South African Airways (SAA) took delivery this week of a further two new A320 aircraft, bringing the total number of narrow bodied aircraft to join the SAA fleet this year to six. The latest two A320s arrived earlier this month, with another A320 (number five) expected in June this year. Aircraft six and seven are expected to arrive in the third quarter and aircraft eight in the fourth quarter. Two of the A320s entered service last year.
Fleet renewal forms part of the three key pillars of the successful implementation of SAA's new strategy, Gaining Altitude. The fleet replacement programme for SAA’s narrow-bodied fleet includes the acquisition of twenty A320 aircraft, which will replace all the Boeing 737-800 aircraft and increase the fleet to support SAA route expansion plans into Africa. “We are very excited about the latest new arrivals in our fleet, which brings our customers the added pleasure of flying on brand new, aircraft. Besides the improved on board offering, customers can enjoy their flying experience knowing that they are travelling with a more fuel efficient aircraft and thus part of the airline’s commitment to being an environmentally responsible airline,” says Kendy Phohleli, SAA General Manager Commercial (Acting).
In keeping with SAA’s initiatives towards weight reduction, products and material on the new A320’s are made of lightweight materials. “We have put a lot of work into making the Business Class on these aircraft attractive and super comfortable for customers. These aircraft further offer a refreshed on board experience through a number of special features,” says Myriam Bracke, Manager Product.
Interior design of the cabin:
The interior design of the cabin reflects on SAA’s truly South African nature with earthy touches of African colours and ‘elements of surprise’, often seen in South African designs. Materials used are durable leather for the seats and a mix of nylon and wool for the carpets offering lighter and stronger fixtures. Wood look finished floors and the SAA logo in the welcoming area are more special touches.
Aircraft areconfiguredwith 24 Business Class and 114 Economy Class seats.
Seating in economy class offers apitch of 31 inches,with shared USB and PC power points and an adjustableheadrest. Customers can enjoy a greater sense of living space these slim-line seats offer, which have been upholstered in easy tomaintain leather throughout the cabin. Colours used are dark beige and anthracite grey with touches of red and blue corporate colours.
Business class offers ample leg room with a pitch of 39inches, and seats are arranged with two seats either side of the aisle (four abreast) offering more seat width. The A320s are the first narrow body aircraft in the SAA fleet to offer four seats abreast, offering more space and comfort, in comparison to the five seats abreast on the B737s and A319s. Every seat has a leg rest, and an adjustable headrest, with a recline of about 7 inches allowing the seat to fold out into a cradle position offering super comfort for up to four hour long regional trips. Seats have loads of stowage on the sides, which gives extra width.
“Business class seating offer a 10% improvement on pitch compared to our current business class offering on narrow body aircraft, giving our competitors in the domestic market a run for their money.” A class divider between economy and business class in curtain material with a basket weave print reflects on the South African theme. Mood lights in light blue (on the hand rails) add the final touch to the superb interior ambience of these aircraft. A magazine rack which complements a ‘wrap around’ design will be installed by SAA.
Stow your tablet:
All the seats (except for the first row) have an innovative special feature: the back shell has space to stow a PC tablet, with a USB powerpoint that keeps a tablet powered during the flight, and PC power points in the centre console for additional laptop computer power. “These Business Class seats are a customised design for SAA and we are truly proud of offering our customers this initiative. It is an airline first,” says Myriam Bracke. In the pipeline are Samsung tablets, with in flight entertainment content already loaded, which will be offered to business class travellers on longer African flights.
In flight entertainment:
Customers can watch the in flight entertainment on the classic drop down overhead screens and can look forward to improved quality of flight entertainment experience as well as Airshow’s moving map experience, new on these narrow bodies.As a future innovationSAA is testing new IFE technology where content will be streamed on board to customers’ own devices.
In a market environment where jetfuel has become the single biggest cost factor for any airline, the A320 has become the aircraft of choice for airlines looking to reduce their fuel bills. Newer aircraft embody the latest technologies, are also more reliable, more productive and require less down-time for maintenance and repairs. Lower fuel burn means fewer carbon emissions and with the A320's low noise footprint, it's a good neighbour too.
For SAA, where the A320 comes into its own is through its high degree of flight deck operational, training and technical support commonality with the other Airbus types in the fleet, notably its shorter sister, the A319, but also its bigger long-haul cousins, the A330-200 and A340s.