Travellers on tight budgets take advantage of the cheapest air flights available while others have a specific preference to a particular airline. But irrespective of which airline is their preference, how many travellers choose their flights by a specific make of aircraft, perhaps retired pilots?

Journey of SAA Airlines fleet

Back in the 1930’s ‘South African Airways’ (SAA) flew numerous ‘Junkers’ with flights three times a week between Durban and Johannesburg and a weekly service on the Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, George, Mossel Bay and Cape Town route. SAA introduced one ‘De Havilland DH.60 Gypsy Moth’ that flew for just three years. Four ‘Airspeed Envoys’ were introduced but only in service for two years. The 40’s saw the introduction of eight ‘Vickers VC.1 Vikings’, 21 ‘Lockheed L-18 Lodestars’, eight ‘Douglas C-47 Dakotas’ that remained faithful for 24 years, seven ‘Douglas DC-4s’ that flew for 21 years, two ‘De Havilland CH104 Doves’, in service for only five years and eight ‘Avro Yorks’ that were retired after just two years service. In the 1950’s SAA purchased four ‘Lockheed Constellations’, four ‘Douglas DC-7s’ and eight ‘Vickers Viscounts’. During this decade one ‘De Havilland Comet 1’ was purchased and was only in service for one year.

The 1960s through to early 2000 saw the introduction of various ‘Boeing 737s’ and ‘747s’ with 21 ‘Boeing 737-800s’ being purchased in 2002 of which 11 are still in service. Six ‘Boeing 747SPs’ were in service for 27 years while eight ‘Boeing 747-200s’ endured for 34 years before being retired. Besides the reliable ‘Boeing’, in 1970 three ‘HS 748s’ were introduced, flying for 13 years.

Introduction of the first of nine ‘Airbus A300s’

SAA introduced the first of nine ‘Airbus A300s’ in 1976 that were in service for 25 years with a further seven ‘Airbus A320s’ in 1991 that were retired after only 11 years but in 2012 SAA purchased another four that remain in service.

2002 saw the introduction into SAA of nine ‘Airbus A340-600s’ still flying today and the following year SAA brought in six ‘Airbus A340-200s’ which were retired in 2013.

In 2003 SAA added five ‘Airbus A330-200s’ to its fleet, however they only lasted two years before retirement and in 2011 SAA purchased a further six of these aircraft that are still in service.

In 2004, 11 ‘Airbus A319s’ and eight ‘Airbus A340-300s’ became part of SAA which are all still in service today. 2011 saw six ‘Airbus A330-200s’ becoming part of SAA’s fleet which are still active.

SAA has come a long way from its fleet of 38 ‘Junkers’ capable of carrying approximately 14 passengers and four crew members to the ‘Airbus A319’ capable of carrying 25 business class and 95 economy class passengers. Business class has an aisle between seating of two and three rows while economy has rows of three seats on either side of the aisle.

SAA’s ‘Boeing 737-800s’ offers passengers 137 economy class seats with 20 business class seats available and similar to the ‘Airbus A319’, business passengers can be seated in either rows of two or three while economy seating for passengers has rows of three on either side of the aisle. In economy class the best seats are row 11 offering more space and legroom. SAA utilises the ‘Boeing 737-800s’ mostly for domestic and regional routes.