South African Airways has sent an Airbus A350-900 all the way to Miami for the first time in nearly 20 years. The airline is operating a repatriation flight for passengers stuck in Miami using its nearly new A350, registered ZS-SDD with a stop in Dakar on the way.
SAA arrives in Miami
South African Airways has sent one of its shiny new A350s over to Miami on a repatriation mission. It’s the first time in almost two decades that the SAA livery has been seen at Miami International Airport (MIA), but it’s likely it won’t be a regular sighting there.
Photographed this @flySAA_US @flysaa Airbus A350-900 (ZS-SDD) arriving into MIA today from Dakar! This is the first time SAA has flown into Miami in almost 20 years as it was operating as a repatriation flight to bring South Africans back home! #avgeek #a350 #mia #saa #airbus pic.twitter.com/ow0hKKu6wZ
— Kevin Angueira (@AngueiraKevin) April 12, 2020
The aircraft used for the mission is ZA-SDD. It’s the only one of four A350s operated by SAA that is still in service. Since the lockdown took place in South Africa, the national airline has parked up 39 of its 44 aircraft, keeping just four A340s and one A350 in service. ZA-SDD is on lease to the airline, having been previously operated by Hainan Airlines for just 10 months.
The flight departed Johannesburg on Saturday, 11th April, pushing back at 11:47 in the morning. It flew as far as Dakar (DSS) where it made a stop overnight. Taking off again at 10:30 on Easter Sunday, flight number SA4211 headed out across the Atlantic, arriving into Miami almost nine hours later, at 19:32 local time.
According to FlightRadar24.com, the aircraft is still on the ground at Miami International. There’s no scheduled flight back showing on the flight tracker, nor on the departures board at MIA. However, it’s likely that the flight will return at some point today in order to minimize the amount of time the crew hangs about in the US.
First for two decades
South African Airways first entered the Miami market in 1992, flying from Cape Town to MIA. However, this was dropped in 1998 shortly after the airline’s rebranding and the appointment of new president and CEO Coleman Andrews. Since then, its US focus has only been on New York and Washington DC, relying on codeshares with airlines like United and JetBlue to provide onward connectivity.
While United is the first to connect Cape Town and New York nonstop, South African Airways connected Cape Town and Miami nonstop in the 1990s. Here as a codeshare in an American timetable from January 1998. pic.twitter.com/bOzBrlUC1F
— Edward Russell (@e_russell) December 16, 2019
The only other aircraft in operation by the airline apart from this one A350 are its four A340-600s. ZS-SNC appears to be operating the route to and from Frankfurt, which would normally be operated by this A350. ZS-SND is doing a variety of hops around Lagos, Brussels and between Johannesburg and Cape Town. ZS-SNF has been on missions to Sao Paulo, Angeles City (Philippines), Guangzhou and Bangkok, while ZS-SNG has operated rotations to London Heathrow and Frankfurt in the past week.
While it’s great to see these older A340s still proving to be useful, it’s a bit perplexing as to why SAA would be using these for repatriation missions instead of its more modern A350s. The A350s would produce better fuel economy, and seeing as the airline is paying to lease them whether they fly or not, it’s rather strange that they’ve chosen to park these up and keep the A340s operational.
Who knows what goes on in the decision-makers brains at SAA? Let us know if you have a clue in the comments.