Unheated Airports

Yesterday we flew back from our wonderful holiday in Cape Town. The flight to Jo’burg was uneventful and on time but it was absolutely freezing in the O.R. Tambo International airport!

At first I thought that once we’d get through security and passport control we’d get into the warm part of the building.  But no!  Apparently the airport is not heated.
The airport is air conditioned when it’s warm outside and is very upscale and modern but for some unknown reason a lot of dwellings in South Africa are unheated.  (Maybe the South African readers out there can enlighten me on this [ahem] blatant oversight.)

The unheated airport reminded me of the time I visited one of my doctoral students (who’s long since graduated and gone on to great success) who was spending three months in Joburg as a researcher on the Soul City project.  The high ceilings and block walls of his apartment were great in the summer, but made for an icebox when it was cold.  I spent most of the time in his apartment either in my bedroom under the covers or in front of his stove burners, which I put on high and then tented a blanket over my head to capture the heat and warm up my personal space.

In the airport it was so cold that:

  • Passport control persons were wearing full length wool felt coats, buttoned up to the top.
  • People were huddled under blankets, wearing mufflers, and stomping around in attempts to get warm.
  • People were cradling hot cups of tea and coffee like they were personal heaters.
  • We could see our breath inside the terminal.

When we finally boarded the airplane the captain announced it was 2 celsius. I wasn’t really sure what that meant but my refrigerator keeps a constant 3 celsius (according to the digital door panel) so I knew it was as cold or colder than my refrigerator. (Okay, I just looked it up — 2 celsius equals 36 fahrenheit.  One can usually see his or her breath in the upper 40s and below, depending on the humidity level.  Oh, the factoids you learn from this blog.)

The newspapers this morning spotlighted the cold front that moved through Joburg.  It even brought snow.

In the airport some people were dressed in shorts and flip-flops, or summer dresses, no doubt fresh off of their vacations in the northern hemisphere.  At least Thom and I had jackets and long pants.

Well, now that I’m home I’ll be writing several posts about all of our experiences on Ryan and Eric’s Most Excellent Adventure in Africa.



About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/benheine/3794765860/
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3 Responses to Unheated Airports

  1. Maureen Witte says:

    Winter in South Africa! Brrrr! Surprised that there’s no thought to central heating!

  2. Lulama says:

    No central heat Kimm – we’re like the British. What we do have is underfloor heating and fireplaces in homes. That tends to keep us warm – if the units are working 🙂

  3. kimanjome says:

    I’m reading your blog, although 4 years late. My daughter (18) and I had spent a month in South Africa before she went off to college, and our night of departure was the same date of which you write. Our Air France Airbus 380 flight was canceled because there was no de-icing equipment available. We were put in a very nice hotel for two available. We were put in a very nice hotel for two extra days, all meals paid (a la Eric) until a return flight to the US was found. Had it been Delta we would have not been so fortunate (a la Ryan). I’m a pretty savvy world traveler and I’ve now learned to book the codeshare partners which offer the better perks, so to speak–and it’s not the US big 3 airlines.

    Thank you for your blog. My husband (68) and I (54) are retired and want to spend a few years in Africa; in doing research I came across your blog. We thought Lusaka seemed like a reasonable place but with the rents so high it seems we’ll be looking elsewhere–the Hoedspruit area of South Africa and Swaziland (Ezulwini Valley) are both reasonably priced, have access to a PnP and SPAR, climates conducive to growing fruits and veggies, and have enough tourist and expat traffic to keep things lively.

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