SAA is leasing two A350-900s from Hainan Airlines and two from Air Mauritius. The leases are all three year sub-leases and we can only hope that SAA acquired them at singularly competitive rates as the original client airlines no longer wanted them.
By the time you read this SAA should have the first two Airbus A350-900s.
It has taken the airline ten years to get these most modern and fuel-efficient jets as Airbus first started trying to sell them to SAA that far back. They are intended primarily for the Johannesburg – New York route where they are expected to save as much as thirty tons of fuel per sector – albeit still with weight restrictions from OR Tambo on hot days. It is expected that they will also provide significant maintenance savings over the almost 20 year old Airbus A340-600s, and lower carbon tax costs as well.
The first A350 to arrive in South Africa will be one of the two nine month old hand-me-downs form China’s Hainan Airlines (and before that, South America’s LATAM). These two aircraft are Constructors no #226 and #245 and will receive registrations ZS-SDC and ZS-SDD.
On 28 October #226 was seen in Singapore, where it had been re-finished in SAA livery, by using decals over the Hainan colours. It arrived at OR Tambo on 31 October.
The A350s will seat 339 passengers, with 30 in business and 309 in economy. This is in comparison to the 317 of the A340-600, which included 42 business and 275 economy seats.
The seat configuration came not from Hainan Airlines, but from LATAM, who were the original customers for these two aircraft. They were then taken up by Hainan, who kept the LATAM business class cabin.
The two A350s ordered by Air Mauritius will be delivered direct from the factory in Toulouse to SAA. The first aircraft is #354 which will become ZS-SDE and will be delivered on 7 November. The second is #365 which will become ZS-SDF and is expected around 30 November.