An A320 plane under construction at the final assembly line of the Airbus factory in Tianjin, China. Airbus says it is planning a fourth production centre  in Australia  because of demand for the new-generation planes. File picture: Reuters

Johannesburg - SAA will add two more new-generation Airbus aircraft on its domestic and regional routes, which will reduce its fuel costs by 5 percent compared with the Boeing 737s the carrier uses on these routes.

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced yesterday that it would deliver two A320 single-aisle planes to SAA in July. The two planes are part of an order for 20 narrow-body planes that SAA placed with Airbus in 2010.

SAA received four of these planes last year and two were deployed on domestic routes. The others were deployed on the routes between Johannesburg and Nairobi, and Johannesburg and Mauritius.

SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said the latest two planes would be used to replace old ones on existing routes or for new routes that SAA would add in future.

“We’ve seen the efficiencies of the new aircraft with up to 11 percent savings on fuel consumption. And in our view this will go a long way to bringing the company closer to reduced operating costs,” Tlali said.

He said the target was to take delivery of four more A320s in the 2014 financial year.

The aircraft have a more powerful engine and seat 24 passengers in business class and 114 in the economy cabin.

SAA also has slightly smaller A319 aircraft from Airbus, which it flies on these routes. They carry 124 passengers on a standard flight.

SAA has 13 Boeing 737-800 planes in its fleet.

Airbus said the A320 consumed 5 percent less fuel per trip than the 737-800. This was because the A320 had between 10 percent and 15 percent composite application, which meant it had less metal making up its body, thus slightly less body weight.

Tlali said the 737-800 would remain part of SAA’s fleet until the end of 2016, when these planes would be completely replaced by A320s.

Some components of these planes are sourced from South Africa.

They include the wing flap track cans, avionics bay racks and the satellite communications antennae. These are manufactured by Aerosud, based in Pretoria, and Cobham Advanced Technologies South Africa in the Western Cape.

The two companies also supply components for Airbus’s wide-bodied A330 fleet and for the new-generation A350, which will take off towards the end of this year when Airbus delivers the first customer plane to Qatar Airways.

Airbus marketing communications director Alan Pardoe said the company was planning to open a fourth production centre for the A320 in Melbourne next year because of the demand for the aircraft.

* Business Report’s Londiwe Buthelezi is a guest of SAA in France.