South African Airways is now flying all-new business class seats on its Airbus A330-300 jets – but they won't be fitted to the long-range A340 aircraft which fly between Perth and Johannesburg.
The move marks the start of a long-awaited revitalisation for the Star Alliance member, which will have five of the factory-fresh A330s in the air by mid-2017.
The lie-flat seats are based on the Vantage XL design by Thompson Aero Seating – an increasingly popular choice among airlines such as Qantas (the Vantage XL is the basis for the Qantas Airbus A330 and Boeing 787 business class), SAS and Delta, while the simpler Vantage model is used by Malaysia Airlines and Swiss.
SAA turned to the highly-regarded design and branding firm Priestmangoode to refine the seats and integrate them into a refreshed cabin which takes its cues from South African motifs and SAA's own airport lounges.
The 46 business class seats follow the staggered 1-2-1 floorplan of the Vantage XL, with every passenger enjoying direct aisle access plus large video screens and plenty of storage around the seat.
Those nooks, crannies and cubbyholes are put to good use, whether it's putting headphones and AC/USB power sockets within easy reach...
... or providing bins for each traveller's own carry-on items.
However, a spokesman for South African Airways has confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that "the new (A330) seats won't be installed in other aircraft."
This means the long-range four-engine A340s which ply the 11 hour trek between Perth and Johannesburg will be staying with its lie-flat but 2-2-2 business class seats.
SAA's A330-200s, which currently sport angled seats, are also ruled out of contention for an upgrade.