Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo Airport Claims They Have Fuel, So Why Are Airlines Still Cancelling And Diverting Flights?

Kruger National Park, South Africa, October 2021 ©DansDeals
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Last October, I spent an exhilarating 9 days bouncing between South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia, from the Kruger to Victoria Falls and from Chobe to the Cape of Good Hope.

I was very impressed with Johannesburg’s kosher food scene, but the city itself seemed firmly stuck in the 3rd world, with no power, street signals or lights, or running water due to load shedding meant to conserve resources. Never mind the police stopping us asking for a bribe, something I’ve only encountered in Mexico previously, but that’s a story for another time…

For the past week, airlines have been cancelling flights to and from Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo Airport, the main hub of South Africa.

For example, United hasn’t operated a flight from South Africa since Sunday:


The airline blames this on fuel shortages:


The airport denied this several days ago, and said that they do have fuel and they are meeting demand:


But United isn’t alone and problems have continued.

Yesterday’s Delta flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta had a planned diversion to Ghana to refuel, adding several hours of travel time:


And yesterday’s Virgin Atlantic flight from Johannesburg to London had a planned diversion to Durban to refuel, adding some 5 hours of travel time:


It does seem oddly sporadic though, as other airlines have been able to complete their flights. Perhaps they had better agreements in place? Or perhaps they just knew who they were supposed to bribe?

Have you been affected by the cancellations and diversions from South Africa?

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23 Comments On "Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo Airport Claims They Have Fuel, So Why Are Airlines Still Cancelling And Diverting Flights?"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.


@dansdeals this is another reason I won’t fly to any third or second world countries.


The wording of the airport’s tweet is interesting in that they say they have enough to meet “current demand”, if current means after all the cancellations/diversions then it’s possible they aren’t saying the whole truth and there isn’t enough supply to support pre-flood demand.


Dan, I would love a trip report of your Africa trip. Like many others, I snagged those United J award tickets to CPT for later this year. Would love to hear about your experience in South Africa in particularly.


The root of the fuel shortages is flooding near Durban. The trains which deliver fuel to JNB have resumed, so this should ease within the coming days.

Dan\'s the man

They said they are meeting demand. There’s no airlines are flying there so demand is very low and they are meeting the current demand!


what % of your trip was financed using miles/points? would love to recreate a similar itinerary but the cash outlay has prevented me from doing so.


If if 2 major airlines are cancelling and 2 others are diverting to refuel, either the airport doesnt have enough fuel or they are price gouging for the supply they have. Seems sketchy.


Seems to be an USA thing. Airport is quite busy and EU and domestic carriers are flying.
I flew DL/KL because I saw no benefit of ATL if I already needed to connect.
UA family members were rebooked on Swiss.


We’re stuck in JNB due to United flight cancellations. United rebooked us for this Wednesday, but reports are that United isn’t flying to and from JNB until May 14th. What are our options? Even a full refund isn’t enough to book a one-way on another airline. United will only rebook us on their flights which are currently cancelled. The only alternative route they are offering is through Frankfurt, which they doesn’t have availability (enough seats for our family) for at least the next week plus. @Dan do you have any ideas in terms of what our options are, or how we can get United to get us home sooner?


@dansdeals do you have any advice for us?


My friend and his family were on the last flight out on Sunday. 2 adults booked in Business and kids in Economy

When he got to airport was told that they will be canceling the future flights and need all business seats for the crew that just came in and need to return, they forced them to downgrade to Economy, offered him $1500 voucher per ticket and refund difference in price, After lots of arguing they granted one C seat.

Wife sat in C and Midway through the flight he wanted to swap seats, flight attendant advised that he cannot do that and must immediately leave business class, when he explained the situation and that he paid over $5k for a seat he didn’t get and does not feel like leaving, they told him if he doesn’t leave he will be arrested upon landing, he obviously returned to Economy. Great service