Airbus A321XLR. Photo: Airbus

Coverage by Chris Sloan, Article Written by James Field & Daniel Sander

PARIS – Airbus has launched its latest version of the A321neo family, the A321XLR, which will become the longest ranged, single-aisle jetliner.

The A321XLR will complement the existing A321neo family of aircraft, consisting of the A321neo, A321NX and A321LR.

Air Lease Corporation was the first company to ink a deal for the new variant, signing a Letter of Intent for 27 units, alongside 50 A220-300s and 23 additional A321neos.

The A220 deliveries will start in 2021, running through until 2026. Deliveries of the A321XLR will begin from 2023 onwards.

There were questions about an A220-500, with Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer stating that it is something the manufacturer isn’t looking at right now.

To increase the A321s range, Airbus will increase the maximum take-off weight (MTOW) to 101tonnes, install a new Rear Fuel Tank (RCT), and will enhance the wing trailing-edge flap configuration in order to maintain the same take-off performance of the new aircraft.

All these enhancements lead to a range of 4,700nm or 15% more than the existing A321LR.

Scherer stated that a secondary hub on the west coast of the U.S could fly nonstop to Europe, with Udvar-Hazy mentioning Chicago-Barcelona as an example of a route as it wouldn’t be dense enough for widebody aircraft.

The A321XLR will also incorporate the Airspace cabin, which is to be introduced to all A320neo family aircraft, as standard from 2020.

With the (RCT), Airbus has also managed to increase the cargo and baggage payload, which can be utilised on longer flights.

This range will open a lot of new possibilities for airlines and may serve as a direct replacement to ageing Boeing 757s, which have been workhorses for the airline since the 1980s.

It also opens the possibility for new routes, which are currently unprofitable with widebody aircraft.

The A321XLR cements the shift within the industry to more point to point routes.

This shows what is a good start for the manufacturer here in Paris. More momentum for the XLR project will be needed if it is to have a level of consistency in success.

ALC’s Steven Udvar-Hazy stated that the XLR would be a “formidable competitor” against the NMA that Boeing wishes to propose.

The Air Current’s Jon Ostrower asked those on the panel about whether the timely advantage will put further pressure on Boeing.

Hazy answered: “Other priorities like MAX have emerged, so NMA will be a bit in cold storage. A321XLR doesn’t mean another company (Boeing) will mean a Middle-of-Market aircraft.”

His colleague John Plueger said that the A321XLR is at the lower end of the NMA due to the timing advantage of entering service in 2023. 

Plueger also disclosed that we could see up to a minimum of 50 customers interested in the aircraft, whether that is through agreements with ALC or whether that is through orders with Airbus.

As for the A220 order, it is yet again another achievement for the manufacturer, who over the course of this week, will be also focusing on that programme too.