Air Canada has just placed an order for Airbus’ awesome long range narrow body jet.
Air Canada places A321XLR order
Air Canada is acquiring 26 Airbus A321XLR aircraft, which are expected to join the carrier’s fleet between the first quarter of 2024 and the first quarter of 2027. 20 of these planes are being leased while six are being purchased, and Air Canada also has the purchase rights to acquire an additional 14 of these aircraft between 2027 and 2030 (for a total of up to 40 A321XLRs).
Air Canada’s Airbus A321XLRs will feature a total of 182 seats, including 14 business class seats and 168 economy class seats. The planes will feature seatback entertainment, inflight Wi-Fi, and the signature Airbus interiors. We don’t yet know what Air Canada’s business class will look like, though there are some new seating products being designed specifically for this jet.
For those not familiar with the A321XLR, this is the latest generation A321 aircraft. The aircraft was announced in 2019, and it’s expected to enter service in 2023. The aircraft has the range to operate 5,000+ mile nonstop flights, making it the longest range narrow body commercial aircraft out there. Air Canada states that the plane can be used for any flights within North America, plus transatlantic flights, and I suspect transatlantic flights will be the focus.
This has the potential to be a game changer for long and thin routes. Think of the Airbus A321XLR as a replacement for the Boeing 757, except it’s longer range and more fuel efficient.
My take on Air Canada’s A321XLR order
A couple of thoughts about Air Canada’s A321XLRs (about the order as such, as well as the configuration Air Canada has selected).
First of all, the A321XLR seems like an obvious fit for Air Canada:
- Currently the carrier’s smallest long haul aircraft is the Airbus A330, and that’s a pretty big aircraft, so there was a need for something smaller
- Given Canada’s geography and Air Canada’s hubs, this plane will be useful for routes from Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, etc., to Europe
- While this is often just how the cookie crumbles due to negotiations, it’s interesting that Air Canada has historically operated Airbus A320-family aircraft, then placed an order for 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, and is now ordering more Airbus A320-family aircraft; from an efficiency standpoint (maintenance, crew training, etc.) there would be a benefit to operating just one type of jet
Next, Air Canada’s A321XLR configuration is interesting:
- Most other airlines (including American and United) have announced premium-heavy A321XLR configurations, with business class, premium economy, and economy, given that these planes will operate long haul routes
- Air Canada, on the other hand, is going for a dense configuration; the plane will feature 182 seats, which is just eight fewer seats than Air Canada’s A321s currently have (and they are regionally configured, and don’t have flat beds)
- Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if these plans change, and Air Canada ends up including premium economy on these jets
Air Canada has placed an order for 26 Airbus A321XLR aircraft. This is a natural fit for Air Canada’s fleet, given that this plane will allow the airline to operate all kinds of long and thin transatlantic routes from its hubs in the east.
The only thing that surprises me is how dense of a configuration Air Canada is going for. Don’t get me wrong, Air Canada is very good about making planes dense, but you’d think that to make the economics of this work, you’d need to tailor more to premium passengers, especially with the amount of low cost competition in Canada.
What do you make of Air Canada’s A321XLR order?