Photograph — enca

There’s a nasty review on by a writer who reportedly flew South African Airways from Johannesburg to Cape Town, a 2-hour trip, in the business class section. The writer called the business class seat “old,” saying it lacked “a lot of padding.” According to the writer, the seat structure was “poking.” The writer would have “appreciated a pillow.” Or a seatback that “reclines.” Or even a leg rest that “deploys fully.” In-flight entertainment was spare, and even then, headphones were not provided. The writer finishes with “however, I wouldn’t actively avoid South African Airways. I thought their pricing was competitive and their catering was fantastic. And, if you’re able to score a seat on their newer A330-300s, you’ll likely have a great flight.”

The great thing is that the airline has now announced plans to lease the Airbus A350 for a three-year period, in a bid to cut costs on long direct flights across major routes. The two new aircrafts are reportedly to replace the A340-600 which it currently flies from Johannesburg to JFK, New York. According to SAA CEO Zukisa Ramasia, these state-of-the-art aircrafts’ introduction is an important step as the airline tries to overhaul its business and make the company profitable in the “shortest time possible.” She said the airline hopes to improve the service it delivers between Johannesburg and New York in both Business and Economy class.

After enduring a crisis last year, the airline had struggled with operations and profitability. Early in June, former CEO Vuyani Jarana resigned. His replacement Zukisa Ramasia has since said the airline hopes to breakeven by 2021, showing the scale of refurbishment needed at the company.

The airline hopes to take delivery of these aircrafts shortly. It’s a lucky break for the airline, really, as LATAM had leased the aircrafts to Hainan Airlines, but they became available due to the Chinese government’s delay in approving their commencement. The South African Airways has nine A340-600s in the fleet, and will need some time to replace these aircrafts. But it is great that they’re replacing the aircrafts on the Johannesburg New York route, as the airline cannot afford to, now or in future, lose those flyers to a competing airline while it tries to find its feet.

The Airbus A350-900 is a classy aircraft, offering peak customer and crew comfort, combined with renowned fuel efficiency. It also comes with a modern in-flight entertainment system, as well as the latest inventions in safety, maintenance and technology. It has 246 Economy class seats, with extra legroom provided in the first six seats, and lie-flat mattresses in the Business class. Put together, these extra advantages should save the airline some money on operating costs. And perhaps, more favourable reviews.

By Caleb Ajinomoh

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