South African Airways Quietly Removes All Airbus A340s From Fleet

After having been given yet another cash injection by the South African government, South African Airways (SAA) is quietly removing its long-haul Airbus A340s from its fleet. This news was confirmed on June 12 by airline’s business rescue practitioners.

South African Airways SAA A340
SAA is returning all its leased A340 planes. Getty Images

On June 2, aviation website CH Aviation reported that a leaked business plan for the state-owned airline showed that administrators wanted to return 19 of the 40 aircraft it dry-leased. As well as returning aircraft, the administrators want to renegotiate the terms on the planes they want to keep.

South African Airways to return 19 leased planes

Of the planes in question South African Airways wants to return the following aircraft:

  • Seven Airbus A319-100s
  • One Airbus A330-200
  • Three Airbus A340-300s 

SAA has already made arrangements to return the following planes:

  • Three Airbus A340-600s
  • Five Airbus A330-200s

After the return of the dry-leased planes South African Airways will be left with:

  • Three Airbus A319s
  • Ten Airbus A320s
  • One Airbus A330-200
  • Five Airbus A330-300s 
  • Four Airbus A350-900s

When speaking with South African media outlet, News24 aviation analyst Guy Leach said the following:

“It looks like SAA is struggling to match its expected new fleet requirement with its existing fleet. The A320s, which the airline is still holding on to, will likely be superfluous going forward because it is expected that domestic and regional operations will be left for its subsidiary Mango, which operates a Boeing fleet.” 

South African Airways has not made a profit since 2011

While looking at what the administrators are doing, it must be noted that South African Airways has not made a profit since 2011. Several lawmakers became fed up with continually having to bail out the loss-making airline. Therefore, they eventually said enough is enough and called in a private firm to try and sort the mess out.

South African Airways SAA
South African Airways is still in business after a $1.2 billion cash injection Photo: Getty Images

It was assumed that SAA was a dead duck and that it would be dissolved and have any remaining assets sold off. Then suddenly, out of the blue, the government backtracked and gave the airline money to keep flying. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, which should have been the final nail in the coffin only for the government to provide them with yet more money. This time it was in the form of a $1.2 billion aid package to help SAA restart after COVID-19 restrictions had been lifted.

Airlines around the world are getting rid of their A340s

What this shows us is that individual members of the government in South Africa do not want to see the airline dismantled even though it would make the most sense. By letting SAA fail, a private non-government funded airline could be created with more fuel-efficient aircraft and a slimmed-down workforce.

South African Airways SAA A340
SAA wants to acquire newer fuel-efficient planes. Getty Images

With regards to South African Airways Airbus A340s, their time was up long ago when airlines around the world started ditching four-engined planes in favor of more efficient twin-engine aircraft like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350.

There are still many question marks as to whether or not SAA will survive, but this latest injection of cash and the returning of leases looks promising.

What do you think about SAA and its survival? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.