South African Airways (SAA) has become the fourth A340-500/600 customer to suffer a delay to its delivery schedule, with the arrival of its new A340-600s slipping to the end of January.

The airline ordered nine A340-600s in March as part of a major deal for 41 Airbus aircraft, which included 26 A319/A320s and six A340-300s. SAA was able to secure an early delivery schedule for its A340-600s by taking over whitetail -600s that were being built against a cancelled Swissair contract, and the first aircraft were due arrive in October. Deliveries were rescheduled for December and have now been delayed by another month to the last week in January to give extra time to complete the configuration of the aircraft. The lease of BMI A330-200s next month will enable SAA to start line training of Airbus crews ahead of the A340-600's delayed introduction.

"It's a minor delay giving us sufficient time to ensure proper configuration to SAA's specification," says Airbus.

The A340-600s will initially operate services from Johannesburg to Frankfurt and Hong Kong. The third aircraft is due to arrive in February.

Virgin Atlantic was launch customer for the A340-600, with deliveries of its initial batch of aircraft starting in July and running about a month later than scheduled. Cathay Pacific is due to become the second -600 operator at the end of this month, when its first aircraft arrives around two months late. Deliveries of the first A340-500s to launch customer Air Canada are due in March, four months behind schedule.

Source: Flight International