MIAMI – United Airlines has signed an order for 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft. The announcement represents United’s first Airbus single-aisle purchase since 1993 when it placed an order for A318 and A320 aircraft.

With this order, the Airbus A321XLR product officially claims another long-time Boeing 757 customer who had been looking for a proper replacement of the aging narrowbody aircraft.

At the Paris Air Show 2019, American Airlines—another historic 757 operator—signed an identical order for 50 Airbus A321XLRs.

“We are delighted to be re-United with our friends in Chicago and thank them for their trust,” said Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer, during the announcement.

“The selection of the A321XLR by the leadership of United Airlines is a ringing endorsement of the range, payload, and fuel efficiency that Airbus incorporated into this state-of-the-art aircraft,” added Scherer.

 “The exceptional versatility and performance of the A321XLR enable new operational efficiencies that flow to the airline’s bottom line.”

The A321XLR boasts a 4,700nm (5,400 statute miles) range, which is around 1,400nm more than what the 757offers. Even if United opted to operate the A321XLR at its maximum seat capacity of 244 passengers, it would still be able to fly 600nm more than the 757. 

Andrew Nocella, United’s EVP and CCO, noted that the new Airbus A321XLR
“is an ideal one-for-one replacement for the older, less-efficient aircraft currently operating between some of the most vital cities in our intercontinental network,” obviously making reference to the 757s that are operating transatlantic services from the airline’s hub in Newark. 

“In addition to strengthening our ability to fly more efficiently, the A321XLR’s range capabilities open potential new destinations to further develop our route network and provide customers with more options to travel the globe,” added Nocella.

The carrier plans to use the A321XLR routes to Europe from Newark and Washington DC.

United Defers A350 Order, Again

Despite the good news for Airbus of yet another new customer for its A321XLR, United has once again delayed the planned delivery of its 45 ordered A350 aircraft.

According to United, the A350 order has now been deferred until 2027, which will allow the airline “to better align with its operational needs.”

Currently, United stands as the only airline in the US to operate all three variants of the Boeing 787 family. The airline has deployed the aircraft on numerous routes, opening new frontiers and putting the Dreamliner to its maximum performance.

The delay of the incoming A350 order until 2027 is certainly not a surprising move, especially now that the carrier is placing most of its efforts into its narrowbody fleet with the addition of the A321XLR and the mitigation of the Boeing 737 MAX crisis that has forced the airline to ground 14 737 MAX 9s and delay the delivery of further 15 which are parked outside Boeing’s assembly lines.

Airlines grow impatient for Boeing’s NMA

The announcement of this order for the A321XLR may be a clear sign of frustration that long-time Boeing customers like United and American Airlines are facing over the delay of the NMA.

News of the potential launch of Boeing’s NMA had been rumored to be announced at the Paris Air Show 2019. However, no such announcement has been made as the North American manufacturer decided that focusing on the 737 MAX crisis was the priority.

Although the A321XLR has been successful, it still does not fill the middle of the market—the very area in which Boeing hopes its NMA will fill.

While Boeing’s NMA still remains speculation, more customers are being claimed by Airbus and its new long-range product.