South African Airways (SAA), took delivery of the first of four new Airbus A350-900s in Johannesburg yesterday.

SAA employees welcomed the new acquisition as the latest arrival to boost SAA’s fleet with modern, fuel-efficient aircraft offering a superior customer experience.

The aircraft will operate on one of SAA’s ultra-long haul routes between Johannesburg and New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK), replacing the Airbus A340-600 on this route and will still be operated on a non-stop basis.

Tim Clyde Smith, Regional General Manager – Asia Pacific said “The introduction of the A350s represents a new phase for the airline. This is very positive news that will improve the airline’s operational efficiencies and contribute to the airline achieving sustainable profitability.

“SAA will take delivery of four Airbus A350-900s over a period of six weeks, and all four are expected to operate commercially by mid-December with SAA currently looking at options for ultra-long haul routes.” Continued Clyde-Smith.

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.

Business and Economy Class customers will enjoy the quieter cabin and the aircraft also offers a modern In-flight Entertainment (IFE) system throughout the cabin.

SAA will 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 help it achieves global emissions offset mechanism targets for international aviation requirements.

SAA will also benefit from the approximately 40% lower cost 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 will be equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. Since entering service in 2015, the Trent XWB engines have flown more than five million hours and is regarded as the world’s most efficient large aero-engine.