South African Airways Returns Four Airbus A330s To Lessors

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Yesterday a post on LinkedIn indicated that four South African Airways A330s were leaving the fleet and returning to the lessor for storage. The four widebodies departed Johannesburg for São Paulo International Airport on May 16th around late-morning and midday (local time). The carrier is in the midst of a significant restructuring process that will see it emerge as a new airline under government ownership.

South African Airways Aircraft
Having been in bad financial shape for years now, South African Airways is undergoing a business rescue plan. Photo: Getty Images

Flight details

According to Airfleets, two Airbus A330s are listed as belonging to a company by the name of Aircastle while the other two are listed as leases from AAL. It’s unclear if AAL simple stands for “Aircastle Aircraft Leasing,” (while AAL is the stock symbol for American Airlines, it’s unlikely the US carrier has anything to do with this).

The four Airbus A330s reported to have made the trip are as follows:

  • ZS-SXW
  • ZS-SXX
  • ZS-SXY
  • ZS-SXZ

All four jets appear to have been delivered to South African Airways, brand new, straight from Airbus.

Crossing the southern Atlantic Ocean, FlightRadar24.com lists the flight time for these aircraft as just over 10 hours long. All aircraft landed between 14:00 and 17:00 (local time) on the same day.

SAA A330 flight path
The four aircraft flew from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo for storage. Photo: FlightRadar24.com

South African Airways’ A330s

All four jets are the shorter -200 variant. Looking at South African’s website, we see that these aircraft were configured to have 36 ‘Premium Class’ seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. In the economy class cabin, the aircraft offered 186 seats in a 2-4-2 layout.

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A330-200 SAA Seat map
The SAA A330-200 seat map. As the airline no longer has this type in its fleet, this map is no longer relevant to future passengers. Photo: South African Airways

If we look at the registration numbers listed in the top left corner of the above seat map and compare to the list published by Airfleets, we can see that the airline has already shed two A330-200s. In fact, ZS-SXU is listed as having been stored since December 2019 while ZS-SXV was parked in March of this year. SXV appears to belong to a lessor named TC Skyward Aviation Ireland Limited.

South African Airways has five more A330s in its fleet. All five of these jets are the larger -300 variant. Airfleets currently lists all five as ‘parked’, but still with the airline.

The carrier has mainly relied on Airbus for its long-range, widebody services, having operated the A330, A340, and now A350 in recent months.

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Conclusion

It would indeed be sad to see these aircraft leave the fleet, especially after faithfully serving the airline for nine years. However, moves like this will likely become more commonplace as airlines look to reshape their fleets to be leaner in light of the adverse COVID-19-induced business climate.

Have you ever flown with South African Airways on an Airbus A330? Let us know what the experience was like by leaving a comment!

Simple Flying reached out to lessor Aircastle Limited to find out where these aircraft might go next. However, at the time of publication, no response has been received. We’ll update this article if any new information comes in.

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