South African Airways receives first Airbus A350, leases two more planes

Photo: © Clément Alloing

South African Airways (SAA) has taken delivery of its first of four Airbus A350-900 aircraft. The type is due to replace parts of SAA’s aging Airbus A340 fleet.

The A350, now registered as ZS-SDC, in owned by the leasing company Avolon and was initially due to be delivered to LATAM Airlines. Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines then received the aircraft in early 2019 but returned it to its lessor last month. The second A350 bound for SAA was also flying for Hainan Airlines.

Following earlier media reports, South African Airways announced on Thursday that it has ordered two additional leased A350-900, bringing its total orders for the type to four. These two aircraft are brand new and have not yet been in service. Both were initially supposed to be leased to Air Mauritius but are instead going to South African. All four aircraft are due to be delivered before the end of this year.

The Airbus A350s will operate on one of SAA’s long-haul routes between Johannesburg and New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) from mid-December, replacing the older Airbus A340-600 aircraft on this route. Additional routes are expected to follow as the airline receives more A350s.

South African Airways currently operates a widebody fleet of both Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft. In July 2019, the airline first confirmed that it will lease two A350s.