JOHANNESBURG. 24 December 2019. South African Airways (SAA) today operated its first Airbus A350-900 aircraft for the first time commercially in the domestic market.
The aircraft departed from Johannesburg to Cape Town after 10 this morning, operating as flight SA323, and returned as flight SA336 from Cape Town to Johannesburg and landed at approximately 4PM.
The aircraft is one of four new Airbus A350-900 jets in SAA’s fleet, which is set to improve the airline’s customer offering and commercial prospects.
“We are pleased to offer our customers a superior customer experience with the commercial introduction of the new Airbus A350 aircraft, which offers the quietest cabin of any twin-aisle aircraft,” says Zuks Ramasia, SAA’s Acting CEO.
The introduction of the A350s will contribute to the airline’s operational efficiencies and forms part of fleet renewal to enable SAA to compete and serve its customers better through the introduction of new products.
As additional aircraft are introduced, more routes will be operated by the Airbus A350-900s, such as SAA’s ultra-long haul routes between Johannesburg and New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The A350 will replace the Airbus A340-600 and will still operate Johannesburg – New York on a nonstop basis.
Business and Economy Class customers will enjoy the quieter cabin, a more relaxing environment during flight. The Airbus A350-900 is configured with a maximum of 339 seats, of which 30 are Business Class seats and 309 are Economy Class seats, with the first six rows in Economy Class offering extra legroom to provide a more comfortable experience, especially on longer flights. The Business Class cabin has lie flat beds.
The aircraft also offers a modern In-flight Entertainment (IFE) system throughout the cabin. SAA will operate the aircraft for three years.
The commonality and common type rating between the Airbus A350-900 XWB powered aircraft and the other Airbus aircraft in SAA’s fleet translate directly into cost saving for training pilots, crew, engineers and technicians as well as for spares inventory.
The A350-900 XWB has excellent range/payload performance on long-haul flights departing from Johannesburg (the hot-and-high consideration). SAA will achieve approximately 25% lower operating costs (cash) using the A350-900 XWB, over a 5-year period, compared with some of its four-engine aircraft generation that have similar range and payload capabilities.
SAA will also achieve approximately 25% savings in fuel consumption and emissions. Besides lower operating costs, it will also reduce SAA’s exposure to South Africa’s recently imposed Carbon Tax because it is more environmentally friendly and helps it achieve global emissions offset mechanism targets, for international aviation requirements.
The airline will also benefit from the approximately 40% lower costs for maintaining the A350-900 XWB’s airframe over a 5-year period - that is, the aircraft excluding the engines, compared with some of its four-engine aircraft generation it will replace on the Johannesburg-New York-Johannesburg and other routes.
The aircraft are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. Since entering service in 2015, the Trent XWB engines have flown more than five million hours and are regarded as the world’s most efficient large aero-engine.