. Looking forward to your review of the two Singita properties. I’m an avid Singita fan, loved Boulders.

  13. @Mike – I based my comment on the footprint of the international terminal. On the right, it shows an “arm” which I took to represent a single jetway at JNB airport that was shut down in 2006 or so to make way for building out the additional eight A gates on the north side of the airport; the gates that were added to support the 2010 World Cup match.

    Nothing I’ll fall on my sword over, certainly, but that’s the reason for my comment, and if I misread the map I’ll certainly stand corrected.

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