South African Airways becomes Airbus A330 operator


South African Airways has become the latest operator of Airbus’ eco-efficient A330 family. The A330-200 is the first of six to be delivered to Aircastle Limited this year, all of which will be leased to South African Airways. President Jacob Zuma officially welcomed the arrival of the first airliner yesterday afternoon.

Seating 36 passengers in business class and 186 in economy, the aircraft will feature the latest in-flight entertainment and will be used primarily on long haul routes from the airline’s bases in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The new A330 will join South African Airlines existing Airbus fleet of 11 A319s, 14 A340-200/300s and 9 A340-600s enabling the airline to reap the benefits of Airbus’ unique cockpit and operational commonality.

This allows airlines to use the same pool of pilots, cabin crews and maintenance engineers, resulting in operational flexibility and significant cost savings. “With the new A330s South African Airways continues to modernise its fleet, ensuring we meet our customers’ expectations. Simultaneously, the new A330s will provide savings and efficiencies to support our profitability and growth strategies,” says SAA CE Siza Mzimela.

Zuma said the arrival was “set to change and improve the way we fly.” He said the lease marked “a bold leap forward by SAA to utilise advancements in technology to access markets and opportunities to destinations once deemed unreachable.”

The president added one of government’s priorities was to contribute to the development of a revived Africa. “Transport is a key instrument to keep us in touch with the continent, so as to boost people to people links and inter-Africa trade. Our democratic government has long called for our trade and industry sector to take advantages of the opportunities in the continent. We must explore the world too, especially the developing world and emerging economies, as there is a lot to be gained there too.
“By renewing its fleet, the national carrier is in a better position to advance our objectives as a developmental state, as well as those of playing a more meaningful role on the continent. Africa presents a great possibility for new ventures. As a leading economic force on this continent we must encourage other South African entities to forge ahead with investment into Africa.
“I would therefore like to congratulate the minister, the board and executive management of SAA, for bringing the Airbus A330-200 into our country, the first of which will enter the SAA fleet in the next few days. The national carrier will be a better position to offer its customers service of the highest value comparable to the best airlines in the world,” Zuma said.

SAA is not a newcomer to the A330 as the airline operated two A330-200s leased from British Midland (BMI) in 2002/2003 and another two A330-200s leased from Brazilian airline TAM in 2003/2004. They were used primarily on international flights.
“The A330-200, with its superior economics and proven passenger appeal, will fit seamlessly into the South African Airways fleet,” adds John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer Customers. “Airbus has a long history of partnership with South African Airways and the local industry, and we look forward to continuing to build this mutually beneficial relationship.” With a typical range capability of 7250 nautical miles (for a two-class configuration), he adds the A330-200 has the versatility to cover all ranges from short-haul to true long haul – ideal for point-to-point operations. A330 cabins are widely recognized as among the best in the sky, offering a bright atmosphere with the quietest cabins in their class.

The A330 is one of the most widely used widebody aircraft in service today, with one taking off each minute every day. To date, Airbus has won over 1100 orders for the different models of the aircraft. Some 750 A330s have already been delivered and the aircraft is currently flying with 90 operators worldwide in 50 countries.

The new aircraft forms part of the national carrier’s fleet renewal project with new, more efficient aircraft replacing old ones. The A330 deal was first announced in March last year following 2009’s Airbus-assisted profit turnaround at SAA and a resolution to a dispute between the two parties over the botched cancelling of 15 A320s. 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. SAA will also receive 20 new Airbus A320s, worth $1 billion, between 2013 and 2015.

Aircastle yesterday said debt “financing for this purchase was arranged and provided by Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and supported by a guarantee from Compagnie Francaise d’Assurance pour le Commerce Exterieur (COFACE), the French export credit agency. This debt bears interest at a rate of 3.78% per annum and will be repaid over twelve years.”

Ron Wainshal, CE at Aircastle, added his company is “building a significant relationship with SAA… These aircraft will provide the airline with significant improvements in fuel efficiency and operating costs and its passengers with a comfortable, state-of-the-art cabin.”