Today we thought we would make a range comparison between the original Airbus A321 and the newer and more exciting Airbus A321XLR. Before we get into why we think the A321XLR will be a game-changer for airlines and the way we all fly, let’s first have a look at the A321 and see how it came about.
Based on the popular Airbus A320 family of short to medium range, narrow-body jets, the A321 entered service in 1994, six years after the first A320. The A321 was developed from the A320 because Airbus wanted a plane that could carry more passengers. The A321-100 was basically just a stretched version of the original A320, which meant that pilots would not need to retrain to fly it because it had the same rating as the A320.
When the first A321 entered service with Lufthansa, it had 38 more seats than German carriers A320s but had a shorter range of 2,350 nautical miles compared to the A320’s 3,300 nautical miles due to the extra weight. This was rectified in 1996 when the European planemaker introduced the A321-200 with a larger fuel tank and more powerful engines to compete with Boeing’s offerings by having a range of 3,200 nautical miles.
Airbus then further developed the A321-200s design by changing the engines that powered the plane. Now called the A321neo (new engine option), Airbus offered the aircraft with a choice of CFM LEAP-1A or Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engines. Airbus also fitted sharklets to the wings, which, together with the new engines, made the aircraft 15% to 20% more fuel-efficient than previous models. When the aircraft entered service with Virgin America in 2017, it soon became one of the companies fastest-selling jets with a range of 3,500 nautical miles.
Airbus was starting to look at the aircraft maximum range and realized if they introduced auxiliary fuel tanks, they could push the plane’s range by at least 500 nautical miles. The new version was called the A321LR (long-range) and had the ability to fly non-stop transatlantic routes.
Taking it a step further, Airbus has come up with an even longer-range version of the aircraft called the A321XLR (extra long range). This will allow airlines to fly long-haul routes with fuel-efficient single-aisle aircraft.
Launched at the 2019 Paris Air Show, the Airbus A321XLR will have a maximum range of 4,700 nautical miles when configured in a two or three-class layout able to accommodate between 175 and 200 passengers. When configured in a one-class layout, the plane can accommodate 244 passengers but sees its maximum range drop to 4,000 nautical miles. With the added range, the A321XLR will link cities like Tokyo and Sydney, New York and Rome, and London and Delhi.
As we can see from the figures, the A321XLR has an increased range of 1,500 nautical miles than an Airbus A321-200. Middle East Airlines (MEA) will be the launch airline for the Airbus A321XLR, but it is on Atlantic routes between North America and Europe where the aircraft will excel. Airlines that operate the A321XLR on transatlantic routes will have an easier time selling out seats than they would on a widebody, leading to more profitability. The A321XLR will also be an extremely versatile aircraft for North American carriers who can deploy it on transcontinental routes like Los Angeles to New York before making a hop across the pond to London or Paris.
Do you think that smaller, easier to sell out planes may be the future of flying? If so, please let us know why in the comments.