Qantas Group Orders 36 A321XLRs

Filed Under: Qantas

Read more: In the first few days we’ve seen A321XLR orders from Qantas, JetstarAer Lingus, IberiaFrontier, JetSMART, and Wizz AirAmerican, and JetBlueShould passengers dread the A321XLR, though?

The newly announced A321XLR just keeps getting orders. This plane will launch in 2023, and will be the longest range single aisle plane in the world, with a range of 5,400 miles.

This gives it 15% more range than the A321LR, which has already been popular with airlines. Furthermore, the plane has 30% lower fuel burn than comparable planes in the past, referring to the Boeing 757.

The Qantas Group (which includes Qantas and Jetstar) has just announced their intentions to acquire 36 Airbus A321XLRs, starting in 2024.

This isn’t fully a new order. Qantas Group had already ordered 26 A321neos, and they’ve converted those orders to A321XLRs, and have added a further 10 planes to the order.

Qantas does note that their order gives them significant flexibility to adjust their delivery schedule depending on market conditions, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect that all 36 planes will be delivered within a few years of 2024.

Qantas hasn’t yet decided how they’ll split up the planes between Qantas and Jetstar. Qantas is generally a really conservative airline, so I would expect that Qantas won’t be getting more than half of them (and even that would be aggressive).

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce says the following about the plane:

“We already know the A320 is a great aircraft and this new variant can fly further and more efficiently than any other single aisle jet on the market. It can fly routes like Cairns-Tokyo or Melbourne-Singapore, which existing narrow-bodies can’t, and that changes the economics of lots of potential routes into Asia to make them not just physically possible but financially attractive.

“We’ll take a decision closer to the time about which parts of the Group will use these aircraft, but there is plenty of potential across Qantas and Jetstar. We’ll also take a view on whether they are used to replace older aircraft or whether they are used for growth, which will depend on what’s happening in the market.

This plane seems like it could have huge potential for Qantas. Currently Qantas’ smallest long range plane is the A330, and that’s simply too much capacity for many routes to Asia.

It seems clear the primary focus here will be Asia, so this plane could be used in a few different ways:

  • It could be used to expand from Sydney and Melbourne to markets in Asia that aren’t currently served
  • It could be used to expand to existing markets in Asia from cities in Australia that currently don’t have much service from Qantas to Asia (Cairns and Perth, for example)
  • It could be used to increase frequencies on current major routes to Asia
  • It could even be used to fly nonstop from Perth to Auckland (especially if Qantas ever continues growing service to Europe out of Perth)

Just to give you a sense of the possibilities, here’s the rough range of the A321XLR from Sydney:

And just to throw out a curve ball, here’s the rough range of the A321XLR from Perth:

Bottom line

The A321XLR is a game changer (and not in a Kenya Airways kind of way), and it’s pretty incredible to see the pace at which airlines are signing on to the plane, in hopes of securing early slots.

Qantas in particular is an airline that can hugely benefit from this plane. They can fly just about anywhere in Asia with the A321XLR. There are so many markets where the economics don’t work out for the A330, but where an A321XLR could make sense.

What do you make of Qantas’ A321XLR order?

  1. Very cool! I too am so impressed with the speed of the orders for the A321XLR – also worth note is the potential Aer Lingus Dublin – California range.

    Ben – what system / software do you use to plot your aircraft range maps?

  2. Could Qantas please also use these A321 to replace the 737 they currently use on most of the trans Tasman flight? It would give them greater fleet flexibility while offering more seats, and those 737 were truly uncomfortable in economy.

  3. “It could be used to expand to existing markets in Asia from cities in Asia…”

    That second “Asia” should be Australia?

  4. Somehow I see Qantas opening up more Asian routes as a threat to MH. Australia is an important market for MH. Travelers might skip connecting in KUL and connect directly from other Asian hubs or travel direct to Australia. Could be worse if QF resumes KUL service.

  5. Can I just say, the Douglas DC-8-73 is a narrowbody and has a range of 5,300nmi. And the Boeing 707-320B has a range of 5,750nmi!!! Why is everyone so excited about the A321XLR when you can have a tried and tested 1950’s classic with 1000 miles MORE range, not to mention the lack of ETOPS restrictions (4 ENGINES!!). One can dream, right? :/
    For real though, I do absolutely wish that Boeing was on the ball with the 757, furthering development. There was so much more potential for such an insanely beautiful aircraft! Much better flight performance and payload than any A32X aircraft.

  6. You suggest 1. 330 has too much capacity for some existing routes and 2. The XLR has the potential to open new routes.
    IMO the latter is the crucial point. The 330 has a high load factor on most of those existing routes. Some of them ( eg Sydney-Denpasar) split the flights between the 330 and a 737. Needless to say, the 330 experience is infinitely superior. But for a 5 hour flight it’s not a big deal. Anything longer and the J passengers wouldn’t be thrilled by a single aisle experience.
    But for a new route, many would take the point to point on the XLR rather than connect onto something bigger.
    Jetstar, yes, it’s a no-brainer and could work well.
    It might become of less relevance after tomorrow …Joyce is announcing ‘enhancements’ to QFFP and many are anticipating very bad news.

  7. @ Paolo — You’re absolutely right, that was a typo on my part. Meant to write “too much capacity for many routes to Asia,” rather than “too much capacity for many of their routes to Asia.” Qantas is an incredibly conservative airline, so no doubt all the routes on which they fly the A330 to Asia have sufficient demand.

  8. @ Spk — It hasn’t been revealed, but I would expect flat beds in business for the Qantas planes.

  9. @ The nice Paul — Indeed, thanks. The dangers of blogging before my first cup of coffee.

  10. Maybe Qantas will use this to restart international flights from Adelaide….


    Seriously though I could see this being more about Jetstar either for right sizing flights to Bali, flights to regional Chinese cities, or low cost flights to Tokyo to cities other than cairns.

    You might see a a mainline Perth to Tokyo but I doubt it.

    Another option is these all go to Jetstar and Jetstar’s 788s go to Qantas.

  11. Why sooooo many people cannot imagine a narrow-body aircraft with flatbed? There would be no differences between a narrow-body and a wide-body when both aircraft have flatbed and entertainment system.

  12. Your map shows that the Airbus A321XLR could fly from Sydney to Honolulu. I assume Brisbane to Honolulu would also be possible. That could open up some interesting opportunities for one stop flights between the US mainland and Australia. Perhaps Qantas will follow the lead of Icelandair and offer a “free stopover” in Hawaii for those travelling between the US mainland and Australia?

  13. Western Sydney Airport once complete in the mid to late 2020’s could see lots more Qantas or Jetstar flights to the likes of SGN, KUL and others including new direct China destinations.
    Perth Qantas flyers could potentially get as choice as we hopefully may see Qantas direct flights to BKK and others only serviced by SQ, TG, or MH.
    I believe by that time for Perth India will becoming more on the radar such as Delhi and Mumbai due to the rapid rise of Indian middle class, I forecast and by 2030 the amount of Indian nationals in particularly students will explode and flock to western nations and Perth will be one of the major markets for those people due to proximity and with Perth having everything that of a modern, livable city… just my opinion

  14. Maybe by then Perth Johannesburg might finally happen, As Qantas and Perth airport my resolve their ongoing disputes by 2024… *SMH*

  15. I hate the idea of more narrow body planes. QF use 737s on some redeyes, and it’s horrible. A321XLR probably will be an improvement over a 737 on these routes, but I actively seek out A330s where I can.

    That said, I get the economics might not stack up for an A330 to certain places; they seem to work ex-SYD, as you’d expect, and do a lot of the time ex-MEL (although if they could put them on regularly MEL-DPS and MEL-NAN, that would be great), but PER/BNE/ADL I’d expect they’ll struggle to fill them unless they force pax to connect (which, let’s face it, they’re not going to do).

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