South African Airways’ (SAA) today took delivery of its first Airbus A319 twin-engined jetliner, to launch the modernisation of its domestic and regional fleet with new cost-efficient, state-of-the-art aircraft.

SAA has ordered 11 A319s and 15 of its slightly larger sister, the A320. The A319s will be delivered over the next year and will replace older generation aircraft.

Airbus assembles A319s in Hamburg, Germany, while the A320s are built in Toulouse, France. The first aircraft left Hamburg earlier today on its ferry-flight to Johannesburg, via Accra, Ghana. Assembly of SAA’s second A319 has been completed and final preparations are underway for its delivery in early September.

Today’s delivery starts the second phase of SAA’s ongoing comprehensive fleet modernisation programme which was launched in 2002 with an order for 42 new Airbus aircraft. The programme commenced with the introduction of new ultra-efficient long-range A340-600 and A340-300e aircraft replacing obsolete Boeing 747s Classic and 767s.

The A319 is a member of the market leading A320 Family of single-aisle jetliners. In a typical two-class cabin configuration, the A319 carries 124 passengers over 6,800km (3,700 nautical miles). The A320 Family of aircraft also includes the 110-seat A318, the 150-seat A320 (15 of which have also been ordered by SAA) and the 180-seat A321. They incorporate the same modern fly-by-wire technology used on SAA’s new long-range A340-600 and A340-300e aircraft, resulting in a high degree of commonality across the various aircraft.

Because all of the A320 Family members have common cockpit layouts, systems and operating procedures, pilots qualified on one family member can fly any of the others without additional training. This also applies to mechanics and engineers maintaining the aircraft. This means that once SAA has also taken delivery of its A320s, it will have tremendous flexibility to match the right aircraft to specific route requirements eliminating over-capacity and maximising profitability on its lower-volume and time/season-sensitive routes.

The A319 and A320 boast the widest single-aisle fuselage on the market, enabling airlines to set new standards for passenger cabin flexibility with wider seats and aisles for extra comfort and more efficient in-flight service. The superior cabin size and shape allows larger overhead stowages to be fitted for greater convenience as well as faster boarding and deplaning.

Airbus’ A320 Family has established itself as the industry standard for passenger comfort and economy on short and medium-haul routes. These versatile aircraft are in widespread service on five continents with a range of full-service, premium, VIP and low-cost operators.

SAA has selected International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500-series engines for its A319 fleet. These contribute to the A320 Family’s superior dispatch reliability track record, further enhancing passenger service and airline profitability.

Combined with the aircraft’s advanced aerodynamics and structure, the efficient engines have helped to establish the A319 and A320’s reputations as environmentally responsible neighbours. The A320 Family has the lowest fuel burn, emissions and noise footprints in their class.

Airbus has delivered more than 3,500 aircraft to some 260 customers and operators worldwide. Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK and Spain, as well as subsidiaries in the US, China and Japan. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE Systems.