South African Airways has received the first of two Airbus A350-900s and have committed to an additional two to help replace their A340 fleet.

The aircraft, MSN 226, is 1.3 years old and was previously operated by Hainan Airlines, before being stored earlier in October. LATAM was originally meant to be the first owner of the aircraft, however plans fell through.

South African Airways’ second A350, MSN 245, will also be an ex-Hainan Airlines frame and will be delivered to the airline shortly.

Although painted in the South African Airways livery, following a visit to the paint shop in Singapore, the aircraft still wears registration B-304Z. Post delivery set up will see the aircraft registered as ZS-SDC.

The additional two aircraft will be sub-leased from Air Mauritius, they will be delivered to South African Airways directly from Airbus’ Toulouse final assembly line and delivery centre.

All four aircraft will be delivered over the next six weeks; with full operational capability ready for mid-December, subject to regulatory approval and training. The aircraft will be leased for a period of three years.

“We welcome the first A350 home on South African soil. The introduction of the A350s offers a new beginning for the airline and will contribute to the airline’s operational efficiencies, and get SAA back on track. It 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.”

Zuks Ramasia, SAA’s Acting CEO

South African Airways will commence A350 operations on their Johannesburg – New York JFK route, replacing the A340-600. The flight will be operated on a non-stop basis and will be the beginning of multiple routes operated by A350-900s.

South African Airways A350-941 B-304Z delivery flight.

Passengers have the choice of either Business or Economy seating, with the first six rows of Economy offering greater legroom.

The following table breaks down their cabin layout:

Cabin ClassNumber of Seats
Business30
Economy309

All 339 passengers will see a significant improvement in comfort, as a result of the A350s technologically advanced cabin and airframe structure. Business Class seats will have full lie-flat capability and the entire cabin will be fitted with a modern entertainment system.

Operating an all-Airbus fleet, consisting of mainly A330 and a340 widebodies, means South African Airways can train pilots for the A350 quite easily, thanks to Airbus’ commonality scheme.

South African Airways ZS-SNB

The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines that power the aircraft, and the aerodynamic design, offer South African Airways an excellent range/payload performance on long-haul flights departing Johannesburg, which is a hot and high environment.

Compared to the A340s, the A350-900 will see a 25 percent reduction in cash operating costs over a five year period.

The introduction of the A350 will provide South African Airways significant savings in operating costs, generating a pathway to a transformation and financial stability.

Are you happy to see the Airbus A350 in South African Airways’ colours?

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