South African Airways (SAA) took delivery of four new Airbus A350-900s on Thursday (31 October).
The aircraft will operate on one of SAA’s ultra-long-haul routes between Johannesburg and New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK), replacing the Airbus A340-600.
The first two aircraft are nine months old and previously flew commercially with another carrier. Aircraft number two and three are scheduled for arrival during the first week of November and the fourth aircraft will arrive in early December.
The last two aircraft are brand new and will be delivered to SAA directly from the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France. These two aircraft are sub-leased from Air Mauritius and will also fly with SAA for three years.
As additional aircraft are introduced, more routes will be operated by the Airbus A350-900s, the airline said.
The Airbus A350-900 is configured with a maximum of 339 seats, of which 30 are Business Class seats and 309 are Economy Class seats, with the first six rows in Economy Class offering extra legroom to provide a more comfortable experience, especially on longer flights. The Business Class cabin has lie-flat beds.
The aircraft also offers a modern In-flight Entertainment (IFE) system throughout the cabin.
“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.
“It is 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,” said Zuks Ramasia, SAA’s Acting CEO.
Ramasia said SAA will achieve approximately 25% savings in fuel consumption and emissions.
Besides lower operating costs, it will also 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, she said.