New fleet of Air­buses will help SAA make in­roads into Africa

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2013 - AU­DREY D’AN­GELO

SAA took de­liv­ery last Tues­day of the first two of its new fleet of Air­bus A320s, out of a to­tal of 20, to re­place the leased Boe­ing 737-800s it is us­ing on its re­gional and do­mes­tic routes.

The air­line’s new chief ex­ec­u­tive, Mowabisi Kalawe, said the fleet, which used less fuel, would be a sig­nif­i­cant part of SAA’s mod­erni­sa­tion and cost-cut­ting pro­gramme. Op­er­at­ing a mod­ern fleet would play a big part in re­duc­ing costs and rais­ing rev­enue, while at the same time of­fer­ing a bet­ter and more com­fort­able cabin.

The new air­craft are con­fig­ured with 24 busi­ness class seats and 114 in econ­omy.

Kalawe said the new planes would be used to ex­pand and strengthen SAA’s grow­ing re­gional route net­work to cater for an ex­pected in­crease in de­mand.

They have been de­liv­ered at a time when in­creased pros­per­ity in sev­eral African coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly those where oil has been dis­cov­ered, has led to a growth in their mid­dle classes and is ex­pected to lead to an in­crease in de­mand for both busi­ness and leisure travel and more in­ter-African trade. This makes it im­por­tant for SAA to es­tab­lish its en­larged route net­work in the con­ti­nent be­fore the ex­pected ar­rival of new com­pe­ti­tion.

Bri­tish-based Stan­dard Char­ter Bank, whose avi­a­tion arm has pro­vided the fi­nance for the first 10 of the new fleet, is look­ing for other new clients among African air­lines, while the num­ber of air­lines from over­seas fly­ing into the con­ti­nent is grow­ing.

How­ever, al­though tourism from Africa’s more pros­per­ous coun­tries, as dis­tinct from shop­ping trips to this coun­try, is grow­ing, the UK, con­ti­nen­tal Europe and the US are still South Africa’s main source mar­kets for tourism from over­seas and Thomp­son’s Travel, which has opened an of­fice in Shang­hai, forecasts huge growth in tourism from China.

For­tu­nately, al­though SAA has with­drawn its ser­vice be­tween Cape Town and Lon­don – its last di­rect flight be­tween the city and Europe – we still have di­rect, non­stop flights by Bri­tish Air­ways and KLM all year round.

In ad­di­tion, Emi­rates of­fers con­nect­ing flights by way of Dubai and there is wide choice of con­nect­ing flights by sev­eral air­lines from Joburg.

De­spite most Capetonians’ dis­like of chang­ing planes in Joburg, sev­eral have cho­sen to do so for the ex­pe­ri­ence of fly­ing in the gi­ant Air­bus A380 with ei­ther Air France or Lufthansa. Now Bri­tish Air- ways, which has taken de­liv­ery of its first A380s, will also use them on the Joburg route from Fe­bru­ary and is al­ready sell­ing tick­ets at a spe­cial in­tro­duc­tory fare, dis­counted by up to 40 per­cent, in all classes from now un­til Au­gust 31, for travel be­tween Fe­bru­ary 12 and June.

The fares are inclusive of all taxes and sur­charges but, un­for­tu­nately, th­ese ad­di­tional charges – in­clud­ing the high ar­rival and de­par­ture tax which the Bri­tish govern­ment con­tin­ues to charge de­spite protests – pushes it up to a level that takes away some of the ad­van­tage of the fare re­duc­tion.

As a re­sult of this and the weak­ness of our rand, the re­duced econ­omy fare is from R8 380 at the cur­rent ex­change rate.

BA’s A380s carry 469 pas­sen­gers in four classes, with 14 in first class on the up­per deck, 44 in busi­ness class on the main deck and 53 on the up­per deck, 55 in pre­mier econ­omy on the up­per deck and econ­omy seats on both up­per and main decks.

In ad­di­tion to more space, the noise level on the A380 is lower than on any other air­craft. The BA A380 has an ad­vanced air condi- tion­ing sys­tem with 15 tem­per­a­ture con­trol zones and the cabin air is changed ev­ery three min­utes.

Gavin Hal­l­i­day, BA’s gen­eral man­ager for Africa and Europe, said the fact that Joburg was the third city to be served by one of the air­line’s A380s – the first was de­liv­ered last month and the first des­ti­na­tions are Los An­ge­les and Hong Kong – showed it re­garded South Africa as one of its most im­por­tant des­ti­na­tions.

It flies to Cape Town daily in win­ter and twice a day in sum­mer and has 13 overnight flights a week be­tween Lon­don and Joburg.

FUEL EF­FI­CIENT: SAA has taken de­liv­ery of the first of its Air­bus A320s, which have low fuel con­sump­tion.

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