TAP Air Portugal Considers An Airbus A321XLR Order

TAP Air Portugal will be converting a portion of its existing order for A321LR planes to A321XLR planes according to a report in The Blue Swan Daily.

When asked about ordering the A321XLR, co-owner David Neeleman said to reporters, “we will do it”. He described ordering the A321XLR as “important, necessary, and a need.”

TAP Portugal Airbus A321XLR
TAP Air Portugal is looking to swap some A321LRs on order for A321XLRs. Photo: TAP Air Portugal

TAP Air Portugal is due to take delivery of 12 more A321LRs from Airbus, to add to the two already in its fleet. The first was only delivered in April 2019. David Neeleman’s comments reported in The Blue Swan Daily suggested that the A321LRs were not entirely living up to TAP Air Portugal’s expectations.

“The A321LR ended up not having the promised reach… to replace the Boeing 757. The XLR is more ready”.

TAP Air Portugal is currently sending its two A321LRs out onto transatlantic runs. They serve the Lisbon – Newark route, swapping out an A330-200 and ramping up frequency on the route. Flying time between the two cities is approximately eight hours. It’s a long haul in a single aisle jet, even if you are in the business cabin.

But that isn’t deterring David Neeleman. He sees the A321XLR as a good fit for the Lisbon – Chicago and Lisbon – Sao Paulo routes. 

As long range single aisle aircraft like the A321XLR start to be delivered, we could be seeing a lot more small jets crossing oceans. Mr Neeleman and TAP Air Portugal may be jumping on this bus early.

TAP Air Portugal is growing fast

No-one can accuse TAP Air Portugal of standing still. The Lisbon based airline and Star Alliance member has approximately 350 daily flights, serving 87 cities in 34 countries.

TAP Air Portugal has a fleet of 90 aircraft. It does not use Boeings. That makes it one of the lucky few airlines not mired down in the 737 MAX crisis. TAP Air Portugal has 65 Airbus jets, mostly A320s and A319s, 18 Embraer jets, and 8 ATR 72 turbo props. 

The airline is due to receive 37 factory fresh Airbus jets this year, and 71 by the end of 2025. Their focus is mostly on single aisle jets, although they do also have an order in place for 16 A330-900neos. TAP Air Portugal was the launch customer for the A330-900neo and is rolling out the sleek new jet on flights to Miami and San Francisco.

TAP Portugal Airbus A321XLR
TAP Air Portugal is steadily bringing A330-900neos on to long-haul routes. Photo: TAP Air Portugal

The Portuguese Government has a 50% stake in the airline. The Atlantic Gateway Consortium, an investment vehicle for David Neeleman and prominent Portuguese businessman, Humberto Pedrosa, owns 45%. The remaining 5% is owned by private investors, including TAP Air Portugal employees.

TAP Portugal Airbus A321XLR
David Neeleman’s Atlantic Gateway Consortium owns 45% of TAP Air Portugal. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A focus on the USA

TAP Air Portugal has brought several new European routes into their schedule this summer, with maiden flights to Naples, Tenerife, Brussels, Lyon and Munich. Banjul in The Gambia and the Guinean capital of Conakry are also being added to TAP Air Portugal’s schedule.

But it is the USA that has the airline’s attention and where it sees its immediate future lying. Four years ago, TAP Air Portugal’s sole destination in the USA was Miami. In 2016, it commenced flying into JFK and Boston, and now in 2019, the Portuguese airline flies to multiple airports in the USA.

TAP Portugal Airbus A321XLR
TAP Air Portugal is making a big push into the North American market. Photo: TAP Air Portugal

In addition to the A330-900neo Miami service and the A321LR Newark service, TAP Air Portugal launched flights into three new North American cities in June 2019:  San Francisco, Chicago, and just last week, Washington DC.

All flights to the USA with the exception of the Newark flights currently use the widebody Airbus A330s and A340s. It was the launch of the TAP Air Portugal flights into Dulles that saw David Neeleman in the USA last week and speaking to media there.

TAP Portugal AIrbus A321XLR
TAP Air Portugal starting flying into Washington D.C’s Dulles International Airport just last week. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Portugal is poorly served by US airlines. This has enabled TAP Air Portugal to grab a big chunk of the US-Portugal market. Capacity on the route has increased four fold in as many years and TAP Air Portugal says its passenger numbers into North America have increased by 176.5%.

With TAP Air Portugal’s inroads into the USA and a consistent stream of new aircraft being delivered over the next five years, it will be interesting to watch where the carrier heads to next.