South African Airways is celebrating the introduction of its newest aircraft on its longest nonstop route.
The airline recently acquired the Airbus A350-900 XWB aircraft, one of the newest aircraft from the European manufacturer, that will replace the quad engine Airbus A340-600. Though the largest in South African’s fleet, the A340 has slowly been retired from the world’s skies in favor of more efficient twin-engine aircraft such as the A350.
The A350 quietly debuted in January. The inaugural flight was initially scheduled for February, travel website The Points Guy reported, though its service was unexpectedly moved up.
The A350 is ideal for the long routes that South African will be deploying it on as it has a better track record of efficiency than its current generation colleagues at the airline.
Airbus also loaded the aircraft with passenger-friendly features such as quieter engines and LED ambient lighting to combat jet lag to aid passengers in making the long-haul journey. Most airlines have also opted for exterior cameras accessible through the aircraft’s in-flight entertainment system.
With the aircraft now on the New York route, flight times have lowered and held steady at around 14 hours for the near 7,000 nautical mile route, according to data from flight-tracking website FlightRadar24.
The debut of a new aircraft is typically a positive sign for any airline, but the A350’s induction into South African’s fleet comes at a time when the airline’s future in the skies is in doubt. The state-owned airline has been experienced financial difficulties that put its future in jeopardy as plans to revitalize the airline and make it profitable have failed.
Loans have largely kept the airline afloat, as Reuters reported, but it may not be enough to keep South African flying.