Airbus, Boeing battle for big SAA contract
By ROGER MAKINGS
SOUTH African Airways will soon issue a request for proposals to manufacturers Airbus Industrie and Boeing for the supply of long-range aircraft.
SAA's executive vice-president for operations, Johan van Jaarsveld, says the airline hopes to decide on its choice of aircraft before the end of 2001.
The airline's 11 ageing B747 "classics" are less fuel-efficient than the newer aircraft of competing airlines and are now incurring huge penalties for excessive exhaust emissions and noise footprints at Europe's major airports.
Van Jaarsveld says SAA has completed its evaluation of the new aircraft. He says they all have positive and negative features. The frontrunners are the four-engined Airbus A340 and Boeing's twin-engined B777.
Photo © Remi Dallot
Also under consideration are the A330 and B767 twins.
"We have not discounted a comprehensive international and domestic fleet solution which would see one manufacturer providing us with a whole new fleet. I think it is going to come down to who offers us the best price and the speediest delivery," says Van Jaarsveld.
SAA is weighing its options on whether to buy, lease or seek a combination of both in what is certain to turn out to be a multibillion-rand deal.
Kiran Rao, Airbus Industrie's vice president for Africa and India, says the company will offer a tailored solution built around the A330/A340 family.
"SAA is an important and long-standing Airbus customer. We will help SAA retire its old and uneconomic 747 fleet with modern aircraft which will enhance the airline's profitability.
"We will offer the most competitive solution, addressing SAA's requirements in terms of cost, financing, payload and range performance, and rapid delivery," promises Rao.
Boeing's sales director for Southern Africa, Mike Smith, says the company could deliver B777-200 extended range aircraft and B767s by the fourth quarter of next year, depending on the number required.
He says that, if SAA opts for the rival A340-300, Boeing will be able to supply these aircraft as well since it had acquired some from Singapore Airlines.
Photo © Andrew Hunt
In a controversial R4.3-billion upgrade last year, SAA bought 21 B737-800s and sold off seven Airbus A320s.
At the time the airline, under then chief executive Coleman Andrews, said price and availability were the deciding factors.
The seemingly rushed deal - the new Boeings began arriving just three months after the announcement - caused problems for SAA, not least the training of cockpit crew to convert to the new models.
The airline has had to wet-lease aircraft from local companies and, more recently, employ 12 Argentinian crews to fly the older 737-200s on local and regional routes while SAA crews convert to the new aircraft.
The Boeings themselves have also had their share of teething problems, which the airline is ironing out.
It'll be interesting to see which company gets it. I'm really not quite sure which one I think will get the contact. In my opinion it'll all depend on the best deal and who will deliver the aircraft the quickest. Some people were wondering the other day, what Boeing will do with the A340's that they've bought from SIA...well, I guess they're planning to use it in order to be at an advantage to Airbus. Airbus should buy a couple of B777's then in my opinion.
Anyway, any ideas from anybody about who will get the contract?
Cheers - SunAir