South African Airways (SAA) today placed the Southern Hemisphere’s largest single customer order for the commercial jetliners when it formalised its decision to re-equip its entire fleet with 41 new Airbus aircraft over the next 10 years.
These aircraft, worth about US$3.5-billion, comprise of nine of the world’s newest and recently certified long-range A340-600s, six on the new A340-300 Enhanced (an improved version of the world’s best-selling four-engined airliner), 11 A319s and 15 A320s. With The exception of three A340-600s to be leased from International Lease Finance Corporation, all of the aircraft represent new orders for Airbus. Deliveries will commence later this year.
The contract for the new aircraft was signed by South Africa’s Minister of Public Enterprises, Mr. Jeff Radebe, who represents SAA’s shareholders.
Minister Radebe said the decision to replace the entire current fleet would significantly improve SAA’s ability to enhance and expand worldwide and in Africa where the new aircraft will provide safe, reliable, affordable and accessible air transport services.
“The modern Airbus fleet will enable SAA to capitalise on the growing world perception of South Africa as a safe investment, trade and travel destination. As a vital tool in SAA’s Africa strategy, the new Airbus aircraft will play an important role in the region’s economic development,” he explained.
SAA President & CEO, Mr. André Viljoen, said the airline would derive major cost-saving efficiencies by becoming an all-Airbus operator. “Never before have we been able to truly optimise our operations. Because all of the Airbus planes have virtually identical cockpits, operating procedures, systems and handling characteristics, we will be able to make tremendous cost savings in terms of training, crew, engineering, support infrastructure and spare parts. With other currently-available technology this simple is not possible”, he remarked.
The A340-600s will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines while the A340-300 Enhanced will be driven by the new CFM56-5C/P turbines. In SAA configuration, they will carry 339 and 274 passengers, respectively. SAA’s state-of-the-art A340s will replace ageing Boeing 747s and 767s.
SAA’s order for the new A340-300 Enhanced, demonstrates how this improved version of the world’s best-selling four-engined jetliner compliments Airbus’s long- and ultra-long haul A330/A340 Family.
SAA’s new A320s and A319s will replace Boeing 737-200s and 737-800s on domestic and regional services throughout Africa.
Airbus President & CEO, Mr. No‘l Forgeard, said SAA had unequivocally endorsed the A340 as the preferred ultra-long haul jetliner. “SAA, which is regarded as one of the most experienced long-haul carriers, will value the A340s unbeatable low operating costs and unmatched reliability. Passengers will appreciate the Airbus cabin which offer greater overhead stowage, wider seats, a wider aisle and the quietest cabin in the sky - essential for comfortable travel. And because the A340 can fly more direct routings over long distances, passengers and the airline will save time and money,” he added.
With 4,496 orders booked to date from 182 customers worldwide, Airbus is a leading manufacturer of commercial aircraft seating more than 100 passengers and offers the most modern and comprehensive airliner family in the world. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is a joint EADS Company with BAE SYSTEMS.