The first of four Airbus A350-900 SAA planes arrived in South Africa this week.
The other three planes are set to arrive over the next six weeks.
All four planes are expected to operate commercially by mid-December, following regulatory approvals and training, SAA said in a statement.
Two of the aircraft are nine months old and previously flew commercially with another carrier. The other two aircraft are brand-new and will be delivered to SAA directly from the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France. The two new aircraft are sub-leased from Air Mauritius.
Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni announced in his mini budget last week that government will help SAA to repay its R9.2bn in government-guaranteed debt over the next three years.
According to acting SAA CEO Zuks Ramasia, the introduction of the A350s will contribute to the airline's operational efficiencies. Operating the A350-900s will enable SAA to achieve approximately 25% savings in fuel consumption and emissions.
Besides lower operating costs, it will also reduce SAA’s exposure to South Africa’s recently imposed carbon tax, the airline said.
SAA is also expected to benefit from the approximately 40% lower cost for maintaining the A350-900 XWB airframe over a 5-year period.
The common type rating between the Airbus A350-900 XWB powered aircraft and the other Airbus aircraft in SAA's fleet will also bring about a cost saving on training pilots, crew, engineers and technicians as well as regarding spares inventory.
The four aircraft will operate on one of SAA’s ultra-long haul routes between Johannesburg and New York. They will replace the Airbus A340-600 on this route and be operated on a nonstop basis.
The Airbus A350-900 is configured with a maximum of 339 seats, of which 30 are Business Class seats and 309 are Economy Class seats.
The aircraft will be equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.
“With this we extend our relationship with Rolls-Royce by adding the Trent XWB to a fleet that already includes the Trent 700, powering the Airbus A330s,” says Ramasia.
Fin24 reported in October that the Competition Commission granted SAA and Air Mauritius permission to form a joint venture on the route between Johannesburg and Mauritius.
The two airlines will pool the revenue and costs associated with the provision of commercial passenger and cargo services on the route between Mauritius and Johannesburg and related destinations.