MIAMI — Airbus officially launched the A321neo 97t, an aircraft with 97 tons of Maximum Take Off Weight (MTOW) that targets the Boeing 757-200W, said President and CEO Fabrice Brégier at the company’s annual press conference today. The A321neo 97t’s launch customer, with an MoU for 30 of the type, is Los Angeles-based Air Lease Corporation (ALC), headed by Steven Udvar-Hazy.

John Leahy, Airbus’s chief operating officer for customers, said the A321neo 97t will help his company go after a market that everyone said was needed to replace the Boeing 757. “We looked at that market and can pick up 500 aircraft” from current customers, along with another 500 from new market growth, he said. “The A321neoLR will burn 30 percent less fuel than the 757 flying across the Atlantic. The 757 is a nice aircraft that’s slightly overpowered, and this A321 sits right on top of it burning less fuel.”

In October, Seattle-based Leeham Co. reported that Airbus had been showing plans for the A321neoLR to replace the Boeing 757-200W. The A321neo 97t will have, with 4,000nm, the longest range of any single aisle airliner available today and tomorrow, making it ideally suited to trans-Atlantic routes and will allow airlines to tap into new long haul markets which were not previously accessible with current single aisle aircraft.

With an extra fuel tank in the forward underfloor hold of the aircraft, as well as minor improvements on the wing and fuselage, the A321neo 97t will be able to fly 206 passengers on longer routes of up to 4,000 nm in a comfortable two-class layout. First deliveries are scheduled to start by 2019.

“We are excited to be the first to sign for the new longer range version of the A321neo,” said Udvar-Házy in a statement. “ALC wants a footprint in every promising market segment, including ones that can be opened by this new version of the A321neo. We pride ourselves in being able to provide our customers with the very latest, most innovative products and solutions.”