SAA’s news Airbus A350-900 made its inaugural flight to New York from Johannesburg this week.
The announcement came hot on the heels of the news that the airline was consolidating its flights and had cancelled several domestic flights as well as selected services between Johannesburg and Munich.
The troubled national carrier invested in four new A350-900 aircraft last year as part of its turnaround strategy as SAA said the new aircraft would achieve approximately 25% lower operating costs over a five-year period.
According to acting CEO, Zuks Ramasia, this is compared with some of SAA’s four-engine aircraft that have similar range and payload capabilities. She also pointed out that the airline would achieve approximately 25% savings in fuel consumption and emissions.
She added that the deployment of these aircraft would also lower maintenance costs by 40% over a five-year period.
The aircraft is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. Since entering service in 2015, the Trent XWB engines have flown more than five million hours and are regarded as the world’s most efficient large aero-engines, according to an SAA statement.
The A350-900 – which seats 339 passengers – will operate six days a week on the New York route until March 31, and resume its daily service on April 1.
“The addition of the A350-900 aircraft on our flagship route between New York JFK and Johannesburg displays the high level of commitment that SAA has to our North American market,” said Todd Neuman, SAA Executive Vice President, North America.
The US is one of South Africa’s top three tourism source markets.