SAA sells nine aircraft to accommodate new fleet


South African Airways (SAA) has put some of its aircraft up for sale to accommodate the new Airbus A350-900s the airline recently added to its fleet.

In a tender on the airline’s website, SAA said it was selling nine wide-body aircraft – five Airbus A340-300s and four Airbus A340-600s – and 15 spare engines and four Auxiliary Power Units.

“After we received the four new Airbus A350-900, it has become necessary for us to sell our older models to accommodate the new models with superior features such as the quieter cabin, relaxing in-flight environment and more extra-legroom seats in economy class and lie-flat beds in business Class,” said Zuks Ramasia, SAA’s Acting CEO.

“The decision to sell the aircraft has nothing to do with the business rescue process.

For some time we had planned to replace our four-engine aircraft with the two engine ones,” said Ramasia.

“When we received five A330-300s in late 2017- early 2018 we had already planned to retire five A340s at that time, but due to the operational fleet undergoing maintenance, the retirement of the aircraft was postponed. Now is the time to sell the aircraft,” she said.

Ramasia said with the new A350s which will start operating on its international route network next week, replacing the A340s has become possible, hence the national carrier advertised the sale of the nine aircraft on 10 January. The closing date for the tender is 30 January at 11.00am SA time.

The aircraft on sale used to operate on regional and international routes, which will now be flown by the A330s and A350-900s.

Aerospace and defence expert Darren Olivier notes that, “this sale is not necessarily a bad thing. These aircraft made sense when acquired years ago, but they’re no longer economical compared to newer twin-engined replacements. SAA has been working to retire them for some time.

“This sale is happening now because the four A350s that SAA has leased have just been cleared for full service to replace the A340-600s & the A340-300s are now excess to needs.”

The A340s are between 14 and 22 years old and far less efficient than the modern A350s.

“SAA will earn around R1 billion – R1.5 billion from the sale, depending on the state of the market. That’s not the main point of this though: By getting them off the books and replacing the A340-600s with A350s on certain routes the airline will save a ton in operating costs,” Olivier said.