Airbus has launched the A321XLR to complement its A321neo family. Starting from 2023, the aircraft will become the world’s longest-range airliner, offering sectors of up to 4,700nm (8,700km) – 15% more than the A321LR.
With this added range, airlines will be able to operate a lower-cost single-aisle aircraft on longer and less heavily travelled routes – many of which can now only be served by larger and less efficient wide-body aircraft. Airbus said this will enable operators to open new world-wide routes such as India to Europe or China to Australia, as well as further extending the A320 Family’s non-stop reach on direct transatlantic flights between continental Europe and the Americas.
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. Airbus said the changes include its new permanent Rear Centre Tank (RCT) for more fuel volume; modified landing gear for an increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 111.3 tons (101 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 early orders, announced at the Paris Air Show, were 27 for the Air Lease Corporation, which was soon followed by orders from Middle East Airlines (4), Cebu Pacific (10), Saudi Arabian Airlines (15), then IAG’s deal for Aer Lingus (6) and Iberia (8). Qantas then announced it was to convert 26 existing A320neo Family orders to the new type, while simultaneously placing a new firm order for 10 A321XLRs. On June 19, American Airlines revealed it is converting 30 of its existing A321neo slots to the XLR version and added an order for another 20. On June 20, Flynas, Saudi Arabia’s first low-cost airline, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 10 A321XLRs.