PR agent Elsa Goette sits in a Rolls-Royce engine of an Airbus A350-900 of Ethiopian Airlines during a site-inspection at Fraport airport in Frankfurt, Germany, in this May 22 2017 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH
PR agent Elsa Goette sits in a Rolls-Royce engine of an Airbus A350-900 of Ethiopian Airlines during a site-inspection at Fraport airport in Frankfurt, Germany, in this May 22 2017 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH

SAA has taken delivery of the first of four “new” Airbus A350-900s.

“We welcome the first A350 home on SA soil. The introduction of the A350s offers a new beginning for the airline and will contribute to the airline’s operational efficiencies‚ and get SAA back on track. It is an important step-change as we continue to make progress to transform our business and return the airline to financial sustainability in the shortest time possible‚” said Zuks Ramasia‚ the airline's acting CEO.

The aircraft will operate on one of SAA’s ultra-long haul routes between Johannesburg and New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK)‚ replacing the Airbus A340-600 on this route. It will still fly nonstop.

As additional aircraft are introduced‚ more routes will be operated by the Airbus A350-900s.

The Airbus A350-900 is configured with a maximum of 339 seats‚ of which 30 are business class and 309 economy. The first six rows in economy class offer extra legroom.

The business class cabin has lie-flat beds.

SAA is set to receive the Airbus A350-900 aircraft over six weeks‚ and all four are expected to be operating commercially by mid-December after regulatory approvals and training.

The first two aircraft are nine months old and previously flew commercially with another carrier. Numbers two and three are scheduled for arrival during the first week of November and the fourth aircraft will arrive in early December.

The last two aircraft are new and will be delivered to SAA directly from the Airbus factory in Toulouse‚ France. Those two will be subleased from Air Mauritius.

SAA said the plane would achieve about 25% savings in fuel consumption and reduced emissions from the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. Since entering service in 2015‚ these engines have flown more than five-million hours and are regarded as the world’s most efficient large aero-engine.