South African Airways Has Received Its 3rd Airbus A350

The third of South African Airways’ (SAA) four brand-new A350-900 aircraft has been delivered. The air carrier announced the order for four of the model back in June and expects all of them to be delivered before the year is out.

South African Airlines has received its third A350-900. Photo: SAA

SPOTTED: the third SAA A350-900

The third of SAAs four A350-900 aircraft was spotted arriving into Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport last week and is now reported to have arrived with South African Airways. Whilst the aircraft is the third to arrive, it is the first brand new model that SAA has acquired.

It is registered ZS-SDE and, unlike the other two aircraft that preceded it, this aircraft has come from Air Mauritius. Air Mauritius never took up this aircraft which makes ZS-SDE the youngest in the fleet. The other two aircraft, arriving from Hainan Airlines in China, did operate with the airline making them 1.1 and 1.4 years old, according to Planespotters.

The A350 aircraft of change

All of the aircraft have been leased by SAA for at least three years and the airline hopes that their incorporation will bring a monumental change. Speaking in June in a company press release, the airline said it would transform SAA in a number of ways. Acting SAA CEO, Zukisa Ramasia, had this to share:

“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.”

That’s right; SAA is hoping that the investment in these four aircraft will revitalize its business finances. And whilst it works on that, SAA is looking to use the aircraft to reduce their carbon emissions and provide excellent customer service. That’s a tall order. So how is it expecting to meet those demands?

SAA wants the A350 to win back profit – but how? Photo: SAA

How will the A350-900 make SAA money?

Despite the fact that SAA has been operating at a loss for the past seven years, it’s hoping the A350-900 will make it money. And, in a way, it will. The aircraft is engineered to provide 20% lower fuel consumption than previous models. That in itself will mean that SAA will be squirreling away money from fuel costs.

In addition, the ultra-long-range aircraft will allow SAA to expand its route network, for a lower cost, tapping into potentially more profitable markets. As well as this, it will be able to swap aircraft for the A350 to make existing routes more profitable.

South African Airways Has Received Its 3rd Airbus A350
The Airbus A350 is more fuel-efficient and has a longer range. Photo: Airbus

SAA will debut its A350 in a few weeks’ time, at which point it should already be seeing the savings. It’s swapping in the A350 and ridding the route of the A340-600 which usually operates the service. Fuel consumption on the route from O.R. Tambo International Airport to JFK, New York is expected to be 25% less than before.

More than that, SAA will also be able to sit around 22 more passengers on the A350 which will help to boost profitability. Passengers onboard the new A350-900 aircraft will have a choice of 30 business class seats in a lie-flat 2-2-2 configuration. In addition, there will be 309 economy class seats.

But before SAA can start making money with the A350-900, it needs to stop losing it. The airline shelled out $3.4 million per day on recent strikes and it is still battling insufficient government funding. Regardless, we’re excited about the potential of these new aircraft in the fleet. Are you? Let us know in the comments!