South African Airways (SAA) has received the first Airbus A350-900 as part of a cost-saving strategy. This is the first plane to arrive among four A350s airbuses planned for this year.
The plane arrived at OR Tambo International Airport after a ferry flight from Singapore. SAA has leased it from Hainan Airlines in China.
The A350 is the latest Airbus twin-engine long-haul jet. It is configured with a maximum of 339 seats, whereby 30 are business class and 309 are economy. In addition, the first six rows in economy class offer extra legroom.
The A350 is also powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. These were specifically designed for the A350 XWB airliner family (A350-900 and A350-1000). Rolls-Royce describes the Trent XWB as the most efficient large aero engine in the world.
According to SAA, the plane will achieve about 25% savings in fuel consumption. The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines will also ensure a reduction in emissions.
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). They will therefore replace the Airbus A340-600 on this route.
“The introduction of the A350 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.
SAA is set to receive four Airbus A350-900s over a period of six weeks. The airline expects all of them to operate commercially by mid-December following regulatory approvals and training. Schedules indicate the second and third aircraft will arrive during the first week of November. The fourth aircraft will arrive in early December.
The last two aircraft are brand new. The Airbus factory in Toulouse, France will deliver them directly to SAA.
South African Airways is the state-owned flag carrier of South Africa. Its headquarters are in Airways Park at O.R Tambo International Airport. The airline links over 40 local and international destinations across Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and Oceania from its base at Johannesburg International Airport.