Qantas Airbus A321XLR: Joining Fleet In 2025

Qantas Airbus A321XLR: Joining Fleet In 2025

17

Qantas has announced quite a few updates about its fleet today. I’ve already written about the latest regarding the Airbus A220-300 and Airbus A350-1000, and now wanted to cover Qantas’ latest details regarding the Airbus A321XLR.

Qantas has 28 Airbus A321XLRs on order

In 2019, Qantas Group placed an order for the Airbus A321XLR, which is the longest range and largest version of the Airbus A320 family. This aircraft is the same size as all other A321s, but with additional range, as this is an evolution of the A321ceo (and A321neo, and A321LR).

These A321XLRs have been ordered for both Qantas and Jetstar, and the allocation between the two subsidiaries has changed over time. Initially the plan was for at least 20 of those planes to go to Qantas, but that number has now been upped to at least 28 aircraft.

The catch is that since this is a brand new jet, it’s facing some delivery delays. While Qantas first expected to take delivery of the A321XLR in late 2024, that timeline has now been pushed back to early 2025. Don’t be surprised if the timing is pushed back even further, since the plane isn’t in service with any airline just yet, and hasn’t even been certified.

Qantas has 28 Airbus A321XLRs on order

Qantas Airbus A321XLRs will have 200 seats

While there are no exact details about what the passenger experience will be like, Qantas’ Airbus A321XLRs are expected to have 200 seats, including 20 business class seats and 180 economy seats.

That layout sure suggests that Qantas will just have a pretty standard domestic configuration, as that’s a similar number of seats to what you’ll find on A321 aircraft operating for major airlines in the United States.

So even though this plane has amazing range and could in theory operate long haul flights, Qantas’ current plans aren’t to install flat bed seats on these planes, or else we’d see a very different capacity. For example, JetBlue’s Airbus A321LRs, which are used for transatlantic flights, feature just 138 seats.

Don’t expect anything like JetBlue’s A321 layout

Qantas Airbus A321XLRs will (oddly) replace Boeing 737-800s

Qantas’ motive with ordering Airbus A321XLRs is to use them to replace Boeing 737-800s, which are primarily used for domestic and short haul international flights. Admittedly these planes will only partially replace 737s, given that Qantas has 75 of those, while there are only 28 A321XLRs on order.

However, so far Qantas’ only firm Airbus narrow body order is for the A321XLR. Personally, I can’t really make sense of Qantas’ Airbus A321XLR order, at least based on what we know so far. I get why Qantas is ordering from the A321neo family, since it offers the capacity the airline needs. But the airline is going for the extra long range version of the plane, which is capable of operating flights to Asia that the 737 couldn’t.

With that in mind:

  • The A321XLR is more expensive than other versions of the plane, so typically airlines only order these planes if they specifically have the intention of using them for long haul routes
  • Qantas states that these planes will primarily be used between major Australian cities (including between Sydney and Melbourne, etc.), and it’s also stated that the plane’s longer range “can also be used to open up new city pairs”
  • If Qantas configures these planes with 200 seats, they won’t really have the passenger experience needed for full service long haul routes

I’m not claiming this is a bad decision, but rather am just stating that it’s surprising. We’ve seen a lot of airlines order A321XLRs, but Qantas is one of the only airlines to specifically state that these planes will largely be used to operate hour-long flights between major markets.

So will Qantas ultimately decide to configure some of these jets in a more premium configuration, or what’s the point of having 200-seat extra long range planes in a regional, non-premium configuration?

The Airbus A321XLR has amazing range

Bottom line

Qantas has now committed to adding 28 Airbus A321XLRs to its fleet, which will start operating passenger flights as of early 2025 (pending any further certification delays for the aircraft). While the A321XLR is a jet with incredible range, Qantas intends to use this aircraft primarily for short haul flights, and the plane will be configured accordingly.

I’m not sure I fully understand Qantas’ A321XLR strategy, so I’m curious to see how this all plays out…

What do you make of Qantas’ Airbus A321XLR plans?

Conversations (17)
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  1. Not a 737 Guest

    Syd Bali is an A330

  2. John Boxall Guest

    QF will say one thing at an announcement, and do another thing in reality. Australia doesn't have enough competition to put beds in these things for J. "Passenger experience" isn't really a focus for QF, especially in domestic. I can see these doing the Bali runs or SYD/MELPER. The JQ versions will be nasty all-Y affairs stretched out for the value market.

  3. jon Guest

    Jetstar international business class is equivalent to QF domestic business, so it would make more sense if they were going to JQ.

  4. Azri Guest

    Perhaps launching to KUL. Looks like Brisbane having a less competition as compared other cities

  5. Peter Brown Guest

    Air Canada will start receiving A321XLRs in 2025. They are like Jet Blues with 14 private suites. QANTAS use of them seems strange. It wastes the range of them.

  6. Nick Guest

    Flying a regonal (ish) comfiguration A21N on a long-haul flight? Nah I'm alright...

    Qantas should either switch it to normal A321neo instead of A321XLR or reduce the number of seats and add flat bed business class seats. It would be funny to see an A321XLR configuration being worse than what some normal A21Ns and B38Ms have.

    While it's nice to see them introducing narrow-body long haul jets (so that they can keep flying/newly...

    Flying a regonal (ish) comfiguration A21N on a long-haul flight? Nah I'm alright...

    Qantas should either switch it to normal A321neo instead of A321XLR or reduce the number of seats and add flat bed business class seats. It would be funny to see an A321XLR configuration being worse than what some normal A21Ns and B38Ms have.

    While it's nice to see them introducing narrow-body long haul jets (so that they can keep flying/newly launch low-demanded long haul flights), it's clear that passenger experience will be worse off regardless of what seats they install. So please Qantas... at least install Collins Diamond seats on A321XLRs if you don't want to install (reverse) herringbone seats.

  7. ZEPHYR Guest

    Based on Qantas pictorial representation of A321XLR range against B737.
    It looks like they're predicting a maximum of around 7,500km operations range. As the farthest city pair is from Sydney to Bangkok which is 7532km apart.

  8. kimshep Guest

    Qantas has employed the concept of 'flexibility' to its aircraft purchases for years - this is nothing new. A few prescient examples would be the use of their (retired) B767 fleet during the 1990's to serve regional Asian destinations such as MNL and to then use the same aircraft to fly regular Australian domestic triangle routes, on their daily return. The same thing could be seen with the SYD/MEL to LAX scheduling, where a 'quick'...

    Qantas has employed the concept of 'flexibility' to its aircraft purchases for years - this is nothing new. A few prescient examples would be the use of their (retired) B767 fleet during the 1990's to serve regional Asian destinations such as MNL and to then use the same aircraft to fly regular Australian domestic triangle routes, on their daily return. The same thing could be seen with the SYD/MEL to LAX scheduling, where a 'quick' trip on the A380-800 to HKG could be had, between Trans-Pacific cycles. With QF, it is all about efficient scheduling and matching demand with available seats.

    You'll also find QF B737-800's flying the SYD-Bali route on a daily basis. They've done this for years. Virgin Australia has recently taken this to a new level with BNE-CNS-HND run on a B735-Max8.

    I might add that the order for these A321XLR frames, was negotiated and placed in conjunction with QF's gargantuan order for Airbus family planes, to be shared between QF and Jetstar. Due to the size of the order, the 'premium' Airbus price for the A321XLR was significantly minimized, due to the overall order volume for other NEO variants.

    One thing about QF that has become obvious over the past 40 years, is that their aircraft acquisition staff have become absolute 'terrors' in terms of negotiation of frame pricing with manufacturers. Whether that is based on QF 'opportunism', order size, or just knowing the market and whether a particular manufacturer has a need for orders, Qantas has gained an enviable reputation for capitalizing on their airframe 'capex'.

    I would suspect that the current order for this frame will be optimised for primarily 'domestic' flying - however, I would not be surprised to see future orders for 'regional international' frames, meaning anything within 7-8 hours minimum.

    Unlike the USA, Australia has a large number of neighbouring small islands / countries within reach, where the populations are not great in size, making a NB frame a totally sensible choice. Think AA flying DC10's on New York to Puerto Rico during the late 1970's. Using a WB to over-service a small island is not always a profitable option.

    Within the near South Pacific (and SE Asia), it is not uncommon to see carriers such as FJ fly NAN-SYD with an A350-900 for that sector, but also fly an additional B737-8Max, same sector, same day. Air New Zealand also plays the 'frequency' game, popping their smaller frames in as add=ons to the larger B787's. SYD-AKL (to the East) looks close on a map, but is still a 3:15=3:30 hour flight. SYD-ADL (to the West) is a 2:10 hrs blocked flight. The demands for EK-style travel with all the international 'bling' isn't quite that pronounced in the South Pacific / SE Asian regions.

    1. Skystar Guest

      737 does daily MEL-DPS

  9. DS Guest

    I distinctly remember at one point the A220s were also meant to replace 737s for Qantas but they only get mentioned as QantasLink planes replacing 717s in more recent announcements. Maybe the earlier deliveries are QantasLink and then later deliveries will replace some 737s for Qantas.

    The A321XLR is odd but I think later deliveries might have lie flat seats for longer flights while initial deliveries are for shorter flights. So maybe there is...

    I distinctly remember at one point the A220s were also meant to replace 737s for Qantas but they only get mentioned as QantasLink planes replacing 717s in more recent announcements. Maybe the earlier deliveries are QantasLink and then later deliveries will replace some 737s for Qantas.

    The A321XLR is odd but I think later deliveries might have lie flat seats for longer flights while initial deliveries are for shorter flights. So maybe there is some standardisation reason for having them all as XLRs?

  10. Morgan Diamond

    As an Aussie I am loving all this Qantas content!

  11. Randy Diamond

    I suspect QF will use these to go to South Asia as well - replacing some of the A330s.

    1. W Diamond

      I agree. This plane would be great for flights to Delhi and Mumbai. They could also launch a route to either Karachi, Lahore, or Islamabad in Pakistan. All of these cities have significant demand for nonstop flights to Australia, because there are a lot of Pakistani students in Australia, as well as a lot of VFR traffic. Meanwhile, there are limited flight options, and no nonstop flights despite the demand. And the price for airfare...

      I agree. This plane would be great for flights to Delhi and Mumbai. They could also launch a route to either Karachi, Lahore, or Islamabad in Pakistan. All of these cities have significant demand for nonstop flights to Australia, because there are a lot of Pakistani students in Australia, as well as a lot of VFR traffic. Meanwhile, there are limited flight options, and no nonstop flights despite the demand. And the price for airfare between PK and AUS is extremely expensive, even for 2+ stop journeys. So Qantas could price it around there (2k per person r/t) and have a ton of demand for those destinations.

    2. Deo Guest

      This aircraft will not have the legs to reach India or Pakistan non-stop, period.

    3. RichM Diamond

      Perth to Bangalore or Mumbai is within range, although I doubt they'll run it. I would expect more services to places like Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur, or secondary cities in Nww Zealand, would be ahigher priority.

    4. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      This aircraft will not have the legs to reach India or Pakistan non-stop, period.

      (1) that's not true, as southern India would be well within range of the aircraft, pending configuration.

      (2) adding "period" to the end of a sentence, doesn't prevent its falsity.

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Peter Brown Guest

Air Canada will start receiving A321XLRs in 2025. They are like Jet Blues with 14 private suites. QANTAS use of them seems strange. It wastes the range of them.

1
kimshep Guest

Qantas has employed the concept of 'flexibility' to its aircraft purchases for years - this is nothing new. A few prescient examples would be the use of their (retired) B767 fleet during the 1990's to serve regional Asian destinations such as MNL and to then use the same aircraft to fly regular Australian domestic triangle routes, on their daily return. The same thing could be seen with the SYD/MEL to LAX scheduling, where a 'quick' trip on the A380-800 to HKG could be had, between Trans-Pacific cycles. With QF, it is all about efficient scheduling and matching demand with available seats. You'll also find QF B737-800's flying the SYD-Bali route on a daily basis. They've done this for years. Virgin Australia has recently taken this to a new level with BNE-CNS-HND run on a B735-Max8. I might add that the order for these A321XLR frames, was negotiated and placed in conjunction with QF's gargantuan order for Airbus family planes, to be shared between QF and Jetstar. Due to the size of the order, the 'premium' Airbus price for the A321XLR was significantly minimized, due to the overall order volume for other NEO variants. One thing about QF that has become obvious over the past 40 years, is that their aircraft acquisition staff have become absolute 'terrors' in terms of negotiation of frame pricing with manufacturers. Whether that is based on QF 'opportunism', order size, or just knowing the market and whether a particular manufacturer has a need for orders, Qantas has gained an enviable reputation for capitalizing on their airframe 'capex'. I would suspect that the current order for this frame will be optimised for primarily 'domestic' flying - however, I would not be surprised to see future orders for 'regional international' frames, meaning anything within 7-8 hours minimum. Unlike the USA, Australia has a large number of neighbouring small islands / countries within reach, where the populations are not great in size, making a NB frame a totally sensible choice. Think AA flying DC10's on New York to Puerto Rico during the late 1970's. Using a WB to over-service a small island is not always a profitable option. Within the near South Pacific (and SE Asia), it is not uncommon to see carriers such as FJ fly NAN-SYD with an A350-900 for that sector, but also fly an additional B737-8Max, same sector, same day. Air New Zealand also plays the 'frequency' game, popping their smaller frames in as add=ons to the larger B787's. SYD-AKL (to the East) looks close on a map, but is still a 3:15=3:30 hour flight. SYD-ADL (to the West) is a 2:10 hrs blocked flight. The demands for EK-style travel with all the international 'bling' isn't quite that pronounced in the South Pacific / SE Asian regions.

1
Skystar Guest

737 does daily MEL-DPS

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