Industry figures show that long haul narrowbody aircraft are becoming increasingly popular with airlines. There are several reasons why this shift in approach among carriers is occurring, and one is the sheer growth in air traffic. Indeed, the International Civil Aviation Organization reported that passenger numbers have more than doubled over the last 20 years, from 1.467 billion in 1998 to 3.979 billion in 2017.
This rapid growth in air transportation has challenged the industry to find new solutions to the ongoing challenge of meeting passenger demand while delivering increased efficiency in a hugely competitive marketplace. This has led to the development of aircraft such as the Airbus A321neoLR and the Boeing 737 MAX.
Range and efficiency
These narrowbody aircraft offer increased range and efficiency, which makes it possible for them to compete in a market that had previously been dominated by widebody jetliners. The A321LR has a range of 7,400 kilometers, while the 737 MAX is also capable of reaching similar distances.
It was previously only possible for widebody aircraft to travel such distances, but the competitiveness of these new narrowbody aircraft on long haul routes has been a gamechanger. According to International Air Transport Association figures, each new generation of aircraft is capable of approximately 20% enhanced fuel efficiency, and this has meant that narrowbody planes have become particularly viable for long-distance routes.
For example, the A321 classic is deemed to deliver a 10% cost reduction compared to the A320 generation, while the A321neo goes a step further, and delivers a 20% cost reduction. This not only saves airlines money, it also contributes to the environmental ethos of carriers, helping them to be more ecologically-friendly, and creating positive brand sentiment with customers.
Lowest fuel burn
Again, the A321neo is a highly regarded aircraft in this respect, featuring the lowest fuel burn in its class, while it is also noted as being significantly less noisy than some other aircraft. Executives in the airline industry have noted that consumers are increasingly environmentally aware and sensitive, and brands are trying to respond to this, while also taking their responsibilities seriously.
The low fuel consumption of narrowbody aircraft can also lead to cost savings, which can then be passed on to customers with lower fares. Again, this is essential in the hugely competitive airline marketplace, in which consumers are increasingly savvy when it comes to acquiring the lowest airfares available.
And airline manufacturers have quickly caught on to this popularity, with Airbus having already put plans in place to produce around 60 A320neo series jets per month, and Boeing also committing to a similar number of 737MAX aircraft.
The A220 series has also been hugely popular for Airbus, with the aircraft generally being regarded as a game-changer. The A220 achieves a range of 3,700 miles, while also being notable for its low operating costs. The A321XLR has also been highly significant for the aircraft manufacturer, delivering a massive 4,7000-mile range, 15% more than the preceding A321LR. This innovative jetliner makes it possible for airlines to operate single-aisle aircraft on longer routes.
Both manufacturers have attracted thousands of orders for these two hugely popular narrowbody planes and, considering the advantages of these jets, this trend seems set to continue. Indeed, data from Forbes suggests that growth in narrowbody aircraft will continue, meaning that more will have been delivered in the 14 years between 2010 and 2024 than in the half a century from 1958 to 2009.