United Studies A321LR For Transatlantic Services

Following the certification of the A321LR by both the FAA and EASA, United Airlines are reportedly looking at acquiring the aircraft. The move would see United Airlines looking to replace some of its older Boeing 757 aircraft which currently operate routes across the Atlantic. With the A321neo now being ETOPS certified, it is increasingly being looked at as a suitable aircraft for the transatlantic route with Aer Lingus expecting 8 of the aircraft.

United Airlines
The A321neo’s new capable range is 4,000nmi, with a max takeoff weight of 97t. Photo: Airbus

Increased Passenger Loads

As well as being more fuel efficient than the B757, the A321LR would also be able to carry more passengers for United. The A321s would have 16 Polaris business-class seats, 72 Economy Plus seats with extra-legroom and 90 economy seats. This brings a total of 178 seats. In contrast, the airline’s B757 only have a capacity of 169 passengers. Despite having a similar number of seats, the aircraft only has 45 economy plus seats.

Full Configuration Not Suitable

At its maximum density configuration, the A321LR can hold 240 passengers. However, technical consulting firm IBA Group believe this isn’t suitable for long-haul flights over 5 hours. When the cabin is configured for 240 seats, the remaining seat pitch is only 28 inches. This is even far below Ryanair’s 30-inch seat pitch. Now anybody can see that this wouldn’t be comfortable. In fact, it sounds reminiscent of Lufthansa’s 11-hour flight to Pune where Business class is a row of economy seats. An IBA Group employee told AIN Online “It’s something we’ve identified, or noted, as perhaps happening with the Wow Air and Norwegian situations”.

Low-Costs Expecting A321s

It is possible that Norwegian’s A321LRs could accommodate close to the 240 passenger limit. Along with WOW Air, the airline is known for selling low-cost fares across the Atlantic. As such, the airline has no need to install business seats. Instead, it can focus on squeezing more passengers in. Norwegian is expecting deliveries of its A321s in 2019. It is expecting 30 of the aircraft, however, was reportedly trying to sell the aircraft on earlier in the year.

WOW air currently operates A321LRs in a 220 capacity configuration. The seats have 30-31 inches of pitch. The low-cost airline currently operates the aircraft on flights between Iceland and North America. Additionally, all of the aircraft are flying routes of over 5 hours. Primera Air was also set to receive the aircraft, however, went bankrupt prior to delivery.

Do you think United Airlines will go ahead and purchase A321LRs? Let us know in the comments below!