On Monday morning, Air Transat Flight TS690 landed in Athens, Greece, having flown all the way from Montreal, Canada. The one-time service was operated by a narrowbody Airbus A321LR and covered over 7,600 km.
Long-haul narrowbody flights are set to become increasingly popular as airlines vow to maintain connectivity while adjusting to the reality of prolonged stunted passenger demand. Back in August, we asked the question, “how far can the Airbus A321LR actually fly?”
While not breaking the record for the longest A321LR flight per se, Air Transat’s Sunday to Monday flight does demonstrate a potential commercial route range for single-aisle aircraft.
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Longest commercial A321 flight
Flight TS690 touched down in Athens, Greece, at 07:45 on Monday morning. It had been flying for eight hours and 20 minutes and covered 7,651 km. The transatlantic flight was the longest commercial service the A321 has operated thus far, which caused Airbus to celebrate the event on its social media channels.
With a record 7,600km flight between Montreal 🇨🇦 & Athens 🇬🇷, the #A321LR has lived up to its name like never before.
⬇️Here is the unrivalled long-range route opener offering true transatlantic capabilities w/ a single aisle aircraft. pic.twitter.com/wC3Obv5nEW
— Airbus (@Airbus) October 26, 2020
The scheduled flight time was nine hours and five minutes, but strong tailwinds led to less time in the air. The flight was operated by C-GOIO. Air Transat took delivery of the four-month-old aircraft in July this year. The A321LRs feature a layout of 12 premium economy seats in the front of the cabin, followed by 187 economy seats.
The return flight, TS691, took off from Athens on its scheduled departure time at 10:20 on Monday. While the flight was marketed as direct, it landed at Paris Charles De Gaulle before continuing on across the Atlantic at 13:19. At the time of writing, it had just crossed into Canadian airspace and headed southwest over Newfoundland and Labrador.
Simple Flying has reached out to Air Transat for a comment on the flight but was yet to receive a reply at the time of publication.
Could potentially fly another 1,000 km
Crossing the Atlantic and Continental Europe is an impressive feat for a single-aisle aircraft. Meanwhile, the A321LR could go longer, even while carrying passengers. In April 2018, a test aircraft flew from Mahé in the Seychelles to Toulouse in France, covering 8,797 km in 11 hours. 162 heat-emitting dummies occupied the test flight’s cabin, and it also had 16 crew on board to emulate actual passenger flight conditions.
However, while the distance between Mahé and Toulouse may be greater than between Athens and Montreal, the return flight westwards would certainly require more fuel due to the strong headwinds in that direction.
How far can a narrowbody go?
In 2019, Airbus also debuted the A321XLR, which with a 175 to 200 passenger layout, will be able to comfortably reach distances of 8,700 km. This means that routes such as New York to Rome and Tokyo to Sydney could become available to the Airbus’ A320 family.
Many travelers commenting on Air Transat’s one-off narrowbody long-haul jaunt have expressed doubts about the comfort of a single-aisle aircraft over such a long distance. Others say that they can’t remember ever making use of more than one aisle on board an aircraft anyway, so it would make no difference to them.
What side are you on? Can you imagine taking an eight-hour plus flight on a single-aisle narrowbody jet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.