South African Airways (SAA) this morning accepted the first two of 20 new A320 airliners from Airbus at its facility in Toulouse, France.
After being handed over to SAA, the aircraft were flown to South Africa by SAA crew. They will be followed by another two next month, while the remaining 16 will be delivered by 2017.
“We are delighted to receive our first two A320 aircraft. Operating a modern and homogenous fleet plays a significant role in cost reduction and boosting revenue,” said Monwabisi Kalawe, SAA’s Chief Executive Officer. “The A320 will assist SAA to achieve this while providing our passengers with a more superior cabin product.”
SAA’s new A320s, powered by IAE-V2500 engines, feature a two class cabin layout, seating 24 passengers in business class and 114 in economy.
“SAA has long been regarded as a bellwether for Africa on aircraft selection and we are looking forward to expanding our relationship. Our reliable, fuel efficient and comfortable A320s will give SAA a competitive edge and help the airline achieve sustainable profitability,” said John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer, Customers.
The A320s will replace SAA’s present fleet of Boeing 737-800s and will augment the A319s it already has in service. Airbus said the development is set to deliver cost efficiencies and allow SAA to expand its Sub-Sahara regional route network and boost revenue in the rapidly growing market.
SAA placed an order for 15 A320 passenger aircraft with Airbus in 2002, together with eleven of the smaller A319s and 15 of the larger A340 airliners. Deliveries were due to commence in 2010. While the latter two aircraft types have already been delivered, in 2004 SAA said it was cancelling the A320 part of the order, but Airbus never acknowledged the cancellation and continued to keep the order on its books.
In February this year it was reported that SAA had renegotiated its purchase agreement and that 20 new Airbus A320s would now be delivered. This will ensure that the 17 Boeing 737-800s operated by SAA and the four Boeing 737-800s operated by SAA low-cost subsidiary Mango will eventually be replaced by the A320s.
Revitalising its fleet with more efficient aircraft is one of SAA’s turnaround strategies, with the carrier planning to spend between $4 and $7 billion on 25-30 long-haul aircraft, which will be delivered from 2017 onwards and which will replace its A330s and A340s. SAA is expected to choose between the Boeing 787-8 and Airbus A350-900/1000 by August.
SAA’s cargo fleet is also being enhanced, with a Boeing 737-400 freighter being wet-leased from Slovenia’s Solinair. A 737-300 freighter will be delivered in July, replacing an ageing 737-200, bringing the SAA cargo fleet to three 737-300Fs and a 737-400F.