It’s clear that demand won’t fully recover anytime soon, so many airlines are expected to be much smaller than in the past. As a result, airlines are having to make difficult fleet decisions.
Well, in the coming week South African Airways will be getting rid of a majority of its fleet permanently, as the future of the airline remains uncertain. One thing is for sure — it won’t be the same as in the past.
South African Airways’ current situation
SAA has been a basket case for a long time — the airline has been losing money since 2011, and the government has provided just enough funding to keep the airline operating, but not enough funding or direction for anything to materially change.
The airline entered business rescue as of December 2019, a procedure by which a practitioner took control of the company, with the goal of maximizing the odds of survival, or at a minimum achieving a better return for creditors than if the company were to outright liquidate.
In mid-April the government was committed to cutting off SAA, and days later the airline prepared to liquidate and fire all staff… and then nothing happened.
Several weeks ago we learned that the government would backtrack, and SAA would be getting another bailout. However, not a whole lot has changed in recent weeks, as South Africa’s borders are closed. As a result, SAA has exclusively been operating repatriation flights.
South African Airways plans huge aircraft retirements
Over the coming week, South African Airways plans on permanently retiring a majority of its fleet. Currently South African Airways’ fleet consists of up to 28 aircraft, including:
- Three Airbus A319s
- 10 Airbus A320s
- Five Airbus A330s
- Six Airbus A340s
- Four Airbus A350s
Over the coming days South African Airways plans to retire most of its planes. This has been reported by Aviation Central, though I’ve also been able to independently verify this. I’d note that the numbers I’ve heard are slightly different than what’s quoted in the linked story, but let’s go with those numbers, since they’re out there already, and they’re close enough.
On July 14, 2020, South African Airways will be getting rid of six of 10 Airbus A320s, including planes with the following registration codes:
On July 15, 2020, South African Airways will be getting rid of all five remaining A330s, including planes with the following registration codes:
South African Airways only recently started leasing A350s, which was supposed to be an exciting development for the airline, as the planes were intended to fly exclusively to New York and Frankfurt. These aircraft are significantly more fuel efficient than the A340 fleet, and also feature a better business class product.
As you might expect, the airline has reconsidered these at this point. On July 10, 2020, South African Airways will be getting rid of two of four A350-900s, including planes with the following registration codes:
What does that leave in SAA’s fleet?
With these changes, SAA’s long haul fleet will be left with just six A340s and two A350s. However, it’s my understanding that:
- Not all of the A340s are airworthy right now, so don’t expect them to fly anytime soon; SAA has also been looking to sell these planes
- The airline plans on getting rid of the other two A350s as well; however, these are being leased from Air Mauritius, which is also in voluntary administration, so…
On top of that the airline will have a few A320-family narrow body aircraft.
South African Airways will be getting rid of a majority of its planes in the coming week. The airline plans to retire all A330s, two A350s, and some A320s.
This means the airline will be left with fewer than a dozen planes, including two A350s (which the airline still wants to get rid of), some A340s, and some narrow body planes.
SAA’s future is still uncertain, though at this point it will at best be a shell of what it once was.
Are you surprised to see these SAA aircraft retirements?