75% Of Transatlantic Narrowbody Flights Are Now Operated By The A321

Narrowbodies have rarely had more than 10% of the winter North America to Europe market, and this winter, it’s half that. With significant cuts to B757 flights from Icelandair and United, and none by Delta, the A321 has quickly become the mainstay narrowbody across the North Atlantic.

Aer Lingus A321LR
Aer Lingus will begin another A321LR route in December: Manchester to New York JFK. It’ll supplement its seven other narrowbody flights this winter, including Dublin and Shannon to Boston, where this excellent photo was taken: Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Narrowbodies decline

The winter North Atlantic market to Europe grew strongly in the years leading up to winter 2019 (W19), analyzing OAG schedules information indicates. In W11, there were 101,293 round-trip flights; come W19, it had risen to 124,519, an increase of over one-fifth (23%).

It wasn’t quite the same for narrowbodies. Take-offs and landings fell by nearly half (43%) in this period, reducing the share of single-aisle aircraft from 11% in W11 to just 5.2%, the lowest ever level.

The reason: massively reduced use of the B757, with newer and more fuel-efficient alternatives – the B737 MAX and A321LR – not yet offsetting the decline. And all eyes are on Icelandair, the largest remaining user of the B757 across the North Atlantic, as it will soon decide what will replace the aging type.

USA_Canada to Europe_ a look at winter
With the depressed demand environment and many less fuel-efficient widebodies retired, it’s not surprising that narrowbodies (which offer far fewer seats to fill and a much lower trip cost) haven’t reduced quite as much this winter. Note that W20 is excluded to better compare W19/W21. Source of data: OAG.

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W21 sees widebodies decline twice as much

W21 obviously has fewer North Atlantic flights than W19, despite the US opening to fully vaccinated Europeans. Widebody use has fallen by 20%, while narrowbodies have reduced by ‘just’ 10%.

The lower decline has been helped by the entry of JetBlue to Heathrow and Gatwick and SAS from Boston to Copenhagen. Meanwhile, Air Transat and TAP Air Portugal have both significantly increased narrowbody use versus W19, OAG reveals.

TAP Air Portugal
TAP has grown North Atlantic A321 flights from 447 in W19 to 1,110 this winter, a rise of 148%. It now has five routes: Lisbon to Boston, Montreal, Newark, Toronto, and Washington. Photo: Simply Aviation via Flickr.

Nine narrowbody operators this winter

Nine airlines operate narrowbodies between North America and Europe this winter, with 5,828 movements – varying wildly from 20 to 57 daily – between them. Naturally, Icelandair leads, with its MAX aircraft mainly responsible this winter.

  • Icelandair: 1,316 movements; B757-200; B757-300; B737 MAX 8; B737 MAX 9
  • Aer Lingus: 1,230; A321LR
  • TAP Air Portugal: 1,110; A321LR
  • Air Transat: 638; A321LR
  • JetBlue: 586; A321LR
  • Azores Airlines: 324; A321LR/neo
  • La Compagnie: 322; A321neo
  • United Airlines: 182; B757-200
  • SAS: 120; A321LR
Narrowbody flights this winter US and Canada to Europe
40 narrowbody airport-pairs will operate this winter. Image: OAG Mapper.

Three-quarters of flights are now by the A321

What a difference two years make. In W19, the B757 (both the -200 and the larger -300) had over 3,600 movements between North America and Europe. Now they have just 377.

  • A321: 4,330 North Atlantic flights; 74.3% of total narrowbody flights
  • B737 MAX 8: 674; 11.6%
  • B737 MAX 9: 447; 7.7%
  • B757-200: 355; 6.1%
  • B757-300: 22; 0.3%

The decline in B757 use is mostly from Icelandair slashing its US/Canada B757 flights by 90%. However, it’s also from United having just one-quarter of the flights it had in W19, and Delta, Aer Lingus, and Jet2 no longer using the narrowbody between the continents.

Now it’s all about the A321, with over seven in ten flights by the type. It’s deployed on 26 routes, with Newark-Lisbon, Newark-Paris Orly, Toronto-Lisbon, JFK-Gatwick, and JFK-Heathrow seeing it the most.

Have you flown the A321 long-haul? Share your experiences in the comments.