Airbus Launches The A321XLR, The Longest Range Narrow Body Plane Ever

Filed Under: Misc.

Read more: In the first few days we’ve seen A321XLR orders from Qantas, JetstarAer Lingus, IberiaFrontier, JetSMART, and Wizz AirAmerican, and JetBlue. Airlines like Lufthansa are skeptical about the plane. Should passengers dread the A321XLR, though?

Airbus has today formally launched the A321XLR, which is the longest range single aisle plane ever. The plane will be available starting in 2023, and will have 15% more range than the A321LR.

This marks the continued evolution of the A321 family. The plane used to be very popular with airlines for regional flights. But they didn’t stop there:

  • Airbus launched the A321neo (new engine option), which has an extended range and is more fuel efficient
  • Then Airbus introduced the A321LR (long range), which has an extended range of up 4,600 miles
  • Now Airbus is introducing the A321XLR (extra long range), which gets a huge range boost, and can fly up to 5,400 miles nonstop

Airbus touts that the A321XLR brings 30% lower fuel burn per seat than previous generation competitor aircraft (which I’m guessing refers to the 757).

Now, if the Airbus A321XLR already sounds familiar, it’s because the aircraft manufacturer wasn’t exactly tight-lipped about the introduction of the plane. While this is their formal announcement, they’ve been talking for several months about how they plan on introducing an even longer range version of the A321.

This plane will be make markets feasible that otherwise could have never worked in the past. The A321XLR is a lower cost single aisle aircraft that can be used for longer and less heavily traveled routes, many of which just wouldn’t be economical with bigger planes.

Airbus notes that this will enable operators to open new worldwide routes, such as India to Europe or China to Australia, as well as further extending the A321’s abilities across the Atlantic.

Airbus focused on designing the A321XLR so that it has a lot of overall commonality with the rest of the A320neo family. Where does the added range come from? The A321XLR:

  • Has a permanent rear center tank for more fuel; this holds more fuel than several optional additional center tanks previously did, while taking up less space in the cargo hold, making more space for baggage and cargo
  • Has a modified landing gear for an increased maximum takeoff weight of 101 metric tons
  • Has an optimized wing trailing-edge flap configuration to preserve the same takeoff performance and engine thrust requirements as today’s A321neo

Bottom line

The A321XLR is a fantastic new plane that will be able to serve so many markets that previously just weren’t practical, especially those in the range of 4,600-5,400 miles.

So far Airbus and Boeing have mostly had competing products, though this is an area where Boeing doesn’t yet have a competitor. While the 737 MAX can compete with the A321neo, they don’t have a version of the plane with this kind of range.

There are rumors of Boeing eventually introducing the “797” (as it’s currently known), which would be a competitor, but who knows how far off that could be.

I can’t wait to see what airlines order this plane — I’m sure it will be a popular one. There are rumors that American might be interested in the A321XLR, and also rumors that JetBlue may convert some of their existing orders for the A321LR to the A321XLR.

What do you make of the A321XLR?

  1. Hard no! Anything longer than 3 hours on a single aisle plane gives me anxiety, especially if I’m trapped by a window and the food trollys are taking up the aisle when nature calls.

  2. Won’t be surprised if IndiGo ends up being the largest operator for the type. They’ve long wanted r to expand to Europe but have always been wary of acquiring wide-bodies.

  3. The interesting thing will be to see how airlines configure their premium cabins (well, the airlines that offer them) to these planes…granted, there are airlines that do offer lie-flat seats on narrow body planes already, but still should be interesting.

  4. The A321XLR will be very disruptive. It will compete not with the B737 but replace the B787 and A330 on many routes under 4000nm. It will even hurt the B777 because it allows hubs to be bypassed. It may help bring in more flights to mega hubs such as Dubai as they become able to service smaller routes. It will offer greater frequency on those routes than widebody aircraft. What was 2-3 times weekly with a wide body can become daily in an A321XLR. It will bust hubs, it will turn domestic airlines into international airlines. It will allow small Eastern and Central European mid sized cities to have direct routes to the Far East and US. The A321LR has already exceeded to B757-200 3960nm in range and passengers. The 4700nm A321XLR will make reliable 4000nm routes with payload and cargo possible.

  5. It was a long time in the making. I am not unconvinced Emirate’s decision ot reconsider the 777X order has to do with it.

    Now I think the best markets for this aircraft are probably going to be the North Atlantic and the South-East Asia sub-region.

    It is a fantastic news, both for Airbus, but also for Boeing that might finally try to increase its competitiveness (797 you say?).

    Bottom : Great bu not surprised

  6. I could see smaller Indian Airlines or even the subcontinent’s airlines (Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.) ordering this.

  7. Could the ‘range map’ possibly hint at possible customers for the plane? Thinking along the lines of Reykjavik being on there which could mean Icelandair may be a possible customer to replace their 757s.

  8. Boeing killed off the 757 without coming up with an adequate replacement. And no, some stretched out version of the 737 was never going to do it. Now, Airbus has finally come out with a model that can basically fill that market hole – while Boeing screws around with a 2 aisle model that still won’t satisfy the demand that they created when killing off the 757. Let’s face it: Boeing blew it a long time ago and that’s finally coming back to bite them bigtime. Airbus is about to eat their lunch.

  9. The 737MAX is grounded. The 77X is delayed for 6 months due to engine issues. The 787 now apparently has pilots worried about its technology, from articles over the weekend. They need to launch the NMA but are so distracted. Airbus is about to eat their lunch.

  10. I wouldn’t be surprised if JetBlue converts all their orders for the LR to the XLR, or strikes a deal with Airbus to take LRs so they can start US-UK service and then trade them in on XLRs later, so as to avoid further fleet complication.

  11. This is an interesting development. I’d like to see what Boeing actually comes up with to compete. It better not be another stretched 737 variant.

  12. 797 should aim to be the smallest twin-aisle plane.
    Single aisle is already squeezy and uncomfortable. Long flights would make it worse.

  13. The Airbus a321neo XLR needs a baggage space, a wider baggage doors like the a330neo, a higher MTOW and an extra center tank

  14. Boeing CEO should resign immediately for negligence and in- competence,Boeing need to take new direction ,the new team should take over and first fix quickly the 737 max problem and show to the World that the plane is safe than ever ,Bring back confidence and preparing war against Airbus becaise Airbus is not here to play games

  15. My concern is strictly as a passenger in economy. Any idea how wide the seats will be? The 757 has narrow seats, which is rough on longer flights.

  16. Christian: The fuselage is 6” wider on the A321 vs the 737 which usually allows each seat to be about 1” wider. It makes a big difference. I wouldn’t fly on a 737max long distances for that reason.

  17. I have never enjoyed flying on Airbus aircraft, but that’s personal. Boeing is usually my preference and I don’t think I am alone in this. I’m a large frame American person and the Airbus aircraft tend to be designed for smaller European and Asian passengers.
    On my recent trips on A350 and 777 aircraft led me to still prefer the Boeing aircraft.

  18. The title is incorrect. The old narrowbody 707-320B, some versions of of the DC-8, the Il-62M, and VC-10 all had longer range than the A321XLR.

  19. Airbus keeps knocking it out of the park, while Boeing is getting their butt kicked behind the bleachers. Among the many stupid Boeing decisions : ending production of the 757.
    About the impressive range, is it 4,700nm like the graphic states, or 5,400 like the article mentions? The later is Seattle to Paris. Or certainly ORD to Europe. No need to stop in Iceland, other than just for fun.

  20. David Christensen: that is incorrect – the airbus is wider than the B737. This means that your seat is about an inch wider.

    Talking about space between rows is something that can be decided by the airlines. It’s possible some airlines you tried previously have chosen for a lower seat pitch. However, that is totally up to the airline and the kind of product they want to sell.. It’s irrelevant from the aircraft manufacturer.

  21. Ah the 707-320b…I remember it well when I flew it round-the-world several times on TWA. And pretty much any international route they flew. Something beautiful and that plane…seeing it land in some far-flung place in the world middle of the night….

    And that great 4-seat lounge forward of First Class across from the galley..

    Economy class was like business class…wide seats, real legroom.

    Many fond memories of that airplane

  22. David Christensen: Xandrios already mentioned the 737. When it comes to the 777, it’s almost even worse. Most airlines have gone in and squeezed an additional seat per row for 10-abreast. This is almost impossible to do on an A330/A350 unless you’re one of the few evil discount carriers that have made the squeeze to do it. Philippine Airlines reversed their decision just a year or two ago and went back to 8 rather than 9 on the A330.

  23. Middle East airlines has already ordered it. Four of those delivery will start in 2023.

  24. @David Christensen LOOOOL. Many airlines squeeze passengers in 3-4-3 on a 777, so an A350 will actually bring you more space than on a 777 (or on a 787 configured in 3-3-3).

  25. There is no such thing as “wide body comfort”. It’s marketing spin nonsense. Comfort is purely determined by seat pitch and seat width not the ceiling height above the middle column of passengers. The A320 will always be 3/3 with 18 inch wide seats unless they pull an inch of to widen the aisle a little. The NMA will start out at 2/3/2 but will inevitably turn into a 2/4/2. Statistically Aisle access is perhaps a little better for some passengers on some two aisle aircraft. The service trolley blocking access to the toilets was not an issue on an 8 hour flight I did on an Philipine Airlines A321LR. There just aren’t that many passengers needing to go to toilet and the cabin crew just back up to let a passenger or two through on those rare occasions. I’ve been stuck in two aisles aircraft with two service trolleys in use for much longer and unable to go around.

  26. As far as I know the range is 4700nm, not 5400 (unless there was a last minute surprise change?). That’s still impressive but it doesn’t make it the longest range single-aisle airplane ever. The DC8-62 could fly 5200nm, some versions of the 707 could do 5000nm too.

  27. @David Christensen You prefer narrower seats and louder cabin noise? I mean, whatever floats your boat, but you seem to be biased for no particular reason.

  28. Nothing can replace the 757 but the 757.

    321XLR may have the range but it ends there.

    Can’t match hot&high operations.
    Can’t match cargo payloads.

    Airlines are NOT pleased with 321XLR. It’s just a stop gap.
    US based airlines are happy with 757 and pissed that Boeing kill off production.

  29. @William, this new aircraft may possibly bring in extra business to Middle East hubs but it may also make stopping at those hubs unnecessary for southern Asian and European airlines.

  30. Kuala Lumpur Auckland? I thought thats almost a 12 hour flight in one of the direction.
    Very impressive for a narrowbody, while improving on the cargo hold too?!

  31. A330 2-4-2 or 3-3-3 in the A350 are both superior to 3-3-3 in the 787 or 3-4-3 in the 777. I personally won’t fly economy in the 787/777 with those configurations ever. PE definitely but not economy. And for transatlantic, the A321 will kick the 737’s tail.

    I believe Boeing intended for the 787 to originally have a 2-4-2 layout for a superior economy experience but airlines saw the money being left on the table. Consumers are cheap and will pick a $50 cheaper fare even if it means super cramped quarters.

    As for the A321Lr/XLR, Airlines could do a 3 or 4 cabin setup too. Lie flat biz (like B6 Mint), 2-2 PE with 38-40” pitch, eco+ and eco. Wouldn’t stink that bad especially if prices were fair for the premium seats.

  32. Today Bloomberg reports that on day one of the Paris Air Show Airbus had $13 billion of orders and Boeing had $0.
    That’s quite unprecedented!

  33. I can see the A321XLR being a game changer for AA and others who ordered it. From AA’s perspective, I’ve listened to their management, who have been trying new international routes, such as Budapest and Dubrovnik. They could use this for thin routes from PHL, their big European hub, such as Hamburg, Cork, Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool, Brussels, Geneva, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Warsaw, etc. They could fill out European offerings from CLT and MIA, such as Amsterdam, Lisbon, Shannon, Edinburg, Zurich, etc. They could move some seasonal destinations to year-around by swapping out widebodies for the XLR during the winter, then use those XLR’s for summer seasonal service to even smaller European cities, or perhaps an upgraded transcon US option from places that don’t have their 321T, such as MIA-LAX and SFO, or BOS-LAX. They could use it for flights from DFW to South America. They could boost frequency on higher-frequency routes, such as adding a second daily flight PHL-CDG perhaps during the summer-only. Or from mid-sized US cities to their LHR hub, such as St. Louis, Cleveland or Indianapolis, but the first two of these could probably support a widebody in the summer. And finally, while their configuration is not ideal for short domestic flights, it’s much better suited than the widebodies. On those shorter international flights, such as PHL-BRU, they’d have the plane back in the US in the morning, enough time to run a domestic flight such as PHL-DCA-PHL, and have it back in time to head to BRU that evening, rather than sitting on the tarmac all day, like they have to do with the widebodies in most cases. And finally, the plane can go into any of their regular gates, if they’re able to fit them with corridors to customs, because those planes have the smaller footprint of their domestic Airbus 319/320/321’s. I imagine AA would have about 160 seats on this aircraft, with 16 or so lie flat business, perhaps even 12 premium economy, and 130 or so economy and economy +. If configured that way, the travel experience might be pretty decent. The economy seat width on the 321 is already as wide as that on their widebodies. Given that a good chunk of coach would already be main cabin extra, that leaves only about 15 rows for standard economy. So if they add an extra inch of pitch to those rows, it would only eat up about 15″ of cabin space, giving these pax a little more personal space than you’d get on a widebody to make up for the feeling of less space from being in a narrow fuselage for all those hours.

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