South African Airways Will Lease A350s

Filed Under: South African Airways

Update: Here’s the latest on South African Airways’ new A350.

South African Airways has major issues. The airline continues to lose massive amounts of money, they have an inefficient fleet and route network, their CEO recently resigned, and the government can’t seem to decide just how involved they want to be in SAA’s turnaround (if it ever happens).

Currently SAA’s long haul fleet consists of 27 aircraft, including a mix of A330s and A340s. These aren’t especially fuel efficient planes, and up until now the airline hasn’t really had any plans for modernizing their fleet.

Well, it looks like that will be changing soon.

South African Airways has announced that they’ll add A350-900s to their fleet starting in the second half of 2019. The airline plans to use these planes to fly between Johannesburg and New York JFK, and will lease them for up to three years. It’s my understanding that the airline plans to add two of these aircraft to their fleet, though this detail isn’t specifically written in the press release.

SAA says that this plane will reduce fuel burn by about 20% compared to the plane they’re currently using for the route, which is the A340-600.

South African Airways’ A340 business class

The airline has stated that the plane will have 246 economy seats, and the first six rows of economy will feature extra legroom. SAA hasn’t yet clarified how many business class seats there will be.

No exact date has been given for the plane entering service, but rather it’s said that the plane will join the fleet as soon as it has met regulatory authority requirements.

Usually airlines order planes years in advance, though in this case it seems like the airline is getting the A350 on fairly short notice, and is only leasing it. While the airline hasn’t officially stated where these planes are coming from, it’s my understanding that these were planes that were supposed to go to HNA Group, and specifically frames B-304Z and B-305A. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they feature reverse herringbone seats in business class, as HNA Group airlines are installing on their newest A350s.

SAA isn’t the only airline getting an A350 on short notice. Fiji Airways is also taking delivery of two A350s later this year. These planes were supposed to go to Hong Kong Airlines, but due to their financial situation, Fiji Airways took over the leases.

Fiji Airways’ A350

This is an exciting development, and I can’t wait to learn more. Hopefully they also develop a long-term strategy for what they’ll do after the three year lease is up.

Are you excited about SAA getting A350-900s?

(Tip of the hat to @divanera1994)

  1. It’s interesting that South African will be getting even more planes, since their long-haul fleet isn’t used that much. It has 27 long-haul aircraft, although it only operates 10-11 medium-long haul routes. It’s flights to DC stay on the ground all day there, and having just been in Johannesburg, they have a ton of A340s sitting on the ground there unused for probably weeks (FlightRadar24 agrees with me – at least 8 of their 17 A340s haven’t flown within the last week). I would hope that they would retire their A340s soon as it’s no use keeping them in their fleet if they don’t fly them at all. The only rational thing that they seem to be doing is flying their more fuel efficient A330s a lot more than their A340s. As for their A350s, this is just a random guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they would lease of some of Hong Kong Airlines’ A350s that they can’t pay for.

  2. This is wonderful news! Flying their A340’s is like a trip back in time, and I find myself thinking, “This must have been amazing back when it was new.” But one correction – don’t they have a couple of new A330’s, on the DCA – JNB and GRU – JNB flights?

  3. Why can South African Airways fly JNB-JFK on an A350-900 but Delta only does ATL-JNB on an 777-200LR? Are Delta’s A350s configured with less power or do they have some sort of weight restrictions?

  4. @jeff

    JNB-JFK is shorter than JNB-ATL.

    Makes all the difference when you are departing from the high altitude JNB airport.

  5. Saa only owns 11 aircraft in total. The rest of the fleet, which they used to own, was sold and is now leased.

  6. Jeff, there’s nothing about the A350 performance that precludes DL from using it on ATL-JNB. But DL has several routes to the Asia Pacific with lots of competition where they need maximum fuel savings to keep their high margins. All of DL’s TATL Africa routes have literally no low cost competition allowing them to use an aircraft that has higher fuel burn. Its all about balancing costs.

  7. “their CEO recently resigned” is an understatement. Take a look at how many CEO’s they have been through in recent years

  8. Whilst the 340s are not very fuel efficient, their 330s are relatively new and more efficient.

  9. Depending on when they start flying them, this will make my travels later this year easier. Currently flying Delta/KLM or Lufthansa when going to South Africa. If SAA truly puts A350 on their JFK route, I might switch.

  10. It’s good idea i wish we South Africans can have a positive attitude about our country it’s always negative,the media telling all that is bad about South Africa.I live in the States i follow the news on Facebook i see nothing but bad news why do we hate our own country?

  11. The two aircraft you have suggested SAA will be receiving are currently flying with HNA Group.

  12. Who cares about SA. I’m looking at the Fiji A350s! Those could be a real improvement.

  13. SAA Just another “corrupt” bottomless put and I refuse to fly them even if they gave me a free ticket to no-where!
    No airline should qualify for any award if the books are always in the “RED”

  14. I doubt the 350 can do JNB JFK nonstop without significant payload penalty. . Jnb ATL nonstop is doable with the 772 LR. Hense why Delta stays with 772 LR.

  15. Flew an SAA A340 JHB/JFK return recently. Terrible trip. Cabin service was surly and unhelpful, seats worn and uncomfortable, entertainment systems broken and antiquated. Never again!

  16. Strange. I cant imagine how it is more economical to have a “ton of A343” sitting around in Johannesburg and then lease aircraft that are more cost efficient to fly instead. I could imagine that just the cost of the new livery and interiors would diminish any initial savings that they may make due to the more efficient A350. What a mess they seem to be in.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reminder: OMAAT comments are changing soon. Register here to save your space.