Why The Airbus A321XLR Is Perfect For Icelandair

Forthcoming gaps in the Icelandair fleet could be easily filled by the Airbus A321XLR. The aircraft’s efficiency would improve route profitability, and the incredible range would open up new routes across the northern hemisphere. This would ensure that Icelandair would thrive in the coming years.

Why The Airbus A321XLR Is Perfect For Icelandair
The Airbus A321XLR could be the answer that Icelandair is looking for. Photo: Airbus

What are the details?

Icelandair is one of the most uniquely located airlines in the world. Based on the small island of Iceland in the Atlantic, the airline is able to operate routes deep into Europe and North America.

However, its ability to project into these areas has come under assault from two fronts. The first is the impending retirement of its Boeing 757 fleet, of which it has 25. With no replacement on the market and future visionary aircraft still not announced (looking at you Boeing 797), the airline has been forced to look at other options.

Additionally, the airline also operated five Boeing 737 MAX aircraft which have all been grounded. To have five expensive, new aircraft knocked out of action and future aircraft unable to be delivered has put their expansion plans on the back burner. As a result, some routes have been dropped, including to San Fransisco and Kanas City.

Icelandair 737 MAX
Icelandair has taken its 737 MAX off the schedule until 2020 despite possible early return. Photo: Icelandair

“Last summer we planned to operate nine MAXs. This was supposed to be 25% of our fleet. The grounding, of course, created a lot of negative impact on our operation.CEO Bogi Nils Bogason told ATW in a recent interview.

“The 737 MAX can do Europe and the east coast of North America. For the other routes, we have the 767 or 757, so there is a gap left regarding new aircraft for our future fleet. The Airbus A321XLR could be a good 757 replacement. The 787 is not part of our analysis now.”

Thus, perhaps the answer to their fleet problems lies in the Airbus A321XLR.

Why is the A321XLR perfect for Icelandair?

There are two main advantages to the Airbus A321XLR that have made it one of the most popular new aircraft this year.

  1. Low capacity. In some cases, low capacity isn’t a great feature for an aircraft. But for an airline running bespoke routes with low demand, a smaller aircraft is easier to fill up with passengers and make profitable. Additionally, it can land at smaller airports not suitable for widebody aircraft.
  2. Long-range. The A321XLR has a range of 4,700 nautical miles (8,700km) which would allow it to operate routes as far as Houston or Dubai.
IndiGo Airbus order
The IndiGo Airbus order could include the XLR. Photo: Airbus

With the 757 on track to be retired by 2025 and the Boeing 737 MAX only covering 75% of its network, the carrier will need to make a decision, fast.

Having a smaller aircraft to fill but still able to service a good chunk of the northern hemisphere would perfectly suit the business model of Icelandair. Only time will tell what Icelandair decides to do.

What do you think? Should Icelandair order the A321XLR? Let us know in the comments.