OR Tambo’s pilfering baggage handlers make global news

By Alec Hogg

Just released is 2017’s annual survey of the World’s Best and Worst Airports compiled by Sleepinginairports.net, which asks travellers to rate airports on aspects like gate seating, food options, staff and cleanliness.

Juba in South Sudan is rated the world’s worst airport, hardly a surprise when the site tells us the entire terminal facilities are in tents with rotting plywood floors and no air conditioning to offset the 40-degree heat. Next worst is Jeddah because of “lazy and incompetent staff” with the influx of Haj pilgrims lengthening already long queues at immigration. Nigeria’s Port Harcourt is third due to “aggressive corruption”.

Although no SA airport is in the Top 10, Cape Town, Joburg and Durban were rated best in Africa. That happy fact never made it into The Economist’s report on the survey. Instead, the mag lashes OR Tambo Airport’s pilfering baggage handlers: “Our correspondent grumbles ‘Despite packing absolutely nothing of value in my checked bags they are regularly rifled through and were twice slashed open (though they weren’t even locked) Once I found someone else’s sunglasses case in my bag; mislaid, perhaps, by luggage handlers in a looting frenzy.”

Perception is reality. In literally dozens of flights through ORT, I’ve never had a problem. But I guess there’s a good reason why the check-in area has so many plastic covering vendors.

(Comments from readers)

Hi Alec
I have taken literally hundreds of flights through ORT without ever plastic-wrapping my luggage. So far I have not had a single problem. Let’s hope it continues!
The Economist has been negative SA for years, on every front. It is (almost) a colonial thing. I have been through ORT Int at least 20 times in the past 5 years and have never had a problem
Hi Alec,

I always thought a solution to the airport ‘pilferage’ problem would be to put one way (toughened) glass at the carousels at most SA airports.

That way the passengers who are waiting could watch the baggage handlers at work while the baggage handlers could not see who is watching them offload.

Obviously, this would only be feasible at those airports where the offloading is done in close proximity to the carousel, but I’m sure that the fact that they are being watched by the very people they want to rip off should level the playing field somewhat!!


Alasdair Farquharson