Could Airbus Build An A322? A New 250 Seat Passenger Plane

Airbus could build a new aircraft, the A322, to fix the ‘middle of the market’ problem. It would be based on the A320 platform, with the improvements developed during the A321XLR program and better designed for medium-haul routes.

a322
The Airbus A322 could be Airbus’ new aircraft. Photo: Simple Flying – Pexels – Aircraft by BriYYZ via Wikipedia

You can watch a video about this topic below:

The middle of the market problem

Essentially, the middle of the market is a gap between short-haul smaller single-aisle aircraft (Like the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320) and widebody long-haul aircraft (Like the Boeing 777 or Airbus A350). Airlines either find themselves operating aircraft with too few seats (and thus not making much money) or too many seats (not enough passengers).

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The sweet spot seems to be around the 5,000 nautical mile range and carrying 220-270 passengers.

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Originally this market was catered to by the Boeing 757 series, which has since been discontinued and outmoded by newer, fuel-efficient aircraft.

Both Airbus and Boeing have approached this demand from airlines in different ways.

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Airbus has developed two aircraft in a ‘left hook’ and ‘right hook’ way. They have reached up into the gap with the Airbus A321XLR, which is a single-aisle long-range aircraft that can carry 220 passengers to a range of 4,700 nautical miles.

A321XLR infographic
The A321XLR specifications. Photo: Airbus

Airbus also reached downwards with their A330-800neo aircraft, which carries 257 passengers in a two-class configuration just over 8,000 nautical miles. However, this widebody aircraft has not been popular and only got a single sale by a national airline recently.

a350neo
So far Airbus has only sold 10 A330-800neo aircraft. Photo: Airbus

Boeing has been cautious with its approach to the middle of the market problem, with rumors of a Boeing 797 variant to fill the gap. However, this wide-body cheap airframe to meet market demand was recently pulled by the new CEO at Boeing. 

You can watch a video about this below:

What is the Airbus A322?

You might have noticed that in the Airbus line there still is a gap between 220 passengers and 250 passengers. This is where the new (and rumored) Airbus A322 steps in.

Airbus had considered building a further stretch of their Airbus A321 previously, but the engine technology simply didn’t exist back in 1997.

“I don’t think there will be a stretch of the A321: it would simply trade range for payload,” – Airbus Spokesperson said to Flight Global in 1997.

But today, new engines and 20 years of research tells a very different story. Using data developed in the A321XLR program, Airbus would be able to keep the roughly same useful range but increase the take-off weight of the A321 series. The further four-meter stretch of the A321 airframe would need a takeoff weight of only an extra 1.2 tons, and allow up to five new rows of seats (around 30 more passengers and luggage).

The A322 would have a useful range of around 3,500 nautical miles, but carry up to 250 passengers in a single-aisle all-economy configuration. This would make the aircraft useful for 90% of commercial flights, such as Hawaii to Seattle, Los Angeles to New York, New York to Manchester, London to Berlin, Dubai to Mumbai, Bejing to Hong Kong, Kula Lumpur to Perth and Melbourne to Sydney.

A322
The proposed different routes of the A322. Photo: GC Maps

An extra fuel tank version of the A322 could be developed like A321LR and XLR, to eventually increase the range up to 5,000 nautical miles. Additionally, a tight all-economy aircraft could carry up to 260 passengers for low-cost-carriers.

The aircraft would also cost around 50% of its twin-aisle counterpart the A330 ($259M list A330neo vs. $130M for A321), bringing wide-body profits with narrow-body costs.

A322
The distances between each city. Photo: GC Maps

This new aircraft would require a longer runway than the A321 series, but as it would be flying to airports that regularly take A330s or Boeing 777s, it would hardly be at issue.

It would be produced on the same production line as the A320 series, cheaper than building an all-new white paper design and could be flying within the next five years. The Airbus A322 makes so much sense that likely it is closer than you think.

Do you want to fly onboard the A322? Let us know in the comments.

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Alex

“An extra fuel tank version of the A322 could be developed like A321LR and XLR, to eventually increase the range up to 8,000 nautical miles”

That’s gotta be one big fuel tank.

atlas

I hate one aisle airplanes for long haul, but I do get that they will be a win.
So if it is possible to stretch A321 to this lenght, then Airbus will go for it. It is a market without competition for at least 5-10 years.
Boeing should cancel the NMA program, and make 737 successor with the same plan, possible stretch for 250 passengers. But that is at least 5 years till it will go off the ground.

Frank

Given the market situation, I don’t think Airbus does anything new, for now. They don’t have to. You never interrupt the competition when they are making mistakes.

I think Airbus just works out some of the kinks they have in their own lines; A220 engines issues (working with P&W) A320Neo production issues. Keep their heads down and nose to the grindstone.

Wait for Boeing to make the next move

Jerry Brown

It already takes a long time to plane and deplane such a large group

Andy

I think an A322 would make a lot of sense, but with the news that Boeing have taken their NMA back to the drawing board, they need to develop a whole new aircraft platform – perhaps using the latest airframe & wing tech they inherited from the A350 and A220.
An all-new design with a range of up to 6500 miles with modular seating – to switch from twin to single aisle according to customer requirements – could be a game-changer.

Aman

Agree that it’s more a matter of when versus if. I do think however that Airbus may take some time over this as they have a huge backlog on the 321xlr with the earliest delivery slots 2-3 years away so unless they can find a way to dramatically scale up production they may decide to focus their efforts on one model.
There are also additional challenges- for one boarding a high capacity single aisle aircraft efficiently will present operational challenges particularly when turnaround times are being minimised. Plus exit rows, toilets and galley placements may also reduce the uptake in terms of the number of seats.
None of these issues are insurmountable however Airbus has little incentive to fast-track this development given that the MOM project from Boeing appears to be even further behind. Airbus already has the LR and the XLR and may instead choose to drive sales on the existing variants to maximise profitability.
For now Airbus can afford to be complacent. Even if they wait to get a sense of Boeing’s strategy for this market before reacting with the 322 they can still comfortably beat them to the market.
One thing that is clear however is that Airbus is going to own this lucrative segment.

Trent

If Airbus believed that this was a good idea, they would have done it already.

Francesco

I think 8000 nm with 250 pax is a bit too much for the a322. I would like to see the same fuse with new wings and engines, maybe 8 m longer with boarding aft and from the back to avoid too much time for it.

Armand2REP

There needs to be something to replace 767. Clearly the A330-800 is not what airlines are looking for. The death of the super jumbo seems to be deeper than what it appears, it could be the decline of widebodies in general if single aisle can do the job. Airbus is in unique position to dominate if that is the case.

Ivan

8000nmi sounds a bit too much fir narrowbody. Maybe 8000km? Which translated to around 4300 nautical miles?

Dean K

sorry, not flying any single-aisle aircraft over 5 hrs; I’ll pay more for the dual-aisle comfort…..as another poster said – A321/322XLR will be a win for Airbus.

John

Wide bodies will go away for all but the most demand filled routes. I can see existing widebody routes like US West Coast to Asia being replaced by a super long reach NB if 8000nmi range is achieved.

Icare0805

On a single aisle aircraft no way that I fly long haul…
AF use the A320 from PAR to TLV / AMM and I really hate that.
Max range for me is PAR to ATH / IST…

Ken

Very soon single aisle planes will dominate short & medium haul routes, widebodies could only ply large capacity routes and long haul routes

Rickdan

I’m thinking a smaller version of the 787 is what’s needed here, much quicker to come to market already market tested, popular and versatile.

Stephen

Unsure from the article on the 1.5T addition to the take off weight, is that the weight of the 4m of stretch alone? The payload (worst case) would be 30x adult males at 80kg, so almost 2.5T plus fuel for 4T extra per hour over the current 321XLR on a 4 hour flight that is considerable.

Gerry S

Great idea. Powerplants are sufficient. Wings are ideal. Range has been improved. Just do not change the center of gravity and all will be well.

claes

It might require a new Engine, 5-7% better than the A321neo Engines and a bit higher t****t of 35-37k lb. PWA/MTU has promised a 35k PW1135G but the timing is unknown