Airbus launches its longest range single aisle aircraft, the A321XLR

Airbus has officially launched the longest range single-aisle aircraft, the A321XLR at the opening day of Paris Airshow 2019. The A321XLR is the latest addition to the A320 family. Earlier the A321LR had the longest range of up to 4000nm. The A321XLR trumps the A321LR in range by 15%, having an extended range of up to 4700nm.

A321XLR

A321XLR

The A321XLR will roll out in 2023 and have 30% lower fuel burn per seat than previous-generation competitor aircraft. The A321XLR is a continuation of the A321neo. Airbus will be making a few changes to the A321neo to support the increased Maximum Takeoff weight of 101 tons for additional fuel. According to Airbus,

The A321XLR has been designed to maximise overall commonality with the A321LR and the rest of the A320neo Family, while introducing minimal changes needed to give the aircraft an Xtra Long Range with increased revenue payload. The changes include: the new permanent Rear Centre Tank (RCT) for more fuel volume; a modified landing gear for an increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 101 metric tonnes; and an optimised wing trailing-edge flap configuration to preserve the same take-off performance and engine thrust requirements as today’s A321neo. In particular, the new optimised RCT holds more fuel than several optional Additional Centre Tanks (ACTs) did previously, while taking up less space in the cargo hold – thus freeing-up underfloor volume for additional cargo and baggage on long range routes.

The A321LR has 3 Additional Centre Tanks (ACTs) which increases its range up to 4000nm. The ACTs are container sizes tanks placed in the cargo hold and can be added or removed easily. What Airbus is now going to do with the A321XLR, is that the ACTs will be replaced with a permanent Rear Centre Tank (RCT) which will hold more fuel but occupy less cargo space than the ACTs.

There is currently a niche in the medium-haul market. The launch of A321XLR will help Airbus capitalise on the demand created by airlines who are looking at medium haul routes but with a narrowbody as well as those looking at replacements of ageing mid-haul aircraft like the 757s and 767s.

A321XLR

A321XLR

The A321XLR will open up interesting route possibilities. It will fit well with airlines who want to operate routes which are otherwise not commercially viable with existing wide bodies and also with airlines who want to operate longer routes but do not have any wide bodies in their fleet.

I have already covered in detail how the increased range offered by A321XLR will help airlines open up new routes based on different configurations for carriers like IndiGo who are rumoured to order the A321XLR. Think of Delhi – London, Delhi – Tokyo, Mumbai – Frankfurt and so-on. But 9-10 hours on a narrowbody is a bit too much, isn’t it?

Boeing won’t announce its rumoured New Midsized Aircraft (NMA), which is meant to compete with the A321XLR at the Paris Airshow 2019. The focus is currently on winning back approval for the 737 MAX and also for getting the 777X up in the air.

Air Lease Corporation is the first one to place an order for the A321XLR, 27 of them. The Middle East Airlines followed up with 4 for themselves. IAG, AirAsia, American Airlines, JetBlue, Lufthansa and others have also shown interest in the A321XLR.

What are your thoughts on the A321XLR?

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