South African Airways (SAA) took delivery of its first Airbus A340-300E, which is the first “enhanced” version of this Airbus type. SAA will receive six A340-300E by 2005.

The 295-seat A340-300E features several enhancements, including a higher thrust-generating version of the CFM56 engine, which burns less fuel and is ideally suited for the hot-and-high conditions, at airports such as Johannesburg International Airport. Among the other improvements are the use of LCD cockpit display units and a revised cabin interior design creating even more personal space for passengers.

Today’s delivery sees SAA move into the second phase of its comprehensive fleet modernisation programme. This involves the acquisition of 41 new Airbus aircraft, including nine A340-600s and six A340-300Es for ultra-long and long haul flights. It has also ordered 11 A319s and 15 A320s and will use these best-selling and passenger-appealing single-aisle aircraft on its domestic and African route network. In addition, SAA also operates six leased A340-200s and two leased A330-200s.

Speaking on taking ownership of the new A340-300, SAA CEO, André Viljoen said; “SAA is delighted to receive this latest addition to its fleet. The new Airbus Family aircraft, with its unrivalled commonality, allows us to reap increasing immediate operational efficiencies and cost-savings as our fleet modernisation programme progresses. These translate directly into greater operational profitability for SAA and enables us to pass on savings to our customers”.

He explained that SAA’s fleet acquisitions “strengthened the underlying value and profitability of the company. If you are going to compete in a tightly contested global market, you must be properly equipped. These modern and efficient Airbus aircraft provide SAA with the right tools to compete successfully and to deliver a sustainable return on investment to its shareholders”.

Airbus President and Chief Executive Noel Forgeard, said: “SAA is a benchmark airline renowned for setting very high standards for safety, efficiency and customer satisfaction. Airbus also prides itself on setting new standards in the design, development, manufacture and support of new aircraft. We’re confident that the family of Airbus aircraft it is acquiring will help SAA meet all of its requirements”.

The new Airbus fleet also enables SAA to carry containerised cargo across its entire domestic, regional and long-haul network. This facilitates air freight exports of perishable and high-value goods while also resulting in faster turnaround between flights and improved fleet utilisation.

Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE SYSTEMS.