SAA’s Leased A350’s Might Be Coming From Hainan Airlines

Aviation enthusiasts have leaked a rumor that South African Airways new A350s might be coming from Chinese Hainan Airlines. The new aircraft will be very useful for the African airline, who still rely on the inefficient A340 for the majority of their fleet.

Hainan A350-900
Hainan might be leasing SAA two new A350s. Photo: Frankgrph via Flickr

What are SAA’s plans?

South African Airways has signed a three year lease for two Airbus A350s. The new aircraft will be assigned to operate the Johannesburg to New York John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) route, currently flown by Airbus A340-600s.

These newer aircraft will reduce fuel burn by around 20% and pass on incredible savings per flight for the carrier.

“The introduction of these state-of-the-art aircraft to our fleet 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” – SAA CEO, Zukisa Ramasia in a press statement

The two A350-900s will carry 246 passengers in economy class and will feature a new business class layout for SAA. Based on the rumors, it is likely that will have 33 business class seats in a herringbone layout.

Business class on the Hainan Boeing 787. Photo: Hainan Airways

Where are the aircraft coming from?

Simple Flying recently reported on the fact that Hainan Airlines took ownership of two extra A350-900s from Hong Kong Airlines. These two aircraft, with serial numbers 360365 and 360371, were acquired in a move to downsize the struggling Hong Kong carrier.

Looking at, both these aircraft are around nine months to a year old. This might place them outside the realm of possibility that they are the two from Hong Kong Airlines.

Hainan only had four A350s delivered so far, and with the two from Hong Kong, seems to have put them to work as a lease rather than focus on route expansion. This is a little strange as they did speak about their ambition to dominate the China’s long-haul space (and why give up perfectly good aircraft for three years?) but perhaps they are not in a position to use the aircraft as they would like.

What will the onboard experience be like?

According to a previous article that we wrote on Simple Flying, there are two possible variants that Hainan will provide South African Airways:

Hainan A350 seating
Hainan’s two A350 seating layouts. Image: Hainan Airlines

Hainan’s current A350s have one of two different layouts inside. The first has 334 seats including 33 business class seats in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration. The second layout has 339 seats including 30 business class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. Hainan do not say as much, but it appears that the first layout is more for international routes and the second more for domestic.

It is likely that SAA will receive the longer haul option with the 1-2-1 configuration for business class.

What do you think of this acquisition by South African Airways? Will you be flying on the carriers new A350s? Let us know in the comments.