Why Lufthansa Is Wrong About The A321XLR

Filed Under: Lufthansa

The Airbus A321XLR was officially launched early last week, and has been incredibly popular with airlines. Many airlines have even called it a game changer (#KenyaAirways).

The airplane has been one of the fastest selling models we’ve ever seen in the first few days of being introduced. The plane will have a range of 4,700nm when it enters service in 2023, so will offer incredible range and economics for airlines looking to operate point-to-point flights.

So far airlines like Aer Lingus, American, Frontier, Iberia, JetBlue, JetSMART, Jetstar, Qantas, and Wizz Air, have placed orders for the plane.

American A321XLR

However, it looks like Lufthansa is taking a more conservative approach.

Lufthansa’s A321XLR skepticism

Lufthansa’s CEO, Carsten Spohr, has said that while the airline is considering ordering the A321XLR, he doesn’t think the airplane is a game changer:

“The new XLR could be used in our network. We look at it. But in my view it is a niche product. It will not be a game changer.”

Why? Because he claims it’s not comfortable to spend more than four hours on a flight in a narrow body aircraft.

It’s ironic that this is coming from Lufthansa, the same airline that operated a regionally configured A319 from Frankfurt to Pune via Baku, which I called the world’s worst flight. With that flight, passengers were on board a plane without power ports or personal televisions for about 12 hours. In fairness that was a temporary arrangement, but still…

Anyway, I strongly disagree with Spohr on this. And before you say “Lucky, he knows more than you do.” Yes, that’s true, though that doesn’t mean airline executives always get it right — just look at Lufthansa’s recent Eurowings decision. Beyond that, Lufthansa has made some questionable fleet decisions in the past.

Why do I disagree with him?

Every airplane is niche

Sure, he’s right, the A321XLR is a niche product. But isn’t every plane a niche product on some level? Whether we’re talking about the A220, A350/787, 777X, or whatever else, every plane is niche on some level.

In many ways the A321XLR could have the same effect on the industry that the 787/A350 did, except on long haul flights rather than ultra long haul flights. It can open up long haul markets that aren’t feasible with 300+ seat planes, but that could work with 150-200 seat planes.

As airlines retire the 757 and 767, surely there’s room in the market for a replacement.

The 777-9 will also be a niche aircraft

Why this would hugely benefit Lufthansa’s network

Lufthansa has a transatlantic joint venture with United, Air Canada, SWISS, and Austrian, and it sure seems to me like there are many markets where the Lufthansa Group could benefit from the A321XLR.

One of the big goals of the transatlantic joint ventures is to offer seamless one-stop connections. Surely there are transatlantic markets, as well as markets in Africa, India, and the Middle East, where they know an A330 would offer too much capacity, but where an A321XLR would perfectly do the trick.

This is true across the Lufthansa Group airlines. How about an Austrian flight from Boston, a SWISS flight from Washington, or a Lufthansa flight from Nashville, for example?

Beyond that, this could be really useful for Lufthansa to expand long haul operations from Dusseldorf to Berlin in key markets, especially with the death of Eurowings (Lufthansa has long had trouble deciding how to serve the Dusseldorf to Newark market).

Passenger comfort on the A321XLR

Lufthansa could easily install all of their current cabins on the A321XLR, including their business class, premium economy, and economy seats. So from a passenger comfort standpoint the seats themselves could be identical.

Lufthansa’s current business class

The only difference would be the overall spaciousness of the cabin, though I’d argue that there’s a fair tradeoff between being able to fly point-to-point and getting to fly a bigger plane.

Bottom line

If anything, an airline like Lufthansa should most be able to benefit from the A321XLR. Their joint ventures are all about offering one-stop service to points around the world, and there are so many additional city pairs that could be made possible here, especially when you think about allocating these across the Lufthansa Group airlines.

So whether we’re talking about secondary cities in the US, or secondary cities in Africa, India, and the Middle East, I think the A321XLR has a lot of potential for the Lufthansa Group.

Lufthansa’s current smallest long haul plane has 250+ seats, so something smaller surely has a market.

My money is on Lufthansa Group changing their mind here and happily placing an A321XLR order. This plane is a game changer (for better or worse when it comes to passenger experience).

What do you guys think?

  1. Talking with people who work on narrow body long haul… What I hear that when the the galley cart is out to provide drinks/ food, or collecting trash, it’s impossible for passengers to get to free bathrooms as the only Isle is blocked for a very long time.

  2. The world needs less airplanes, not more. Bigger planes, not smaller ones. The skies are too congested, airports are too congested. There are simply too many planes trying to go to too many places at the same time and ATC simply cannot handle it.

  3. But if they serve those smaller markets, wan’t that affect the larger flight. Example: Austria starts BOS-VIE. If people take that direct flight, the connecting traffic at FRA (if flying with LH) or Washington (if flying United on the first leg and NY-VIE on Austrian) will diminish.

  4. I don’t think you know this side of the business well enough to give an informed opinion. Just because airline execs often get it wrong doesn’t mean you have an equal shot at getting it right. That kind of reasoning is nonsense.

    I rode the bus back in college, should I opine on how my city governs its transit authority? Lol.

  5. Lucky, maybe book yourself an economy ticket on a long-haul narrow body and try to use the restroom. Newark-San Diego on the 737 for example (6 hours). Then get back to us on how comfortable it is to have zero room.

  6. @ Endre — No doubt the cabin environment isn’t as good as on a wide body, and that’s the one major downside. However, the issues of this can be mitigated by having lavatories at the front and back of the main cabin, so I imagine that’s something that will be standard.

  7. @ DB — I don’t disagree with that, but the reality is that airlines are going the opposite direction. We’re seeing airlines retire 747s in favor of planes like 787s. While you’re right that we need to work on congestion, one benefit of smaller point-to-point flights is that it reduces the need for “feeder” flights. In other words, these planes make it possible for people to fly more direct, and that reduces the number of flights that people have to take.

  8. @ Samuel — Yes and no. Ultimately the joint ventures are competing with one another. The Star Alliance joint venture is competing with the SkyTeam and oneworld joint ventures. The hope is to gain market share from competitors, rather than cannibalizes one’s own routes.

  9. @ JJJJJJJ — I’ve acknowledged it’s not that comfortable beyond the seats. But as you point out, airlines *do* operate 6-7 hour flights with narrow body planes. Clearly people don’t mind, or at least don’t mind enough to avoid these flights. So that tells me there’s very real demand.

  10. In general I prefer smaller planes, and since I spent most of the time in my seat – also when flying longhaul – I don’t really care how many aisles there are. Looking forward to fly the XLR 🙂

  11. @ David — Actually, this *is* very much my area of expertise. Spohr is making this statement on the basis that the passenger experience won’t be great. If there’s one aspect of the airline industry I think I understand better than most airline executives, it’s the passenger experience.

    So to answer your question, yes, if you rode in the back of the bus in college for five million miles and 11 years, I do think you should opine when a bus executive chimes in on what bus passengers will tolerate.

  12. Clearly he means to say “even if we do order them, we’d only equip the planes with the shorthaul product we already have on our A320 family” 😉

  13. quoting @David : “I don’t think you know this side of the business well enough to give an informed opinion. Just because airline execs often get it wrong doesn’t mean you have an equal shot at getting it right. That kind of reasoning is nonsense.”

    i completely second @David up there. It’s funny how someone who never once worked half in a day for any airline, airport authority, aviation consulting firm, aicraft manufacturer, aircraft lessor, banks that extend credit to any one of the above, or even banks that partner with the airlines in cobranded cards, (basically any type of corporate entity that has viewed actual confidential airline data), is the self-righteous one using a recent re-alignment announcement of a non-core aspect of LH to equate himself with Sphor Walsh Bastian Munoz Joyce and the likes.

    I’ve worked in (and still working in) 2 types of entities I’ve listed above, and I don’t pretend to be any expert.

  14. These will be a niche aircraft that will work well for some, but not many. You’re going to need a lot of premium cabin revenue to overcome the inherent cost disadvantage these aircraft have. Small frame + high crew cost (additional crew members & seats set aside for crew rest) + additional service costs (economy meals & larger galleys to accommodate them) quickly overcome the fuel efficiency.

    I see two models that may work for this plane, low cost with maximum seat counts possible and 321T like configurations. For the latter, it may not be profitable but will be a way for an airline like American to maintain a near hourly NYC-LON schedule with premium F & J customers while lowering dispatch costs on the flights that don’t need all those Y seats.

  15. Rostock, Berlin, Dresden, Nürnberg, Stuttgart, Hannover, Leipzig, Köln and Dortmund are all big enough for a daily 321 XLR to New York

  16. The side we aren’t seeing is that these planes are probably coming at a high price tag due to the huge demand for them. Long and thin routes that this will be deployed on will be at the mercy of oil pricing in the future, which could make these routes unprofitable and airlines left holding the bag with an expensive 321 flying FRA-MAD.

  17. Yes but A321neoLR and A321neoXLR are not replacements for 767 because the 767 has much greater capacity as it is a widebody. The only thing I can see this replacing is if you have a sizable 757 fleet because the MTOW is similar; the A321neoXLR is only slightly smaller than the 757.

  18. @DB – “fewer” planes, not “less”. As a general rule, if it’s something you can count, the correct word is less. For example, if you eat less food (“food” isn’t a discrete counting item) you take in fewer calories (since calories are discrete and can be measured.)

    Since planes can be counted, it’s “fewer planes” but “less flying” (unless you introduce a measurable metric for “flying” like available seat miles, then you’d use “fewer”.)

    Sorry for the grammar pednatry, but in the last year or so I’ve noticed a significant increase in people getting this wrong, and it’s doing my head in.

  19. This isn’t only about range or the passenger experience. Consider the impact this has with cargo. The fuel for the extra range has to be stored somewhere. Those fuel tanks takes up cargo space AND the fuel takes up weight which further limits the cargo capacity.

    I think @PilotinDave has said it best so far. If you want this to be a game changer you can either go super premium heavy or you can go super bargain basement and pack folks in like sardines.

  20. Ben, you do not understand the passenger experience of the majority of travelers, aka coach. For premium products, you are an expert.

  21. @ CraigTPA

    Please can you explain why you need two words for different types of smaller, but are content with only one word – “more” – for the equivalent types of bigger?

    Does that not suggest to you that the finicky pedantry of insisting on differentiating between quantifiable and non-quantifiable smallers is redundant, since you can’t equally differentiate between quantifiable and non-quantifiable biggers.

    And none of us seem to miss that latter differentiation.

    Language changes, and on this issue the rest of the world has left behind you and a tiny number of pedants. You’ll be happier if you let it go.

  22. @ mike — You think Mr. Spohr knows anything about the economy experience? 😉 Let’s keep in mind that Doug Parker has stated that passengers have appreciated American’s investment in their onboard product….

  23. I second what David said.

    Lucky has no clue what it’s like to fly economy in a narrow body plane and yet here he is proclaiming confidently about how wrong LH is about the a321.

    I love you Lucky, but don’t make me laugh.

  24. The plane would most certainly work for Lufthansa and I’m with Lucky on this. LH could have a pretty heavy premium configuration as they can most certainly sell the seats from say DUS-NYC. This plane can do FRA/MUC-Pune non-stop on a lighter load which what was Privatair was doing.

    Carsten Spohr will change his mind (if he’s still at the top of LH). Hey may have promised shareholders more dividends to cover up the group’s poor performance. The profit margins are tiny. Austrian’s old 767s & 772s cost a fortune to maintain and they are still planning to keep the gas guzzlers that are the A340s. That plane is bound to get the new Premium Economy for Swiss in 2021!

  25. I held off on commenting on the less vs. fewer but was about to pull the trigger on the “pednatry”. Nice save CraigTPA.

  26. @Ben

    United flies MAD-IAD with a 757. It’s blocked at 8:45. I flew it in an economy bulkhead seat, and TBH, it was fine. I wouldn’t go out of my way to avoid it, especially given its scheduling convenience. I absolutely hate early morning flights, and everything leaving western Europe for the east coast of the US leaves mid morning. So if you have to connect to it, you’re looking at a 6am-8am departure from the satellite European city to the European hub. If I have a 6am departure, I may as well not even go to bed the night before because I don’t go to sleep until the wee hours of the night.

    There’s probably a decent size market for these types of planes that can reduce two connections down to one.

  27. LH Group uses the A321 on overnight flights like Frankfurt to Tel Aviv, Beirut or Tehran. So that’s business class at over 1500 euros and the seat is identical to the short haul economy seat! So Mr Spohr sure isn’t worried about the passenger experience as much as he claims he is! 5 star remember!

  28. LH operates narrobody aircraft with economy seats in business class on quite long routes like FRA-TLV and FRA-CAI, both just under four hours. So, sitting some 3 hours longer in an A321 XLR in a real business class, won’t be an issue for passengers. In the next fuel crisis, the A321 XLR will be the game changer in the long haul to keep routes.

  29. Lucky, I really have to disagree with you. You have flown a lot – that’t why you don’t know the priorities of those that fly less. Just today you were saying that four-wheeler bags are worse than two-wheeler – even though four-wheelers clearly sell much more.
    So, for the average flyer, that doesn’t have access to lounge, doesn’t need wi-fi, and is flying on company dime, the experience is much different from yours. That’s why I think you are not qualified to voice the opinion of the average flyer.

  30. Most of the people here who disagree with the significance of the XLR are too stuck in the past and present of air travel and can’t quite picture the future and its attendant innovations. A lot of them work in the industry and are wed to the conventional wisdom.

    What low cost carriers have shown us is that low prices and new destinations/routes are huge enablers for the traveling public. And the legacy airline’s response has weakened their traditional product by making it progressively worse to the point of asking why you’d spend more money for it.

    The future is going to mean smaller airplanes with more choices of how you travel and how much it costs. Legacy airlines’ attempts to please everyone with widebody multi-class is going to satisfy no-one. People don’t want to change planes and would rather rest and avoid the complexity, stress and boredom of connections. Airlines will increasingly be in the business of getting you directly from point A to point B with the minimum of fuss and expense. You will have the choice to pay extra for whatever it is that you want, but the base service is what most people are interested in.

    You can make a large plane uncomfortable and a small plane comfortable, it all depends on what people want to pay for. The notion that somehow big planes are inherently more comfortable doesn’t stand to reason. People won’t even register beyond perhaps noting there is only one isle. All they’ll know is that they’re getting to where they want to go.

  31. @ Denis — Respectfully, that’s not what I said. I didn’t at all say that four wheeler bags are better than two wheeler bags. Please read the post again. “That’s not because I think they’re universally better, but because they’re better for me.” All I said is what’s better for me in that case — I acknowledge the reason the trend is there, but that’s not to say that two wheelers aren’t better for some of us.

  32. Lucky, sorry I didn’t make my point clear, but what you said is exactly what I meant. You know what is better for you – you have millions of miles of experience in it. But just as in the bags case, where you have trouble finding the right product for you because your needs are different from the majority of travellers, your experience and needs are different from the majority of flyers. I’m sorry to keep going back to the bag thing, but you need a bag that is a niche product, not the mainstream. When you speak about flyers experience, your needs are niche as well.

  33. @Ben “Clearly people don’t mind, or at least don’t mind enough to avoid these flights. ”

    I think this is the short-sighted reasoning that has led AA to where they are today.

    They keep making things worse and then say “hey, we filled the plane up, so clearly no one cares”.

    Thats Wall Street “this quarter” thinking. But what about next time?

    The issue is that people remember. After my horrible San Diego-Newark experience on a United 737 with rock hard seats, scarce restrooms and no IFE, I vowed never again. I would rather connect via LA on a 767 or via Houston.

    So United got my business “this quarter” but lost my sales next year and the year after. Same with AA.

    Most people fly occasionally. That means they may go ahead and book a flight today for November without thinking about the plane. Come November, they hate the experience. That means next May when they book an October 2020 trip, they will choose another airline because they remember how much it sucks.

    Sounds to me like Lufthansa realizes they’re in it for the long term. Shocking, I know, since that kind of thinking no longer exists in the US.

  34. I wonder if it’s a matter of facilities/resources, and that for Lufthansa operating long, thin routes isn’t the most effective use of their slots, gates, maintenance facilities, etc.

    I do think that a plane like that would be useful for growing their OS and SN brands.

  35. He was just defending his business model, like he should. P2P long haul disrupts his hub and spook model significantly.

  36. Lucky, Swiss already flies from IAD to both GVA and ZRH.

    I could definitely seeing this work for markets like ATL and MCO

  37. Spohr says it’s not comfortable to spend more than four hours on a narrow body plane. Well it isn’t on any in the Lufthansa group fleet where there is the universal application of NEK which is certainly uncomfortable in about an hour let alone any more.

    That’s really the point, how comfortable a cabin is depends on how it’s configured. I’ve never tried economy on the 787 and won’t because I value my comfort.

    Equally Jet Blue Mint is one of the best products out there and it’s on the A321 and has a very good reputation for comfort.

    What Spohr is really saying is that the A321 XLR does not suit Lufthansa’s purpose of being a hub and spoke carrier trying to dominate travel from Europe using that model. In the meantime SAS are going to introduce the A321 LR and perhaps the XLR will follow.

    Lufthansa can be a great airline with a very solid product but it doesn’t do change well and it’s not an agile responder to the market – look how long it has taken them to introduce a lie flat seat in long haul business class and it’s still a sub-par product in spite of the late introduction.

    They enjoy a lot of protection in their home market and sell of excess capacity cheaply in the surrounding countries. They have been hit very hard on that going east by TK and the ME3 but going south and west they are either equal to others or on a par.

    So I doubt they will change their tune, the current dominant position suits them and they have little reason to change their ways. Yet.

  38. Firstly we are all on this forum because we have an opinion- whether from a position of authority or not.
    If we don’t have a right to express an opinion on aviation because we don’t belong in the industry then why on earth would we all be reading this? It’s like saying only a hospitality professional can review in-flight service and others shouldn’t.
    My personal opinion is that perhaps the aircraft is niched for Lufthansa’s business strategy.
    Perhaps they don’t want to target thinner markets like Dusseldorf and Berlin themselves and would prefer to consolidate their Long haul operations at their core hubs to leverage economies of scale. They already have 5 captive hubs in Europe and perhaps offering direct services between secondary markets is not part of their core business model.
    They also have a JV partner United who probably will offer services to secondary cities in Germany meaning they have that market covered anyways hence don’t need to deploy their own resources on these routes.
    The Pune route is probably an anomaly that has been sustained to preserve German contracts and is an example of the niched route Spohr was articulating.
    Secondary markets in the Middle East and other emerging markets perhaps are better served by Low cost carriers then a premium carrier like Lufthansa.
    Perhaps Spohr should have clarified that A321 XLR is niched for them versus in general.

  39. Lufthansa has a pretty big cargo/freighter operation. With the 321XLR and LR taking up cargo space with the additional fuel tanks, I wonder if they don’t want to fly transatlantic without any cargo capacity?

  40. Sorry Lucky, i have to disagree with you (like many others here).

    I think if boeing launches the world’s smallest twin-aisle 797, that might be a game changer.

    It is really painful to be in a single aisle for long haul.

  41. I think the A321XLR could be a powerful tool for the European network carriers to steal market share from the ME3.

    Emirates built their network by funneling in traffic from cities in Africa, Middle East and South Asia through geographically-advantaged Dubai hub. They own this market – especially connecting to Europe, North America, and Asia. To do this economically with long-range widebodies, it requires a ton of scheduled connections to fill the planes.

    The European legacy carriers could make a killing providing O&D or light regional connections from their hubs and secondary cities to ME3 markets. The A321XLR could be a powerful tool to connect secondary cities bypassing DBX.

    Emirates growth in the past 15 years has been seriously impressive, but I can’t help wonder if their own business model will collapse on themselves as the market looks more “point-to-point” each day.

  42. And that’s great news! Why should we agree to making our trips even less comfortable than they are?
    Clearly this plane is going to give more profit to the airlines. They don’t have business in putting less seats on that airplane as European and American business class structure is very different. I personally didn’t see a narrow body plane in Europe with business class seats. If there was a profit out of it, they’ve done it already.

  43. Other than access to the aisle to go to the lavatory, what is the real difference between an economy flight in a 3-4-3 777 and a 3-3 A321XLR? The seats will be similar and the service will presumably be similar.

  44. At the end of the day, if the A321LR/XLR offers a modicum if comfort, say in the model of JetBlue’s ORIGINAL configuration of its Airbus A321s when it introduced its two class concept called “Mint”, which apart from its then novel solo suites featuring closable doors for added privacy as its Premium Class product, along with 33” row pitch for its “Core” (or Main) cabin INSTEAD of the 32” pitch in the post-Neeleman/Barger Hayes era at JetBlue where the motto “dehumanizing flying just a little less that the other airlines that suck even more than we do” replaced Neeleman’s “Bringing Humanity Back to Flying”, or later, Barger’s passenger-centric “You Above All”, plus, of course, OG JetBlue’s VERY spacious, Even More Space rows, then the Airbus A321 is fine for long-haul flights.

    However, and pretty much as with densified 9-abreast Boeing 787s and equally horrible 10-abreast 777s, once row pitch dips below 33”, and in the case of these super nasty Boeing abominations when densified, the combination of 17”-17.2” wide seats, abysmally narrow aisles, is every bit, if not more horrible, than a 6-abreast A321 if it has 18” wide seats versus those much worse and super horrible Boeings.

    To me, it’s more about seat width and row pitch, than single aisle versus twin aisle.

    Nine abreast Boeing 777s with 18”-18.5” wide seats at the same pitch as the narrow body A321 will be better, while any 10-abreast, densified Boeing 777 with their skimpy 17” wide seats and pathetically narrow aisles will be much worse than the 6-abreast, single aisle A321 if it has 18” wide seats at the same row pitch.

    As I/we already AVOID 9-abreast Boeing 787s and 10-abreast 777s in favor of Airbus A330s/340s with their far more comfortable 2-4-2 8-abreast cabins and wider aisles than those atrocious, densified Boeing beasts, decisions in the future after the A321XLR, as with every aircraft scheduled to operate when we book our flights, will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine which airline will be flown.

    The airlines with more attractive cabins will be prioritized over those with less desirable ones shunned.

    And airlines that don’t meet our needs, or whose products we regard as substantially inferior, such as American, Frontier, Allegiant, Spirit or United, won’t even be considered at all.

    Just as we do now – and have been doing pretty much over the past five years after Dougie P took over American and began swinging their wrecking ball that destroyed American, and opened the floodgates to the rest of the industry to embark on its mission to degrade their products progressively as more and more airlines have been eliminated over the past decade when mergers and acquisitions eliminated Virgin America, US Airways, AirTran, Continental and Northwest, and left us with just four airlines that now control more than 80% of the capacity in our skies domestically, and governments around the world somehow allowed themselves to believe the lies promised by competitors who said if you legalize collusion and allow us to carve up the skies by price fixing; capacity/supply fixing; and letting former competitors decide together who flies what, and when through “schedule coordination” that things will be so much better for flyers (seems so innocent, naive and quaint now that the seeds of an increasingly toxic and abusive airline industry 3-way cartel have burst out of the soil to reveal the ugliness what we should’ve known would result when former competitors are allowed to combine forces to better control markets that they already had dominant shares of before they were allowed to collude on pricing, inventory and frequencies…), which very much is a factor in ever worsening products that most flyers know as a “Race to the Bottom” where with each passing season seats shrink, legroom (or rather any semblance of what used to be legroom) vanishes, and everything else is much worse than it used to be even a few years ago.

    “Oligopolies are great!” – said NO ONE except the oligopolists themselves while they laugh all the way to the bank snickering “Suckers!”

  45. people, for crying out loud its aisle, not isle.

    yes widebodies are more desirable, but if you have room in coach – or are flying Mint – then its a tradeoff people will make.

    the end.

  46. XLR laughable – no thank you.
    I dont care how amazing they would make interior of narrow body aircraft, flying on twin aisle aircraft MUCH nicer experience, PERIOD!
    Will avoid XLR at all costs

  47. He will probably call it a “game changer” once LH has placed an order. Before that, by pretending it’s nothing special, he is hoping to get a better price. Buy-an-airplane-101 🙂

  48. @Chris,

    Yep, sounds about right – especially since the Press Releases for aircraft orders when announced often seem to be nearly – or virtually – identical save for the names of the airlines and their CEOs (or other spokespersons) in describing the virtues and attributes of the aircraft models being ordered!

    So, Herr Spohr have to say “game-changing” anyway – Airbus will see to that! 😉

  49. I just don’t see how it would fit into Lufthansa’s fleet. As of today they have plenty of routes within the A321 CEOs range that need a larger airplane than an A321, but not smaller than an A330. Most Narrowbody flights transatlantic seem to be to small markets with O&D traffic. Lufthansa mainly makes money with connections. How many people in Providence say “Oh man! I want to go to Frankfurt for vacation!” Not many. Lufthansa could use an airplane with the XLRs range, but not the A321: The 797 is a FAR better fit for Lufthansa.

  50. @Sam Considering they currently fly a EW A340 on that route right now it would require a very big loss in passenger capacity to downgrade itself to an A321

  51. Oh, one last thing!

    Let’s not forget that the comments by Herr Spohr regarding the Airbus A321XLR being unsuitable for all but niche markets based on criteria specifically citing “comfort quotient/factor” (or rather the lack thereof) of the narrow body A321 versus wide body twin aisle aircraft was said by the CEO of an airline group where at least TWO of its owned affiliates, Austrian Airlines and Swiss International Airlines, operate those so NOT beloved, 10-abreast, Boeing cattle cars that inspires fear and dread by all who find themselves squeezing into those hideously narrow seats at 31” pitch – better known as “densified” 777s!

    Um, I’ll take a 6-abreast Airbus A321XLR with 18” wide seats at 31” pitch over an overcrowded, 17” wide seat packed in 10-abreast, 31” pitch rows EVERY TIME!

    I mean seriously; talk about spectacularly contradictory logic.


  52. And he also just bought a whole bunch of 787s which I doubt will be in the comfy 8-abreast configurations found only on Japan Airlines, but rather the same horrible, 9-abreast versions that I’ve flown, and which are every bit as horrible for long flights as most others have said here – and just about everywhere else that discusses the quality – or rather the absence of – flights nowadays!

    Just sayin’

  53. I’ve done many west coast to Europe flights, and transcon on the DC-8, 707, DC-8-61/63, 757, all narrow bodies. It was such a difference from the props, we got good service, and it was very comfortable, with good pitch and meals, even with 250 people crammed in the long narrow tube of the stretched 8 for 10 hours. We survived the flight in coach just fine. I prefered the narrows then, but the airlines got greedy and went sardine rogue with us.

  54. I hope the A321XLR will be a failure.

    I don’t like the trend of airlines squeezing people into narrow body planes on long haul flights at the expense of the comfort of their passengers. I will actively avoid every flight over 4 hours in a narrow body, no matter the booking class.

  55. Niche? The estimated marketshare for this aircraft is 2000-4000 with Boeing projecting the higher end and possibly above 4000. Lucky is right. Maybe spohr could worry about making eurobiz not be trash or any if the other financial ailments at Lufthansa group

  56. LH probably has one of the most respected Aircraft Evaluation departments in the business and if they say it doesnt work I believe them. This could be another great example of Airbus aerodynamics which bears no resemblance to actual aircraft performance. What I do know (having had to live with it for many years) is that the Bus people overpromise and under deliver whereas Boeing tends to be the opposite. I still wake up screaming from the nightmare of the 345 barely making HKG from YYZ with full pax and 223 kg of cargo. Thats not a mistype – 223 kg NOT tonnes.

  57. Sorry, Ben, but this airplane doesn’t fit easily into the Lufthansa culture. For decades they have flown jumbo jets across the oceans, and dumpy little planes within Europe. That formula has made them Europe’s leading airline. Why should they change now?

  58. @skedguy

    RE: “What I do know (having had to live with it for many years) is that the Bus people overpromise and under deliver whereas Boeing tends to be the opposite.”

    Alas, until the 737 MAX, that is – yes?

    Not sure “McBoeing” of now is the same company as the Boeing pre-McDonnell Douglas’ stealth reverse take over! 😉

  59. @ Charlie
    “Europe’s leading airline”

    Well… that surely depends on what metrics you’re using?

    I can think of all sorts of metrics that show LH is a failing airline — eg, reliant mainly on exploiting its grandfather monopoly rights at crowded hubs.

    LH is wedded to its predominantly twin-hub strategy. The XLR doesn’t support that but, instead, promises to disrupt it. Why would LH welcome such a plane?

    Instead I can see a good role for it in cities which have been sidelined by LH – Berlin, for one.

    But of course LH is a 100-star airline, so what do I know?

  60. Many interesting comments, but surely easy to sum up.
    1. Point to point v. hub and spoke:
    As a huge fan of the A380, I regret to say that point to point with smaller aircraft will win. Even though bigger planes were supposed to be enabling fewer take offs and landings, and gate requirements. As pointed out by many LH operate the latter config. Furthermore, can you imagine how many competitors they will have if they have to operate point to point. Inbound to FRA from a tranche of US cities, Africa, SE Asia! What they are really trying to protect is their ambition for Berlin to be the European hub, in time. Viz protect hub and spoke.
    2. No one is pointing out the competition between the A321XLR and 737Max, the latter, it now might appear, put into service too early specifically to knock out the competition. So there are actually two machines ready to fulfil p2p.
    3. As for single aisle, increase the number of trolleys so they spend less time blocking the aisle. in Y. J can easily be hand carried, and in my view elegantly so as EK do.

  61. I’m not sure why this even warrants an article. The author has no idea what goes on in Carsten’s head when he’s saying this, none of us though. One can speculate sure:

    – They’re negotiating with Airbus and he wants to play down how much they want them
    – It simply doesn’t fit in their future plans
    – LHG have a big cargo operation, maybe the preference is to fly routes with aircraft that handle good quantities of cargo
    – From an environmental responsibility perspective I’m not sure it makes sense to open up routes to smaller destinations instead of funneling these customers through hubs


    As far some other comments go, you can call LHG the leading airline group in Europe on several points. Number of pax, fleet size, countries served and also when it comes to things like distribution and several technology aspects. Don’t forget they via subsidiary also provide accounting software used all over the world and the list goes on.
    Doesn’t mean they lead when it comes to customer service or quality of the product on board but I think overall the word “leading” seems apt if we’re not talking about something specifically.

  62. I’ve flown an 8 hour A321LR Philipine Airlines Flight from Sydney to Manilla. It was an excellent and comfortable flight. Now on the issues.
    1 Getting to lavatories during meal service. It’s not an issue on an 8 hour long haul as there is plenty of time unlike say a 1.5-2 hour flight. There just aren’t that many people wanting to go and the two meal services just don’t take that long. I and a girl was one of two people that had to wait 60 seconds to get past the trolley. I’ve been stuck behind trolleys in wide bodies with both aisles blocked. It’s a non issue.
    3 Space. Does anyone really believe having even more vast excess of headroom in the headspace above the aisles in a twin aisle is somehow better or “spacious”? Comfort is determined almost entirely by seat width and pitch. The A321XLR is a single aisle a/c with 18 inch wide seats. They’ll never make them 16 inches to ad extra seats. The term “Wide body Comfort” is marketing hype intended to sell sardine like packing. Lufthansa flew the 5850 Nm B707-320B all the way to Sydney. I was one passenger. It literally had the 737 fueselage cross section. A A330 in 2/4/2 may be a little more comfortable but they’re packing them 3/3/3 now.

  63. Where i live i jave 3 major airports to choose from within 90 minutes from home. If i want to fly to London i would choose the airport that had a 777 or 787 vs. flying on a 321 single isle. Me as a consumer would always choose to be on the bigger wide body aircraft.

  64. Ben,

    I respect a lot of your opinions, but I am genuinely not sure why you are convinced this aircraft is so fascinating, or so “disruptive”? It is replacing an existing narrow-body medium-to-long range type (757) with relatively similar technology, just more efficient engines. You call the aircraft a ‘replacement’ for the 757 and 767 in your article.

    The passenger experience will be very substantially worse than on all of the latest generation widebodies, due to the tiny windows, higher noise, higher cabin altitude, and lower cabin humidity of this 35-year-old design.

    I agree Spohr sounds perhaps a bit too dismissive (he would, of course, given the LH hub-and-spoke model) but I also don’t believe this aircraft is a ‘game changer’ at all. It will be an aircraft people grudgingly take because they don’t want to stopover when flying between 2nd-tier cities. It’s not a terrible aircraft, but represents no improvement in technology or passenger comfort, nothing really new at all.

    Fwiw I also don’t think we need a new article every time an airline orders or comments on this aircraft type…

  65. Please god have a toilet at the front of economy. Single aisle , 5 hr VA 737 from DPS to BNE you have an approx 10 minute window to get down the back for a comfort break. Lol.

  66. Actually Lufthansa may be right on this issue. The A321XLR will have several drawbacks due to the fact that it will not have enough wing area for the weight of the airplane. In addition, the XLR will not have enough power. Due to this lack of wing and power this jet is going to be very uncomfortable to ride in. At least initially it will not be able to get very high. This will create a rather uncomfortable ride for the passengers. On summer days the jet will likely be bouncing along at the tops of or in the clouds at altitudes of 28,000 to 31,000 feet. The jet will probably not be able to get any higher for several hours until it burns off enough fuel to reduce its weight. In addition, it’s unlikely to be able to operate from shorter runaways due to these limitations. Airbus could overcome this situation by designing a larger wing and working with the their engine suppliers to develop a higher thrust power plant for the plane. However, from everything I’ve read Airbus has no plans to do this.

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