South African Airways (SAA) is in the midst of a far-reaching restructuring plan which will see the airline returning to profitability within 18 months.As part of this restructuring initiative, the airline will overhaul its entire business model, including strategy, processes, people and systems with a view to simplifying and rightsizing the business.
SAA has also embarked on a comprehensive programme to consider its current fleet structure, having agreed to put the planned fleet upgrade and acquisition strategy on hold.
By far the largest aspect of this initiative is a decision to ground SAA’s fleet of B747-400 aircraft, of which SAA currently owns one and leases an additional five. The fleet is an expensive, small sub-fleet of SAA with high costs versus the revenue generated by the aircraft.
The brand new Airbus will replace the Boeing 747-400s now used to Johannesburg, as flying these aircraft have become too costly to the airline.
SAA plans to introduce its new Airbus A340-600s alternating with the A340-300e on its London route by November 2nd. The A340s have a two class configuration, for Premium class and Economy class. Premium class combines the very best of both First and Business class features and includes the airline’s Premium Class lie-flat seat, voted Best Business Class Lie-flat seat in the World over two consecutive years by Skytrax, the world renowned British based airline advisor.
The seat provides a 180 degrees flat bed position, good seat width in full flat-bed position, and the back section of the seat pod offers good privacy - supplemented by a separate side seat divider.
Premium Class Customers will also appreciate the extra wide seats, quieter cabin and superior in-flight entertainment. Individual reading lights are attached to seats with PC power for laptops and adjustable folding tables. Bigger personal video screens and onboard telephone links are on each aircraft, while the overhead baggage stowages have been increased.
They will also experience complimentary chauffeur drive service, preferential check-in, access to the Baobab lounges, Service-on-demand (eat what you want when you wish), linen, crockery, cutlery and glassware, duvet and large pillow, 2-2-2 abreast configuration with no middle seat.
Economy Class Passengers will now benefit from a consistent product and service. This aircraft also has a more generous seat pitch of 33-34 inches in economy class, after the airline increased the seat space at the back of the aircraft to add to customer comfort.
SAA is currently engaging all relevant parties, and will take a phased approach to putting the new aircraft on the route. This will begin by July 1st and will be completed by November 2nd. In the interim, the current three classes of First, Business and Economy will be available on the route.
The SAA London flight schedule will remain the same except for the daily SA237 London to Johannesburg service which will depart at 20h00 on Saturdays instead of the usual 21h30.