New fleet of Airbuses will help SAA make inroads into Africa
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Fortunately, although SAA has withdrawn its service between Cape Town and London – its last direct flight between the city and Europe – we still have direct, nonstop flights by British Airways and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.