Airbus made the A321 long-haul
The European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, at the Paris Air Show air show in France at Le Bourget, announced the launch of the Airbus A321XLR program, the aircraft with the longest flight range for single-aisle aircraft. According to the company, the A321XLR will be able to cover distances up to 8,700 km (4,700 nautical miles), which is 15% more than the A321LR model.
Now in this segment there is only a narrow-body aircraft Boeing 757, the production of which has already been discontinued. It is known that Boeing is still negotiating with potential customers about the possible launch of a new medium-range twin-engine NMA program, which will replace the 757.
The A321XLR should enter service in 2023. The first order for this modification was placed at the air show by a US lessor Air Lease Corporation, which signed an agreement of intent to acquire 27 such aircraft. As emphasized in the Airbus, the fuel consumption for the seat of the new version of the A321neo will be 30% less than that of the competing aircraft of the previous generation.
The A321XLR will be maximally unified with the A320neo family of aircraft. During its development, some changes were made to increase the range of the new version with increased payload. The new fuel tank on the A321XLR, located at the rear of the aircraft, will have a greater capacity compared to the additional fuel tanks installed now, and will also increase the useful volume of the luggage compartment. In addition, the chassis design, designed for a maximum take-off weight of 101 tons, will be changed, and the flap configuration will be optimized. Apparently, such a high degree of unification makes it possible, if necessary, to convert the A321XLR to the usual A321 without any technical changes — simply re-certify it for a lower take-off weight and fill it with a smaller amount of fuel. It was this option that Airbus offered with its aircraft with the medium-haul A330 Regional aircraft, which is technically no different from the usual A330, but certified to have a lower take-off weight, which saves on airport charges for medium-range transportation. Accordingly, the companies ordering the A321XLR always have the possibility of a reverse transformation (of course, the presence of an additional tank and a reinforced chassis affect the weight and economic characteristics of the aircraft, but uncritically).
In addition to 27 A321XLR, 50 A220-300 and 23 A321neo were included in the order of Air Lease Corporation. In total, the company has now ordered 387 Airbus aircraft - this makes Air Lease Corporation the third largest customer of the European aircraft manufacturer among lessors.
The new aircraft will allow airlines to open flights to longer and less busy destinations, many of which at the moment can only be performed on larger and less efficient vehicles. For example, operators will be able to open flights on the A321XLR between India and Europe, China and Australia. Also, the new aircraft will expand the non-stop flight range of the A320neo family between continental Europe and America.
Probably, there is an opportunity to offer a new product and open up completely new markets if there is an airline that tries for the A321XLR a single-class layout with five seats in a row instead of the usual six.
The capacity of the A321 in a single-class layout with normal seating pitch is 202 passengers. (maximum 240 pass., but for flights lasting 8-9 hours it is unacceptable). With a five-row layout, the capacity will be reduced by 34 passengers, i.e. it will be 168 people, while it will be possible to place wider seats and make a wider passage. That is, for comfort, you can get a very decent "economy premium." Of course, the economy of such a configuration requires careful calculations, but for the standard layout, Airbus claims a reduction in specific fuel consumption by 30% compared with the previous generation aircraft. Therefore, at first glance, there are reserves in favor of reducing the number of passengers and increasing comfort. In principle, experiences with transatlantic flights in a single-class business-class layout did not have much success, but in this case we are talking about a completely different product that could open the way for a new class of affordable, if not to say low-fare, long-haul flights.