First Airbus A350 Spotted In South African Airways Colors

An eagle-eyed planespotter has snapped the first image of South African Airways’’ very first A350 in Singapore today. Emerging from the paint shop in full SAA livery, the new aircraft looks set to join the fleet in a matter of days. It will be deployed on the Johannesburg to New York route, replacing an A340.

The A350 and it’s ‘mask of Zorro’ is coming to South Africa. Photo: Airbus

SAA’s first A350

The first A350 for South African Airways was spotted in Singapore today in its full SAA colors. While most of the livery remains the same as the rest of the fleet,  the A350 appears to have adopted larger ‘billboard’ style titles on the sides. This is a trend we’ve seen in a few airlines this year, notably United.

This first A350 will be registered ZS-SDC. By the looks of it, it should be ready to deliver to SAA within a matter of days. Some commenters have indicated they expect it to land in South Africa on Thursday, but this is unconfirmed by the airline.

Given its current financial state, the A350 might seem like a bit of a strange investment for SAA. However, at this stage, the airline is only leasing these aircraft, in a bid to reduce their use of the gas-guzzling A340. This first A350 will replace an A340 on the Johannesburg to New York JFK service.

An ex-Hainan A350

This particular A350, MSN 226, was originally manufactured for LATAM. However, the airline never took up the lease, so instead, it headed out to China to be put into service for Hainan Airlines as B-304Z. However, after less than 10 months of service, Hainan cut short the lease, and the A350 was back on the market.

Hainan South African Airways A350
Same plane, different clothes. Photo: N509FZ via Wikimedia

It was officially withdrawn from use on the 15th October, and shortly after that was sent to Singapore for re-liverying in SAA colors. Presumably, the cabin has been reconfigured also, but that won’t be confirmed until the airline takes delivery.

SAA’s acting CEO Zukisa Ramasia previously commented to CBN that,

“These aircraft present an immediate opportunity to offer an improved product between Johannesburg and New York which will be accompanied by unmatched and consistent customer experience for both Business and Economy Class customers.”

How many A350s?

There is some conflicting information about exactly how many A350s SAA has signed up to lease. Back in the summer, it was confirmed that two A350s originally destined for Air Mauritius would be reconfigured for SAA as part of its fleet renewal. The tail fins on these aircraft were already in Air Mauritius colors and will be repainted for SAA.

However, as we’ve seen today, the first A350 is coming from Hainan Airlines, not Air Mauritius. In fact, it seems that the airline is planning to fly at least three of these shiny new birds in total. As well as the two from Air Mauritius, this one and one more will also join the fleet, both from Hainan.

Are you excited to see the A350 arrive with SAA? Do you think it’s a good move to phase out the inefficient A340? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.