The Airbus A321XLR vs Boeing 757 – What Plane Is Best?

American Airlines has started talking to Airbus to replace its fleet of aging Boeing 757s

Airbus A321XLR
Airbus A321XLR vs Boeing 757. Photo: Simple Flying

Their aircraft of choice? The very interesting Airbus A321XLR, a long-range narrowbody that has many airlines turning their heads. If American Airlines commits to the new aircraft, it will be a massive boon to an aircraft that has failed to capture the imagination of the airline market so far.

But how does it compare to the original Boeing 757? Let’s have a look.

What is the Airbus A321XLR?

If you are unfamiliar, the Airbus A321XLR is a special variant of the Airbus A321neo. The XLR, standing for eXtra Long Range, is from special engine selection, larger fuel tank (in exchange for passengers) and a composite Airbus NEO fuselage.

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the A321LR
The Airbus A321XLR would have weight and wing improvements to give it greater range than the LR. Photo: Airbus

Airbus is still developing the aircraft and is just 200 nautical miles shy of its advertised range (see below). Air Canada has expressed interest in the aircraft and believes it would deploy it on transatlantic routes.

How does it compare to the Boeing 757?

Let’s see how these two aircraft compare on range and passengers.

  • Boeing 757 can carry around 200-240 passengers to a range of 3,915 nmi (7,250 km).
  • Airbus A321XLR can carry 206 passengers to a range of 5,000 nmi (9,300 km).

Right away we can see that the Boeing 757 variants can carry more passengers than the A321XLR, but is beaten by the latter’s range.

If American Airlines is planning to replace the Boeing 757, it is unlikely that they are selecting the XLR for its longer range… which begs the question: if it comes down to passengers, is the Airbus A321XLR even a good replacement for the Boeing 757?

The Airbus A321XLR will bring plenty of improvements over the 757 in terms of fuel efficiency, passenger comforts (such as LED lighting and better pressurization), larger overhead bins and modern aircraft controls. It would be a bit unfair to compare an aircraft that has been flying for 30 years to another that is yet to be built, but the Airbus A321XLR is excellent on paper.

Boeing 757
American Airlines Boeing 757 in historic livery. Photo: Wikimedia

Which is best?

The Airbus A321XLR will be an excellent aircraft, and the fuel savings from the newer engines and efficiencies will allow American Airlines to easily turn a much higher profit.

What is interesting is that Boeing is about to reveal a new aircraft that directly competes with the A321XLR, the Boeing 797 (You can see how they compare here). Whether or not American Airlines will commit remains to be seen. If they do, it will instantly launch the new aircraft into success in the marketplace.

What do you think? Is the A321XLR a good replacement for the Boeing 757? Let us know in comments.

  1. For city pairs that cannot support long-haul nonstops (especially international) using larger wide-body aircraft, this aircraft offers the possibility to introduce service never before possible – or that was tried and failed, or limited to peak season.

    However, if it replaces larger wide-bodies between major cities/hubs, say the way narrow-bodies have in the USA on trans-cons such as JFK-LAX/SFO or ORD-LAX/SFO, then that would be horrible for most flyers on those routes who then find themselves stuffed into single-aisle, six-abreast cabins for even longer than the 5-6 hours that are already way too long to be stuck aboard any single aisle aircraft when compared to flights aboard far better twin aisles!

    Having had my fill of 4.5-5 hours flights aboard Boeing 737s NYC-MEX-NYC – even in extra legroom sections – I find narrow-bodies to be downright awful for flights longer than 3, maybe 4 at most, hours.

    They’re just awful – pure and simple for flights beyond 3 hours – and the longer beyond that, the worse they are.

    So, for those who live in cities that will gain long-haul nonstops that until this plane enters service were limited to making connections via international hubs/gateways, and whom are willing to make the trade-off of being confined to a single aisle, claustrophobic tube for 10-11 hours in exchange for eliminating the hassle of connecting in places like JFK, EWR, ATL, etc., to get to/from European cities – Airbus’s A321XLR could be a game-changer!

    But, for those who live in major hubs (as I do) whom then see their wide-body flights down-gauged to single-aisle aircraft in a manner similar to domestic service over the past 10-15 years, and then find themselves stuck aboard a narrow-body for their 10-11 hours flights, the A321XLR could end up doing to many, international, long-haul flights the same horrible thing that Boeing 737s and Airbus A320/321s did to their transcons when they replaced the far more comfortable twin-aisle jets that dominated these routes for the last quarter of the 20th century.

    And for people used to flying the big jets, for sure that would be a major downgrade. ☹️

  2. “Boeing 757 can carry around 200-240 passengers to a range of 3,915 nmi (7,250 km).
    Airbus A321XLR can carry 206 passengers to a range of 5,000 nmi (9,300 km).”
    This is not an apple to apple comparison from the Author!
    The B757-200 can only carry 200pax due to MTOW limit if it needs to carry enough fuel for a 3900nmi mission. Carrying 240pax will mean the B757-200 can only fly 3000nmi, similar to the A321LR with 97t MTOW.
    The Payload-Range envelop of the A321LR covers almost 99% of the B757-200 payload-range. The A321XLR will extends the Payload-range envelope beyond the current capabilites of the B757-200. Hence the A321XLR will be looking at roughly 160pax @ 5000nmi in 2 class configuration or 200pax @ 4600nmi in single class or 240pax @4000nmi in single class

  3. Personally, I would just wait for the 797 to be unveiled. It will be a twin aisle aircraftwith probably better rage and much more comfort on a long-haul flight

  4. Obviously I haven’t flown on the A321XLR bit I’ve flown on a Dragon air A 321 and it was a lovely plane. The Boeing 757s that I’ve flown on were Tui flights and they were cramped and noisy journeys. I hope never to fly on one of them again

  5. Gerald, it’s not surprising you preferred your A321 experience over the 757. Besides being a much older, narrower plane, the 757 has noisier previous generation engines. TUI, formerly Thomson, is a budget airline while Dragonair, now Cathay Dragon, is one of the best regional airlines being held to its parent company’s, Cathay Pacific, high standards. I’ll reserve judgement on the XLR until I see how airlines configure it.

  6. There is no doubt that the A321XLR is more fuel efficient (which is the only thing the CEOs care about) and has a modern cockpit compared to the 757. As far as the interior configuration that’s up to the airline. The 757 has a higher thrust to weight ratio with an older but better wing, performs into and out of high altitude airports (think La Paz at 13,300′ with 182 passengers and cargo), better short field capability, higher cruise mach (.80 vs .78 unless you need to get home which I have flown at .82 with no problem), max ceiling of 41,000′ vs 39,000′. In regards to pure performance, the A320, 321, 321XLR don’t come close to the 757. On the A321 coming from HNL to LAX we didn’t make FL370 until close to LAX. I realize the 321XLR has a new slotted flap but that won’t help at cruise. One thing that Boeing has always done better than AB is they build a better performing airplane. Unfortunately, Doug Parker and company couldn’t care less and you can bet it will be an uncomfortable interior just like our other planes.

  7. Howard Miller : Non sense. I have flown with Virgin America A320 from NY to SF0 almost 6 hours and it was lovely. I can imagine the new A321 family or new 320 Neo will be better than old A320.

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