All eyes are on Airbus as it prepares to make the final delivery of the last A380 to be produced this week. But less keenly watched is the planemaker’s very last A320ceo family jet, an A321 for Delta, which will mark the end of over three decades of history.
The A320 family has thrust Airbus into the ring as the ying to Boeing’s yang in the narrowbody space. For 33 years, the A320ceo family of jets have been a staple of the short-haul market, popular with low-costs and full-service airlines alike. With a production run of more than 8,100 aircraft, the A320ceo has been one of the world’s bestselling aircraft families. But all good things must come to an end.
In July 2014, the first A320neo rolled out of Toulouse, and took its first flight in September that year. The delivery to launch customer Lufthansa in January 2016 marked a step-change in narrowbody comfort and efficiency, but it also marked the beginning of the end for the original ceo family.
Just over a year ago, in November 2020, the last A320ceo built in Toulouse left the building. A corporate jet, it was headed for Bangkok to join the Royal Thai Air Force. Since then, only neos have been built in Toulouse.
the last Toulouse built A320ceo (CJ) has been delivered to the Royal Thai Air Force today as HS-TYW…on the way from Hamburg via Dubai to Bangkok now… pic.twitter.com/q4h6xim4o0
— Dirk Grothe | Aviation Photography (@digro65) November 27, 2020
But the ceos have remained in production a little further away from Airbus’ home. At its final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama, the ceo has continued to roll out, filling up its last outstanding orders. By December 2020, a backlog of 53 aircraft stood. However, for various reasons (some discussed below), not all of those orders are considered to be viable.
The very last ceo set to be delivered soon
Of those 53 aircraft on the order books last December, 22 were for Delta Air Lines. Now, just one aircraft remains to be delivered to Delta. MSN 10315 is widely considered to be the last A320ceo family jet to be built, and it’s an A321-211SL set to be delivered in the coming weeks.
Flying under test registration F-WZMN, the final A321ceo has so far undertaken two test flights from Mobile. The first was on December 6th, for a two-hour and 15-minute journey, and the second was on December 10th, for just over an hour and a half.
On delivery to Delta, it will take on registration N129DN, bringing the total Delta fleet of A321ceos to 127 planes. It’s unlikely there will be much fanfare surrounding this delivery; certainly nothing compared to all the whistles and bells that will inevitably go with the A380’s exit. However, the end of the A320ceo family is still worthy of note.
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But there are still ceos in the backlog?
The official backlog for Airbus shows a number of A320ceo family aircraft still outstanding for delivery. Indeed, on the face of it, there are two A319s, 18 A320s, and eight A321s from the older family still on the books.
Data from ch-aviation gives us some more color on these unfilled orders. For example, most of the A320 and some of the A321s are listed against Iran Air, part of a giant Airbus order that has largely been unfilled.
Back in 2015, thanks to the lifting of previously held sanctions against the country, Iran Air ordered 118 Airbus aircraft with an order value of around $25 billion. The order comprised pretty much some of everything from the Airbus product lines, including 12 A380s and a bunch of A330s, both ceo and neo. Also in there were 21 A320ceos. But a change in political will in 2016 saw the order placed on ice, and although it has not been officially canceled by Airbus, it looks unlikely to proceed any time soon.
Some of the other unfilled orders are for Ural Airlines, a total of seven A320ceos. Other unassigned aircraft are either ghost orders for defunct airlines (such as Mexicana, which had four on order) or orders that are de facto canceled but yet to be officially removed. As such, it is widely considered in the avgeek community that the Delta A321ceo will be the final delivery of this generation.