Spirit Airlines is not too sure about the Airbus A321XLR for its fleet. The carrier has not ordered the hotly anticipated narrowbody long-haul jet, but it is a major Airbus A320neo family customer. While some of its competitors have ordered the A321XLR, Spirit weighs its options and is evaluating all possibilities, but it is not ready to commit to the A321XLR.
Spirit Airlines on the Airbus A321XLR
At the virtual 2021 Raymond James Annual Institutional Investors Conference, Spirit Airlines’ CEO Ted Christie stated the following on the Airbus A321XLR:
“The good part about it is that is common with our aircraft, so we would be able to at least crew it in a way that would be efficient. The question is, in the Spirit product, and the Spirit model does that aircraft really add to the network opportunity? It is a long range airplane, but it’s a long range airplane because they’re using some of the belly space and some of the available takeoff weight to add fuel, and we have a lot of people on our airplanes, and we carry a lot of bags. So, the answer is, we’re not sure.”
For Spirit Airlines, the Airbus A321XLR is an interesting jet. Airbus’ longest-range version, for now, of the popular A320neo family, the aircraft has been ordered by a long list of customers, including low-cost carriers worldwide like Frontier, Wizz, and more.
The issue with the jet for Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines could use the aircraft to expand into a host of new markets. This includes opportunities across South America, perhaps even Hawaii, and many more high-demand markets that it could not currently serve with its portfolio of aircraft. Spirit is in expansion mode, with new flights to Kentucky and Wisconsin already on the books, and Orange County recently added.
Spirit Airlines seats 228 passengers on its Airbus A321 aircraft. Spirit currently only has 30 A321ceos in its fleet, compared to 64 A32ceos and 32 A320neo jets. The A320s seat 182 passengers.
For Spirit Airlines, the Airbus A321XLR can go the range, but it could fall a little short for Spirit. The more passengers the airline fits onboard the A321XLR, the greater the aircraft’s weight, which can limit the plane’s performance in terms of range.
Add in the bags for 228 passengers, a majority of whom would undoubtedly want to take a bag or two with them on a long-haul journey, and then Spirit has a lot of weight on the aircraft. It might not have enough belly room to handle all those bags due to the added fuel tanks.
This is not a problem for full-service carriers. An airline like American or United will put fewer seats onboard the jet because they have to have room for a lie-flat business class product, and maybe even another cabin for premium economy. These jets with full-service airlines are only going to have around 150-180 passengers onboard. That is at least nearly 50 passengers less than Spirit, which means fewer bags to store.
Spirit is focused on the A320neo family
Spirit Airlines had an order backlog, as of December 31st, 2020, of 126 Airbus A320neo family jets– including Airbus A319neos, A320neos, and A321neos. The current fleet plan sees Spirit Airlines add 16 Airbus A320neo jets in 2021 and another 17 in 2021. There are no plans to take any A319neo or A321neo jets before the end of 2022.
The current focus for Spirit is on the A320neo, as Mr. Christie stated:
“The Neo is the focus right now. The A320neo and eventually the A321neo are the focus of our longer range network designs. And, whether or not the XLR will play in, we’ll spend more time on that. But for now, we’re chewing through Neos and using that in the network opportunity that we have.”
Do you think Spirit should order the Airbus A321XLR? Let us know in the comments!