Last Update: at 22:22

Replacement for older A340s

South African Airways leases two A350 aircraft

The national airline of South Africa wants to improve its product on flights to the United States and reduce operating costs with new aircraft. For this purpose, South African Airways will lease two Airbus A350s.

South African Airways

Colourful tail fin of a South African Airways aircraft: Soon to be seen on two A350 aircraft.

Zukisa Ramasea had a bad start. As soon as she was appointed temporary successor to Vuyani Jarana as the head of South African Airways at the beginning of June, the pilots threatened to go on strike. They criticised the former operations manager for having too little management experience. At the same time, it went public that the state airline would need another four billion Rands (equivalent to around 250 million Euros) in order to continue flying.

But now, Ramasea can announce positive news as South African Airways is rejuvenating its fleet. The airline is purchasing two Airbus A350-900 aircraft to replace two Airbus A340-600s that are 15 years old. “The introduction of these state-of-the-art aircraft is an important step as we continue making progress in transforming our business and recovering the airline financially in the shortest possible time,” the interim CEO commented in a statement on Sunday (30 June).

Reducing operating cost by 20 percent

The two Airbus A350-900s will not be purchased, but rather leased for up to three years. This is a step towards a short-term improvement of SAA results, a spokesman told aeroTELEGRAPH. With the two new aircraft, the operating costs on the Johannesburg – New York route can be reduced by 20 percent in one fell swoop, he continues. The two A350s are used to fly exclusively between South Africa and the United States.

South African Airways does not only want to reduce costs with the Airbus A350. According to the airline, the new planes could also offer passengers an improved travel experience. The two aircraft will have 246 economy and 30 business class seats which can be converted into a lie-flat bed. They will be taken over in the second half of this year and will feature the SAA livery.

Sale among other options

What will happen to the two decommissioned Airbus A340-600s has not yet been decided. Seeling them would be an option, according to the spokesman. There are “further commercial considerations that are currently being reviewed”. South African Airways owns a total of nine A340-600s, two of which are currently inactive.

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