Icelandair In Talks With Airbus And Boeing To Replace Their 757s – What Plane Would Be Best?

Icelandair has started talks with Airbus and Boeing as the airline is considering replacing its Boeing 757 aircraft. Morgunblaðið, an Icelandic newspaper, reported that the airline has formally initiated negotiations about potential aircraft acquisitions with the two aircraft manufacturers. Reportedly, Icelandair would like to retire its aging Boeing 757s and replace them with newer and more cost-effective aircraft.

Icelandair Boeing 757
Icelandair operates its Boeing 757s on short and medium-haul routes. Photo: Icelandair.

Icelandair’s Fleet

The airline’s fleet currently consists of 25 Boeing 757-200s, 2 Boeing 757-300s, 4 Boeing 767-300ERs, and 3 Boeing 737 MAXs. The flag carrier of Iceland is expected to receive a total of 16 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft (9 737 MAX 8s and 7 737 MAX 9s) over the next few years.

According to Icelandair, its “Boeing aircraft are ideal for [its] list of over 40 destinations in Europe and North America. Their range varies between models, with the 767s having the longest range.”

Icelandair Boeing 757-200
Icelandair currently operates 25 Boeing 757-200 aircraft. Photo: Wikimedia.

Let’s take a closer look at the specifications of its Boeing 757 aircraft:

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 Boeing 757-200Boeing 757-300
Number of Seats184225
Maximum Range3,900 miles3,200 miles
Cruising Speed544 mph544 mph

Assuming that Icelandair wants to replace its 757s with an aircraft that has about the same range and number of seats, what airplane would be best for Icelandair?

What plane would be best for Icelandair?

Apparently, Icelandair is interested in Airbus and Boeing airplanes, even though the airline currently operates Boeing aircraft only. Unfortunately, there is no direct replacement for its aging 757 aircraft. Boeing built the last 757 in 2004.

Nonetheless, the aviation world is anxiously anticipating Boeing’s new midsize airplane, the Boeing 797. As Simple Flying reported, the 797 is expected to launch in 2025. However, the new aircraft will supposedly be introduced at the Paris Air Show this year.

Then, there is the Airbus A321LR. Airbus has offered the aircraft as a replacement for the Boeing 757.

Let’s take a look at both of them.

Unfortunately, we do not have a lot of information on the Boeing 797 yet. Boeing is expected to offer two models of the 797 to start out with. First of all, there will be the NMA-6X. This model is expected to carry 225 passengers and have a range of 5,000 nm. Then, there will be the NMA-7X. The NMA-7X will hold 265 passengers and have a range of 4,200 nm.

The A321LR, on the other hand, carries 206 passengers and has a range of up to 4,000 nm. Accordingly, the A321LR has the longest range of any single-aisle aircraft.

Airbus A321LR
Unlike the Boeing 797, the Airbus A321LR has already taken to the air. Arkia Israeli Airlines received its first A321LR last November. Photo: Airbus.

Furthermore, the Airbus A321LR is a single-aisle aircraft, while the Boeing 797 will be a twin-aisle aircraft.

Overall

As we can see, the Boeing 797 will have a longer range and carry more passengers than the Airbus A321LR. Nonetheless, it appears that the Airbus A321LR’s specifications are closer to the ones of the Boeing 757-200 which Icelandair is trying to replace.

Additionally, it really depends on how fast Icelandair wants to retire its Boeing 757s. The 797 is at least 6 years out, while the A321LR is already available.

Based on this information, it looks like the A321LR is the best Boeing 757 replacement for Icelandair at this time. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if Icelandair is willing to purchase Airbus aircraft to replace part of its all-Boeing fleet.

Which aircraft do you think would be the best choice for Icelandair?

10 comments
  1. I think if Icelandair wants a single aisle aircraft, that would be the A321LR. Or the proposed A321XLR. If they want a twin aisle, then they should go for the A330-800NEO. For the A330NEO, they could choose from a normal MTOW of 242t available today or 251t which will be available next year.

  2. The 757 is such an interesting aircraft…a winning combo of capacity and performance. It seems its real value was realized by airlines after production stopped. I saw bunches of United 757s rolling around SFO. They are obviously providing something airlines like.

    Boeing is late to the table with their NMA, but I suspect a twin-aisle mid range aircraft will be a winner when it does roll out. Time will tell.

    Assuming Iceland Air needs something sooner rather than later, I’ll leave it to them to decide which of the A321 or 737MAX will be the better fit. I wouldn’t presume to know beyond any personal preferences.

    1. Well….
      The aircraft was quite successful, meaning that airlines saw its value.
      However, we are talking about a “niche” aircraft. Its economical optimum is on very specific flights.

      We see that the B757 is ideal for transatlantic flights, and also for North-South trips (North-South America ; Europe-Africa)…

      This being said, North American airlines are well located for such an aircraft. What are the “habits” of those airlines?
      They tend to use there airplanes as long as possible / economically viable. Once the fleet is full, it doesn’t make sense to order again airplanes for keeping the production alive.
      Even though Boeing is a bit late, Boeing is targeting the airlines mentioned above. It is highly unlikely that Airbus will be alone offering a replacement solution to them.

      The B787 just ended the big part of the B787 engineering work. The B777X started a while ago.
      Boeing started to work seriously on the NMA 2 years ago. But the B757 replacement didn’t really start… So according to their prediction, the timeline makes sense.

  3. Gee lets compare which aircraft is the best option… one that currently flies and one that hasn’t been developed… Winner the one that is currently in production. Duh
    Lets ask that question in 10 years time when the A321 is an aging dinosaur and the new 797 is breaking Mach 1 like the 787-9 recently did in 2019.
    It all depends on what the the airline wants for its customers. Bigger doesn’t mean better look no further than the A380. Just because the A321 can fill more it may not be beneficial.
    Waste of money if you can’t fill those seats.

    1. No the B787 didn’t break the speed of sound.
      The maximum speed is relative to the air speed…. And this doesn’t change. Every aircraft is faster with tail wind !
      And Mach 1 is the speed relative to the air, it’s not the ground speed…

  4. It might be timing more than anything. If the 797 program launches, it will be because Boeing is confident the plane will blow the 321 out of the water. But it’s at least 2025 before deliveries — and that’s assuming the program stays on schedule.

    Keep in mind the 797 is dependent on breakthroughs in composite production — i.e. Boeing is finding they can construct composite planes much more cheaply as they refine their processes.

    If Boeing can pull this off, the 797 will absolute be the game-changer for narrowbody flying that the 787 was for widebodies, and Airbus will be scrambing to catch up once again.

    1. Let’s make a comparison of 3 aircraft that were last developed for long haul:
      – A330 NEO
      – A350
      – A380
      – B747-8I
      – B787
      – B777X
      The number of orders is in the same magnitude for both manufacturers. So no, Airbus is not scrambling to catch up…

      The A321 has the advantage of commonality with the A320 family. So pilots, crews, mechanics won’t need new trainings. And that’s quite an advantage cost wise.
      The A320 family has been sold so much that Airbus will play the same game that Boeing plays with the B787 vs A330 NEO…
      Cut the price for airlines likely to be interested by the competitor’s aircraft.
      The B797 will be a “niche” aircraft. Transatlantic flights, and hub to hub continental flights. The development costs of new aircrafts are very important ! And those cost might be higher than the additional fuel needed for an aluminum aircraft. And Airbus is thinking about a new wing (CFRP), a bit larger, for longer range…
      So Boeing at the moment is scrambling to catch up Airbus, and to find an economically viable solution for themselves and airlines ! Downsizing the B787 might be the cheapest solution

  5. Because of the need to transport lots of cargo as well as passengers I can’t see the 737 MAX 10 or A321LR as being viable replacements on routes that their 737 MAX 8/9s can’t fly. So that pretty much means they will need to keep flying their 757s or replace them with more used 767s to tide them over until the NMA arrives. Too bad there aren’t any re-engine options available for the 757 like the DC-8-70 series of the 1970s.

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