South African Airways (SAA) has put some of its aircraft up for sale to accommodate the new Airbus A350-900s the airline recently added to its fleet.
The struggling carrier announced in a statement that it was selling nine wide-body aircraft – five Airbus A340-300s and four Airbus A340-600s; 15 spare engines and four Auxiliary Power Units, a device used to provide energy.
But SAA’s acting chief executive officer Zuks Ramasia stated that this decision to dispose of some of the airline’s assets had nothing to do with the ongoing business rescue process.
“After we received the four new Airbus A350-900, it has become necessary for us to sell our older models to accommodate the new models with superior features, such as the quieter cabin, relaxing in-flight environment and more extra-legroom seats in Economy Class and lie-flat beds in Business Class,” Ramasia stated in a media release issued by SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali, Thursday.
“The decision to sell the aircraft has nothing to do with the business rescue process. For some time, we had planned to replace our four-engine aircraft with new generation and more efficient aircraft as part of our fleet renewal programme. When we received five A330-300s in late 2017, early 2018, we had already planned to retire five A340s at that time, but due to the operational fleet undergoing maintenance, the retirement of the aircraft was postponed. Now is the time to sell the aircraft.”
Ramasia added that with the new A350s, which will start operating on its international route network next week, replacing the A340s had become possible, hence the national carrier advertised the sale of the nine aircraft on January 10, this year.
The closing date for the tender is January 30, 11.00am, SA time.
The aircraft on sale used to operate on regional and international routes, which will now be flown by the A330s and A350-900s, the statement reads.
According to SA’s Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, that country’s National Treasury is trying to find additional funding for the embattled state airline ahead of a January 19 deadline.
“Given the serious financial and operational challenges facing South Africa, the Department of Public Enterprises together with the National Treasury, is working closely with the management of South African Airways and the business rescue practitioner have arrived at a point where it is clear that certain decisions need to be taken about what to do,” Mboweni said at a media briefing in Johannesburg, Thursday, Bloomberg reported.
SAA has not received the 2 billion rand (US $139 million) from the National Treasury that was needed to keep the carrier operational, according to local SA media outlet Business Day.
The SA Treasury has been unable to sell assets quickly enough to fund SAA’s needs and the airline may face flight suspensions and liquidation from January 19 if it doesn’t receive the added bailout money, according to the Johannesburg-based newspaper.