South African Airways, constantly in the news because of its financial woes and the government bailouts to keep it afloat, has taken delivery of the first of four Airbus A350-900s, the airline said on Thursday.

south african airways airbus1350
Photo: Twitter.

“The introduction of the A350s offers a new beginning for the airline and will contribute to the airline’s operational efficiencies, and get SAA back on track,” the airline said. The plane will replace the Airbus A340 on the flight between O.R Tambo and John F. Kennedy airports.

SAA is to receive 4 of the planes over 6 weeks, all of which are expected to operate commercially by mid-December, the airline said. Two of them are 9 months old and flew with another carrier, while the last two are new and subleased from Air Mauritius, with which airline SAA recently got the go-ahead from the Competition Commission of South Africa to form a joint venture. SAA said the new jetliners would help it save 25 percent on fuel costs.

According to Moneyweb, between 2012 and 2017, SAA suffered losses of nearly R18 billion, and by the end of the 2017 financial year – the last year the airline gave a financial report – its liabilities exceeded its assets and equity by R17.8 billion.

The A350 accommodates up to 350 passengers and its fuselage is built with carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, which supports lower fuel burn, easier maintenance and increased resistance to corrosion, according to Airbus.