Pretoria – Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom on Monday officiated at the launch of a new Boeing Next Generation 737-800 aircraft that will in the next few weeks enter Comair Limited’s British Airways fleet.
British Airways operates over 400 flights per week in southern Africa to destinations including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Harare, Livingstone, Mauritius, Victoria Falls and Windhoek.
Comair this year celebrates its 70th year of operation and the 20th anniversary of its partnership with British Airways.
Speaking at the launch in Sandton, Minister Hanekom congratulated British Airways on the new aircraft.
“What we want is our cities connected. [No] single airline will cover all the routes,” he said.
Minister Hanekom said airlines play a critical role in the economy. He said the introduction of the new aircraft will contribute to broadening the traveller experience.
Comair CEO Erik Venter said the new aircraft is part of the airline’s ongoing fleet upgrade strategy and an important step towards operating the most modern and efficient fleet within southern Africa.
He said the new aircraft will help them embrace opportunities like the new Saint Helena route.
“In addition to our existing British Airways (operated by Comair) route network, which includes South Africa, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, this access to centrally-located airports within South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and in the Indian Ocean islands allows our valued customers access to diverse business and leisure destinations in the region,” he said.
Venter said the new aircraft will be fitted with split-scimitar winglets, vertical wingtip extensions that reduce drag and provide lift, cutting fuel consumption and lowering the aircraft’s carbon footprint.
The first iteration of the Next Generation 737 in 1997 proved popular with airlines and passengers. Combined with quieter, more fuel-efficient engines, the 737-800 is capable of trans-continental flight.
“The Boeing Next Generation 737-800 is popular on routes around the world. As of last year, 5 000 were in operation and another 4 400 737s had been ordered,” Venter said.
He said the Next Generation 800 is the second-longest 737 and the new aircraft will seat up to 160 passengers. An improvement in the design of the overhead bins enables a 50% capacity increase to accommodate carry-on bags.
The 737 became the first-ever commercial jet airplane to surpass the 10 000 orders milestone in July 2012 when United Airlines ordered 100 737 MAX 9s and 50 Next Generation 737-900ERs (Extended Range).
Ten thousand 737s at any one time carry approximately 1 500 000 passengers. On average, over 2 000 737 airplanes are in the air at any given time.
Minister Hanekom said one 737 takes off or lands every 1.9 seconds.
The 737 has flown more than 119.0 billion miles, equivalent to approximately 640 round trips from the earth to the sun. Besides having an extended route network in southern Africa as well as globally, British Airways’ route network is further enhanced through its oneworld® alliance partnership.