South African Airways has taken delivery of the first of four A350-900 aircraft, with the airline’s acting CEO Zuks Ramasia calling it “an important step-change as we continue to make progress to transform our business and return the airline to financial sustainability in the shortest time possible”.
The first two A350s to arrive are not brand new – SAA confirmed that they previously flew “with another carrier”, and are nine months old.
The airline did not confirm which carrier previously operated the aircraft, but a report by Flight Global said that “Cirium fleets data indicates that the jets are being taken from China’s Hainan Airlines”.
SAA tweeted a video of the A350 arriving into Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International airport.
We share the highlights of the arrival of our Airbus A350-900 which touched down at O R Tambo International Airport yesterday. Soon she’ll be taking to the skies. #LookUpSAA #SAA350 #SawubonaA350 #FlySAA pic.twitter.com/pdHYSr2QT7
— SAA – South Africa (@flysaa) November 1, 2019
The third and fourth A350s are being sub-leased from Air Mauritius, and will be delivered new from the Airbus factory in Toulouse. SAA says it intends to operate the four aircraft for a period of three years.
The first A350 to be delivered will enter service on SAA’s Johannesburg-New York JFK route, replacing the current A340-600, and the carrier said that “as additional aircraft are introduced, more routes will be operated by the Airbus A350-900s”.
SAA said that the aircraft is fitted with 339 seats – 309 in economy, and 30 in business class, which features “lie flat beds”. The first six rows of economy offer extra legroom.
The airline said that it would achieve around 25 per cent savings in fuel consumption and emissions with the delivery of the new aircraft, and that the move would “reduce SAA’s exposure to South Africa’s recently imposed Carbon Tax because it is more environmentally friendly and help it achieves global emissions offset mechanism targets for international aviation requirements”.
Commenting on the delivery Ramasia said:
“We welcome the first A350 home on South African soil. The introduction of the A350s offers a new beginning for the airline and will contribute to the airline’s operational efficiencies, and get SAA back on track.”
The South African government recently announced it would provide a further bailout to troubled SAA, which is estimated to have lost as much as R$28 billion (£1.46 billion) over the last 13 years.