South African Airways takes Airbus A350 with New York flights up first
South African Airways has taken delivery of its first Airbus A350 with plans to debut the wide-body on flights to New York in December.
The Star Alliance carrier's first A350-900 will be joined by three more aircraft by early December, SAA said Thursday. The first two aircraft are used, coming from Hainan Airlines according to FlightGlobal, and the latter two are sub-leased new from Air Mauritius.
SAA plans to introduce the A350 on flights between its Johannesburg (JNB) base and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) by mid-December. The aircraft will fly the route nonstop and replace the Airbus A340-600 on the route, with SAA saying it expects an up to quarter reduction in fuel usage and emissions on the route.
SAA's A350 seats 339 passengers, including 30 in business class and 309 in economy. In addition, the first six rows of economy seats feature extra legroom.
Related: South African Airways A340-600 Business Class from New York to Cape Town
This compares to SAA's A340-600s that seat 317 passengers, including 42 in business and 275 in economy. The airline operates nine A340-600s, according to Airbus data.
SAA plans to expand its A350 network to other long-haul routes in addition to New York as more aircraft arrive, it said. However, Airbus' data does not show any additional SAA commitments for the jet beyond the four due by December.
The A350s are the latest in SAA's on-going fleet modernization program. The carrier has added five new Airbus A330-300s, which feature an updated interior and new business class product, to its fleet since 2016 as part of this effort.
SAA will operate the four A350s for a lease term of three years.