PICTURES: First A380 service arrives in South Africa

Johannesburg
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Air France's first Johannesburg-bound Airbus A380 has touched down at the city's OR Tambo International Airport.

The aircraft landed on runway 03R at about 11:00, following a service from Paris Charles de Gaulle.

Speaking in Johannesburg shortly after the arrival, Air France chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon reiterated the cost-savings the jet will bring to the carrier in the current harsh economic climate.

air france a380 arrives in johannesburg, philippe delafosse/air france
 © Philippe Delafosse/Air France

"In every way the A380 will help us withstand the crisis," he says.

The A380 will be used initially thrice-weekly on the route, but a daily service will begin once the airline's third A380 is delivered in April.

Gourgeon says the aircraft arrived with 86 economy seats empty. But while he says this "seems a lot", he points out that the A380's 538-seat layout gave Air France an 84% load factor.

Johannesburg had hosted empty A380 flights for compatibility testing.

But OR Tambo International Airport's general manager, Chris Hlekane, tells ATI: "Passengers bring a new dynamic."

He says the first scheduled flight is a "more emotional" issue - involving higher stakes for the ground operation - but adds that the disembarkation of passengers and the transfer of baggage has gone quickly and smoothly.

air france a380 arrives in johannesburg, philippe delafosse/air france
 © Philippe Delafosse/Air France