South Africa’s Largest Airport is Running Out of Fuel

PretoriaTravel, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
PretoriaTravel, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – Airlines are threatened with running out of jet fuel at Johannesburg Airport. The reason for the problems at South Africa’s largest airport is found in the province of KwaZulu Natal. 

OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg is South  Africa’s largest and most important airport. But it is precisely there that fuel is now running short.

As the South African portal Fin24 reports, this is due to flooding and damage to rail lines in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. This is where Durban is located, through whose port kerosene is imported. 

Not All Airlines Are Affected…


According to the report, not all airlines at the airport are equally affected. However, United Airlines already canceled a flight from Newark in the USA to Johannesburg on Sunday (April 24), referring to supply bottlenecks there.

According to the portal’s information, fuel reserves for about three more days were still available at OR Tambo Airport on Monday. At the end of March, there had already been a similar situation there. 

Swiss – Switzerland´s largest carrier – flight LX 283 from  Johannesburg to Zurich normally takes ten to ten and a half hours. On April 26, however, the journey from South Africa to Switzerland took more time.

This was because the Airbus A340-300 operated by the Swiss Lufthansa subsidiary had to make a stopover in Namibia’s capital Windhoek. 

Fuel Stop in Windhoek…


The passengers then arrived in Zurich not at just after 6 a.m. as usual, but at around 8:20 a.m. And this is how it will be on the route in the coming days as well. Because kerosene is currently in short supply at Johannesburg Airport, the plane has to make a refueling stop in Windhoek.

A Swiss spokeswoman confirms this and explains that this is now “planned up to and including the departure on May 3 from  Johannesburg”. 

The largest German carrier, Lufthansa, which connects Frankfurt and Johannesburg with Boeing 747-8s, is no different, although it does not give a date. “Until further notice, flight LH 573 will make a short refueling stop in Windhoek on its way to Frankfurt,” a spokesman said. 

“The cause of the currently restricted kerosene supply in  Johannesburg – which generally affects all airlines – is the damage to a pipeline caused by the extreme storm in the  South African coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal,” the spokesperson explains. 

With this said, it will be interesting to see which new connections will be established and how African airports will deal with more flights due to the fuel problems in Johannesburg.

Furthermore, it´s questionable how long the problems will hold on, how they will be fixed and how airlines can deal with them in the future.

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Alexander Ehrlich

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