IAG Would Be Interested In Proposed Airbus A321XLR

According to Flight Global, CEO of British Airways parent IAG, Willie Walsh, has said that an extended version of an A321LR would be ‘very interesting’ for the group. He further commented that it would be a good fit for Aer Lingus and Iberia and potentially attractive to BA and Level too.

Airbus A321LR
Could an extended range version of the A321LR be a good fit for IAG? Photo: Airbus.

The IATA Annual General Meeting is always a source of much industry knowledge and information, and this year has been no different. The 75th AGM and World Air Transport Summit for IATA has been taking place in Seoul, South Korea, from the 1st of June until today.

Already we’ve heard how Airbus confirmed both variants of the A350 will be viable for the Qantas Project Sunrise bid. Now, more exciting news, as IAG head, Willie Walsh, expresses his groups’ interest in the proposed Airbus A321XLR.

IAG interested in the A321XLR

Speaking to Flight Global on the sidelines of the meeting, Walsh is reported to have said that the A321XLR would be ‘very interesting’ for IAG. He went on to comment that it would be ‘definitely’ a fit for Aer Lingus and Spanish Iberia and could be ‘attractive’ for British Airways and LEVEL. He is quoted as saying:

“It gives us range, which is important, and it gives us payload security, which is equally important as well – so it is good,”

Aer lingus A321LR
Aer Lingus have eight A321LRs on order and six more in their business plan. Photo: Airbus

He mooted that an A321XLR could potentially replace some of the A321LRs Aer Lingus has in their business plan. They have a firm order in for eight, but fully expect to order another six in the future. Iberia too, he says, would be a good fit for the A321XLR, not to open new routes as such but to better serve long, thin routes which are too small for A330s.

However, it’s not the first time IAG have been noted to have shown interest in an extended range version of the Airbus A321.

LEVEL ‘investigating’ A321XLR

According to Airliner Watch, CEO of IAG subsidiary LEVEL, Vincent Hodder, was looking at the A321XLR back in early May. Speaking to French media on the sidelines of a press conference, he is quoted as saying:

“No decision is made, but we are studying both planes. The A321XLR is a monster. Its range is great,”

LEVEL are said to be ‘investigating’ the A321XLR. Photo: Wikimedia

IAG are not alone in their interest in the A321XLR. Gilles Ringwald, Air Transat’s Vice President of Sales, said last November that the carrier was interested in the aircraft as it would allow the operator to connect to Paris from Vancouver.

More recently, at the same IATA AGM where Willie Walsh’s comments were heard, Jetstar also noted their interest in the A321XLR. Group chief executive Gareth Evans is reported by Flight Global to have said,

“Its 600nm additional range on the [A321]LR and that can hit markets like Japan and Cairns. We have a fairly large operation out of Cairns on 787s today – an XLR potentially could enable us to grow that operation to other points in Japan out of northern Australia so it’s something we’re certainly interested in.”

Jetstar are said to be interested in the A321XLR too. Photo: Jetstar

Clearly there’s a keen market for a very long range version of the A321LR, but right now there’s been no announcement from Airbus as to the aircraft, so it’s all a bit theoretical. However, there could be some movement on this situation, perhaps as soon as in two weeks’ time.

When will the A321XLR be announced?

The XLR version of the Airbus A321 is expected to boast a number of wing and weight upgrades which will allow it to travel over 4,000nmi carrying 220 passengers. However, it’s not been formally announced by Airbus yet, although all that could change very soon.

Industry insiders have, for some time, expected Airbus to make a formal announcement on the A321XLR at the Paris Airshow in two weeks’ time. As long ago as February Airbus were reported by Reuters to be penciling in potential customers for the aircraft, so we at Simple Flying are very hopeful of an official announcement in two weeks’ time

the A321LR
The Airbus A321XLR would have weight and wing improvements to give it greater range than the LR. Photo: Airbus

Also reported by Flight Global, Airbus were quizzed about the A321XLR at the IATA AGM. While they wouldn’t be drawn into any formal confirmation of the status of the project, chief commercial officer Christian Scherer dropped some big hints that it was in the pipeline. He is quoted as saying,

“The earliest you can expect any new versions of an A321 with some serious work done on it would be the 2023-24 timeframe.”

Airbus have already noted that an XLR version of the A321 coupled with a smaller, lighter version of the A330neo (A330-600neo?) would deliver a double punch to any NMA that Boeing attempted to bring to market. With the XLR slated to begin service as early as 2023, it would easily beat Boeing’s 797 to market and could put the US manufacturer on the backfoot before they’ve even started.