A321 Will Fly Nonstop From Europe To South America

Filed Under: TAP Portugal

With aircraft technology improving, we’re seeing smaller planes operating longer flights. The A321 family of aircraft is probably the most impressive example of this.

The A321 has been used for medium haul flights for a long time, though we’ve now seen the introduction of the A321neo, and then the A321LR. Then in a few years we’ll see the introduction of the A321XLR, which will be the longest range narrow body aircraft (it’s debatable whether that’s a good thing for passengers or not).

The A321LR is already an impressive plane, and has been popular with airlines. For example, TAP Air Portugal is currently in the process of taking delivery of 14 Airbus A321LRs, which will be used on quite a few transatlantic routes.

The first transatlantic TAP route to feature the A321LR is Porto to Newark, which seems like a good fit. The airline has been flying the A321LR between the two cities 6x weekly since June 1, 2019.

The airline has just announced another interesting route with the aircraft, which represents a first. As of October 29, 2019, TAP Air Portugal will fly the A321LR 3x weekly between Lisbon and Belem, in Brazil. I find this interesting because it will be the first ever A321 route between Europe and South America, as far as I know.

The flight will operate 3x weekly with the following schedule:

TP47 Lisbon to Belem departing 4:25PM arriving 9:55PM
TP48 Belem to Lisbon departing 11:25PM arriving 10:15AM (+1 day)

The airline currently flies the route 2x weekly with an A330, so the additional frequency accounts for the capacity reduction on each flight that results from downgrading from an A330 to an A321.

This flight is about 3,700 miles in each direction, so it’s about 400 miles longer than the Porto to Newark flight. As such, a 3,700-mile flight with the A321LR isn’t that remarkable, as it’s well within the plane’s range. The flight is blocked at 8hr30min westbound and 7hr50min eastbound.

Personally, there’s always something that I find a bit eery about flying across the South Atlantic, as it’s a pretty straight shot across the ocean, and there aren’t many diversion points (unlike a North Atlantic routing, where you can divert to Greenland, Iceland, etc.).

For example, when I flew TAAG Angola from Luanda to Sao Paulo I couldn’t help but think about the lack of diversion points, even though it was just a roughly eight-hour flight (though in fairness that’s even more of a southerly route).

It’s cool to see a new “first” route between two continents for an aircraft type.

  1. Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Maderia… all in all, probably about 6 or 7 major airports that could handle an A321XLR with ease.

  2. Hate to do this but the 321 XLR will be doing this while the “Max” is still grounded.

  3. Personally I can’t help but thinking of how awful it will be to be stuck on a single-aisle plane for more than 6.5 hours which is about the outer limits of sanity

  4. However did we cope with the 707 and DC8..?

    The A321 is wider, quieter, better pressurised than both those.

    Why should it therefore have any bearing on one’s sanity..?

  5. How does the A321XLR address the crew rest problem? Will airlines block passenger seats or is one not needed with the maximum range?

  6. @Steven M

    I did MAD-IAD on a UA 757 in E+, and TBH, despite being blocked at 8:45, it wasn’t that bad.

  7. Try flying QF63 SYD-JNB it’s a nightmare in terms of flying straight over the sea (12hours over water) without diversion points

  8. well then don’t, ghostrider. HA!

    anyway what kind of seats? , I’d like to do a RTW trip all in Southern hemi 🙂

  9. As George said AKL to EZE has the long stretch over the Pacific and also over the Andes, having an incident on that route seems more treacherous than in the southern Atlantic.

  10. “how awful it will be to be stuck on a single-aisle plane for more than 6.5 hours”

    When you’re in economy, does it really matter? And for those in business class, having lie-flat seats also begs the question, does it really matter?

  11. For any flight longer than let say about 4 hours on a narrow body I would need to get paid to even consider it.
    At least they have the decency to fly with an Airbus which by design is a lot more comfortable than a Boeing.
    But if I had to go from Portugal to Brazil I would find myself a wide body. Happy to pay for the comfort.

  12. @Lucky

    Which software / website are you using in order to draw a line between the two cities?

  13. I think the debate regarding narrowbody passenger comfort over long-haul distances is quite an interesting one. Naturally a lot of passengers viewpoints are affected by their previous narrowbody experiences. However, I’m not sure how relevant those experiences are when it comes to the new A321XLR which will have a modern cabin, seating and engines. A lot a depend on how airliners configure the cabin. The A321XLR has the potential to be quite comfortable in terms of seating configurations but whether airlines take advantage of this remains to be seen. A max-pax Cebu Pacific type configuration would be truly terrible. On the other hand, if you look at Jetblue’s new configuration with 18.4″ wide seats, 32″ of pitch and modern IFE with wifi, I’d wager that would be pretty comfortable. In fact, I’d rather travel long-haul on an A321XLR with a Jetblue-like cabin than on any cramped 9-abreast 787 or 10-abreast 777. After all, it’s all about the seat, how long do you really spend walking the aisles or going to the toilet?

  14. @Mike

    Have you ever flown on 707 or DC8???

    Sanity is from 707/DC8 having almost the same length as 321 but with 30-50% fewer passengers.

    Sanity is 29″ pitch is a typo on 707 and reality on 321.

    Sanity is 60-70% load factor was the norm in those days and 90-95% today.

    I hate people who trash talk 707 or DC8. These are pioneers of the jetage. It’s why 737 can be flown to this day. It’s why A350 looks like what it is today.

    The only significance breakthrough in aviation technology since DC8 times was ETOPS. Both of which made the 321XLR possible today.

    737MAX is a fine piece of engineering with faulty software and ignorant regulator. FAA should downgrade themselves to category 2.

  15. @ Eskimo

    Yes, it’s all the bloody regulator’s fault, for not finding all the slap-dash “engineering” faults that Boeing let out of the factory.

    Just as when I mug you in the streets, it’s not me at fault — it’s the local police force, for failing to stop me.

    What is this blind live for Boeing? It screwed up. It’s not perfect. Stop trying to shift the blame somewhere else!

    The real test of Boeing will be how they manage themselves out of this crisis. So far, they’ve not covered themselves in glory…

  16. As others have pointed out, a narrow body at the end of the day will be as comfortable as the seats you are in, which will be up to the interior designers for airlines, not the aircraft itself. I suspect that due to the economic advantages of the plane, there will be a far number of ULCC’s that will fly it, and certainly if they pack them in with minimal seat pitch, no IFE, no wifi, and no meals it will be a difficult flight. But again that will be connected to the specific operator, not the fact that the plane is a narrow body.

  17. Flights between Europe and South America through the ITCZ tend to route either off the African coast or over Mauritania and Senegal depending on weather. Plenty of diversion points before crossing the gap between Dakar and Fortaleza and the distance at 3097 kms is shorter than Gander to Shannon. Diversion to Ascension is no better than turning back to Dakar or pressing on to Fortaleza and as an RAF/USAF base would only be accepted in extremis. Having flown various versions of the route my no no about the A321 would be comfort – not just the narrow body question but how the aircraft rides in turbulence which can be quite lumpy in a good riding wide body like the 777. How the ride will be in anA321 we will no doubt soon be hearing.

  18. I used Fortaleza as the entry point for Brasil deliberately. In bad weather, this is the shortest crossing of both the ITCZ and keeps the aircraft within 120 mins ETOPS which, even if the aircraft is cleared for 180 or 240 mins is important if a diversion has to deviate around weather. Also the distance between the nearest Cape Verde diversion point and Belem is 3302 kms which would, even with good winds and a minimum time track, be unlikely to fall within the 24p minutes ETOPS. BTW, anyone comparing moderate turbulence in an A321 with the same in a wide body needs to experience both before commenting.

  19. Lucky,

    Talking about diversion points, have you ever seen those routes between Australia/New Zealand and South America??? Those are really scary ETOPS!!!! Only Isla de Pascua in one side, and Antarctica (with no airports) on the other side.

    That’s a great aviation marvel.

  20. On your TAAG flight the diversion point would’ve probably have been the British Ascension Island. It’s a rocky outcrop used by the British armed forces. It was particularly important during the Falklands War where it was used as a forward base in recapturing the islands.

    Little bit of history for you.

  21. Ive experienced a 8 hour 6200km/3350Nm flight between Sydney and Manilla on an A321neo fitted with ACT tanks fitted. This was a range beyond the ceo. It was quite comfortable. Your comfort in economy class will be defined primarily by seat width (an A321 gives you 18 inches and 2 inches armrest so you wont rub shoulders embarrassingly with the person next to you), seat pitch (this will be on the high end, say 32 inches for an XLR since it will focus on longer routes). Aisle access is little worse than the 3/3/3, 3/4/3 or even 3/5/3 that is common on ‘widebodies’ and that often force you on to 17 inch seats with 1.5 inch armrests. The only widebody configuration ever comfortable was the A330 2/4/2 anyway. There is no issue with toilet access since in a 4+ hour flight there is plenty of time to go outside of the meal service and there just aren’t that many passengers needing to use the aisle at that time. The flight attendants simply moved the service trolley back or forward a few rows for the 2 passengers affected. Airbus have done a lot of work on the A321XLR. 1 Cabin pressure is reduced from 8000ft to 6000ft. 2 Overhead bins are 30% bigger and can fit three full sized roller bags over each row of three seats. 3 Garbage compactor allows the extra garbage from the 2 meals services to be reduced and water supply is increased from 200L to 490L. US unions standard require cabin crew rest facilities equal to a 40 degree recline seat for flights of 10-12 hours.

  22. @William

    I agree with most of your points except for 2.

    The A321XLR’s cabin pressurization is set at 8000ft, not 6000ft.

    Surely the most comfortable widebody economy configuration is 2-4-2 in JAL’s 787? Or 3-4-3 in the A380? Or failing that, the few remaining 777 3-3-3 configurations?

  23. The nice Paul – What a stupid metaphor. A more accurate comparison would be a policeman sitting back giving you a thumbs up while watching you being mugged…

    Police can’t, and have never claimed to, stop every crime ever. The FAA is irrefutably meant to catch design faults on planes it certifies as being safe

  24. @ Callum

    I am utterly mystified at the number of people who seem desperate to prove that Boeing’s screw-ups are anyone’s fault except Boeing’s.

    The US is a country that generally seems to despise regulators and government agencies, always preferring to entrust itself to the entrepreneurial dynamism and good intentions of the heroic private sector.

    Yet here we have a case where the private sector has screwed-up (even Boeing themselves have admitted that!) — and yet people like you seek to shift the blame somewhere else. Why?

    The only conclusions I can come to are (a) you work for Boeing; or (b) you own shares in Boeing; or (c) you hate government so much that this is just another stick you can try to beat them with.

    This whole chain of events starts with Boeing. But for their decisions, none of this would have happened. Others downstream may also have performed sub-optimally — but that wouldn’t have mattered if Boeing had got it right, from the beginning.

    As it happens, I agree with you a little — decades of virulent anti-government rhetoric have led to US regulators becoming enfeebled or, worse, subject to capture by the very companies they are supposed to regulate (“self-certification” is a symptom of this, too). Let’s not forget that the FAA was almost the last global regulator to ground the MAX. If I were American that would give me pause to think about the sort of society I had created.

    That right-wing, anti-commie president Eisenhower was warning more than half a century ago about the dangers of the military-industrial complex unbalancing US democracy. Seems nobody bothered to listen to him.

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