Air Canada Orders 26 Airbus A321XLRs

Air Canada Orders 26 Airbus A321XLRs

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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.

Air Canada has ordered the Airbus A321XLR

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
Air Canada is taking delivery of 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8s

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

Bottom line

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?

Conversations (25)
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  1. Always Flying Somewhere Guest

    Hey Ben,

    Fleet commonality isn't always the determining factor in airline operations. Delivery slots also play a major role in aircraft order decisions as carriers explore the best way to take advantage of new route opportunities.

  2. Phil Guest

    I bet the 321XLR will join the Air Canada Rouge fleet instead of the mainline fleet to replace the 767 on leisure destinations. That would explain the Y-heavy / J-light configuration. Rouge operates an all-Airbus fleet and as AC is taking more 737-Max, Airbus nanobodies (some are 30 years old) will be retired and some will be transferred to Rouge.

  3. Mike Guest

    Not just Toronto & Montreal. Aircraft will be able to open some new markets from Vancouver, and return some of the previous city pairs:
    PPT, LIM, BOG, FUK, CTS, NGO, GLA, EDI, MAN, AMS, MAD, BCN…

  4. Mike Guest

    A thing that was nice about the 757 (which the 321neo's don’t have) is the ability to get on-off the aircraft by a second door forward of the wing. Small detail but from a pax ex perspective, if I’m sitting in business class I'd rather not have 170 people coming through and blocking the aisle. It just makes for a more pleasant and efficient process than using a door at the very front of the aircraft.

  5. Mike Guest

    Note it doesn’t say lie flat seats *with direct aisle access.*
    So there may be a 2-2 config up front

  6. JT Guest

    A330 is their smallest long haul plane today? Surely it’s the 787-8?

  7. LCFA Guest

    A question …

    Has Boeing missed out by not moving forward with the NMA (the so-called 797)?

    I understand that it comes with a huge development cost, during these years dealing with 737 MAX, 787, and 77X costs/issues, so their balance sheet is hurting … but will it hurt them in the long-haul (pun not intended)?

  8. AG Guest

    Hey Ben

    The business class will be lie flat!

  9. Kiwi Member

    I would not be surprised if this configuration was more focused on long thin routes in the Americas that they can connect to feed over YYZ/YUL. Also what polar routes are opened up out of YEG and YYC with the range

    1. Mike Guest

      Not just Toronto & Montreal. Aircraft will be able to open some new markets from Vancouver, and return some of the previous city pairs:
      PPT, LIM, BOG, FUK, CTS, NGO, GLA, EDI, MAN, AMS, MAD, BCN…

  10. Mike Brannen Guest

    The media release says business will be Sir Canada Signature Class flat beds.

  11. Louis Guest

    Could it be possible that some of these are to be used by Air Canada Rouge for long haul leisure destinations in Europe since they got rid of Rouge’s 767 that used to do that, and market the front cabin as premium economy?

  12. Shane Guest

    I have yet to find a comfortable seat in an Airbus

    1. Mike Guest

      Have you never flown First Class on an A380?

  13. Andy Guest

    Should have stuck with one narrow body type by ordering the A320/321Neo.
    To replace their A320Ceo fleet:

  14. Blair Guest

    In the past AC has made purchase decisions based on balance of trade issues with the US (Boeing) and EU (Airbus). Not sure if those still influence AC now that it is private. But aircraft orders represent large dollars in foreign trade. And the A220 program is a huge employer in Canada.

    1. Shawn Guest

      "...now that it is private"? Air Canada was privatized in 1988.

  15. Greg Guest

    What's awesome about a narrow body on really long journeys. Low on premium seats and low on space to move around. Can't compare to a proper wide body.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      It’s not the plane that’s “awesome”, it’s the potential for a nonstop in a market that can’t support a wide body nonstop.

      Then you can choose what option you prefer. Wide body connect vs single aisle nonstop.

  16. Justin Guest

    This doesn’t sound to far off from the TAP Air Portugal A321 LR neo I flew. That has 171 seats. 16 business, 41 economy extra, and the rest economy. I enjoyed the plane in economy extra. How much bigger is the XLR compared to the LR?

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      The "X" is for more range, not more passengers.

      Configurations can vary, but in terms of passengers its neo > LR > XLR.

      For range, XLR > LR > neo

  17. Sharon Guest

    Delta has 150 aging 757 and 767's and no replacement, except a few 330-neo.

    Why haven't they ordered the 321xlr?

    1. JW Guest

      Isn't Delta waiting to see what happens with the 797/NMA? Delta floated being the launch customer.

  18. Mike Guest

    Sadly Air Canada never does anything remotely ground breaking with their aircraft interiors. Not expecting much here either. Their 737max interiors area a nightmare to fly on with those ultra mini washrooms, slimline seats and no space in the galleys. Have flown them transcon and to Hawaii - nightmare! Speak to their aircrew, they hate it too. Doubtful Air Canada have learned from their mistakes.

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Never In Doubt Guest

It’s not the plane that’s “awesome”, it’s the potential for a nonstop in a market that can’t support a wide body nonstop. Then you can choose what option you prefer. Wide body connect vs single aisle nonstop.

1
Always Flying Somewhere Guest

Hey Ben, Fleet commonality isn't always the determining factor in airline operations. Delivery slots also play a major role in aircraft order decisions as carriers explore the best way to take advantage of new route opportunities.

0
Phil Guest

I bet the 321XLR will join the Air Canada Rouge fleet instead of the mainline fleet to replace the 767 on leisure destinations. That would explain the Y-heavy / J-light configuration. Rouge operates an all-Airbus fleet and as AC is taking more 737-Max, Airbus nanobodies (some are 30 years old) will be retired and some will be transferred to Rouge.

0
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