Johannesburg Airport Bans Irregular Shaped Bags / Luggage

MAY 9 , 2019 UPDATE:


Bongiwe Pityi-Vokwana, General Manager of Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, says there is no need for passengers to be anxious or concerned that they will be turned away from check-in at OR Tambo.


The restriction is for round bags, bags with long hanging straps, and those without flat surfaces. These types of bags are the largest sources of jams in the baggage handling system, causing shut downs, delays and inconvenience to passengers and airlines. Soft sided bags that have one flat surface are not deemed to be irregular which therefore means that majority of safari bags are not considered to be irregular.


Passengers can remove straps, tape straps flat, or have the bags wrapped, incorporating a flat cardboard surface in the process.  The standard wrapping cost  is R90 (roughly US $7) per bag regardless of whether cardboard is needed to create a flat surface. They do not have credit card facilities and accept South African Rand, US dollars, Euros, and Pounds for payment. If you pay in a foreign currency they will determine the rate of exchange on the day.


The new luggage requirements are only applicable to departing bags from check-in. It is not applicable to bags that are through checked (in transit) to its final destination. For now, travelers won’t be turned away.


Global best practice indicates that large international airports are increasingly adopting acceptable baggage standards.


MARCH 29, 2019 UPDATE: 


As to light aircraft transfers for safari guests most most of the air taxi services remain unable to take bags with spines, push-in handles, wheels, or hard framed suitcases. If a travelers bag does not meet the new Johannesburg Airport requirements guests will need to have it wrapped in plastic at one of the many bag wrapping station in the Johannesburg Airport – regardless of onward destination. There is a fee for this service.


As of March 25, 2019:


New rules for checking in bags of irregular shape and size have come into effect at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport from today, Monday, March 25, 2019.


Effective today, March 25, 2019 only regular-shaped bags will be allowed at check-in counters. 


Bags must have at least one flat surface to be accepted on the check-in system.


Round or irregular-shaped bags will not be allowed at check-in counters.


Bags with longs straps will not be allowed at check-in counters.


Due to strict safari luggage limitations travelers are required to bring soft sided luggage, typically duffel bags without any framing, for their light aircraft transfers whilst on safari… We are busy checking with our industry partners on the ground in Africa and at the Johannesburg Airport to learn more about these new requirements and will update this blog post as information comes in.


Passengers trying to check-in bags that do not conform to these rules will be offered the option of having their baggage wrapped with one flat side at the airport approved baggage wrapping stations.


The new rules are aimed at preventing blockages and breakdowns in the baggage handling system caused by bags that do not have any flat surfaces or that have long straps or grips as per the International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines. The new rules have been agreed to after extensive consultations with the Airline Operators Committee (AOC) and other bodies representing airlines.


Ian Proctor
Ultimate Africa President
“I first visited Africa in the late 1980s. I came face to face with a wild elephant, and fell in love with being on safari! I made it my goal to create an African travel company that was all about authentic wildlife experiences. Many years later we are one of the top African travel companies in the Americas – known for arranging custom safaris to East and Southern Africa; personal trips, no cookie cutter stuff.”

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