Airbus has given the clearest indication yet that further development of its A321neo is highly likely after the company’s Commercial Aircraft President Guillaume Faury remarked Airbus is “getting serious” about enhancing the A321LR, the new A321neo subvariant optimised for long range.
Speaking during the handover ceremony of the first A330-900 to TAP Portugal in Toulouse, Faury said the A321neo “has a lot of potential” and that 2019 will see the manufacturer become “more precise” about its intentions for developing the aircraft. Rumours have circulated for several months that Airbus could add further range and payload capability to the A321LR in a development dubbed the A321XLR by some observers. The comments followed in the wake of Airbus handing over the first customer A321LR, 4X-AGH (msn 8517), to the subvariant’s launch operator Arkia Israeli Airlines. The A321LR is already a longerrange, higher-payload development of the A321neo, ofering up to 4,000 nautical miles (7,400km) range thanks to an increased fuel capacity through the activation of up to three auxiliary centre tanks and a higher 97,000kg (213,848lb) maximum take-of weight. Able to seat 206 passengers in a typical two-class layout or 244 single-class (although Arkia’s aircraft will have 220 seats), the variant has been designed to enable airlines to open new long-range routes and ofer a more eicient replacement for older, out-of-production midsize single-aisle aircraft such as Boeing 757s used on transcontinental and intercontinental routes.
With the long-range certification received from the European Aviation Safety Agency and Federal Aviation Administration in October 2018, Airbus says the A321LR can serve city pairs such as New York–Paris, Lisbon–Recife, Tokyo–Kuala Lumpur, Singapore–Sydney and Dubai–Beijing.
Although the A321LR is an aircraft optimised for a niche segment of the commercial aircraft market, it has proven successful since its launch in 2015, with orders from JetBlue, TAP Portugal, Aer Lingus, Norwegian and Jetstar and the lessors AerCap (which will lease some examples to Air Transat) and Air Lease Corporation.