SAA gets ready to receive first A330


South African Airways (SAA) is taking delivery of the first of six new A330-200s from France tonight. The aircraft is being leased as part of SAA’s drive to modernise its fleet.

An SAA delegation is in France to accept the first aircraft at Airbus’s headquarters in Toulouse, and will be joined by Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, who arrives there today.

President Jacob Zuma will receive the aircraft when it arrives in Cape Town tomorrow.

SAA is leasing the six A330-200 from aircraft leasing company AirCastle, but although they are being leased, the aircraft were built to SAA’s specifications and feature a refreshed cabin interior and enhanced in-flight entertainment system.

The twin-engine wide-body aircraft will replace SAA’s six ageing A340-200s, which are leased from Airbus. However, the carrier will keep its six A340-300s and nine A340-600s.

The new aircraft forms part of the national carrier’s fleet renewal project with new, more efficient aircraft replacing old ones. The A330 is one of the most widely used long haul aircraft in service today and is significantly more fuel efficient than the four-engine A340.

SAA will also receive 20 new Airbus A320s, worth $1 billion, between 2013 and 2015.

In 2009 SAA posted a R398 million net profit, up from a R1.085 billion loss in 2008 and losses the previous six years. Its 2010 it recorded a pre-tax profit of R595 million for the year to March.

Meanwhile, some SAA ground staff went on strike last Thursday. Employees affiliated with the South African Transport and Allied Worker’s Union (Satawu) had been negotiating with SAA when talks broke down, leading to a strike action notice. However, SAA received an interdict preventing ground staff from going on strike. As only around 50 employees went ahead with the strike, there was little impact on the airline’s operations.