The A321 made its first flight in 1993. Fast forward 25 years and Airbus is getting ready to start delivering the A321LR.
The A321LR is a new narrow body aircraft, with a reach significantly longer than most traditional narrow body aircraft. With a range of 7,400km, this aircraft has the potential to open up new markets. This aircraft is suited to routes with a lower passenger count, but greater distance. Such a route could be Dublin to the Caribbean for example.
The A321LR could be a boon of an aircraft for SAS. While Scandinavian populations are small, there is demand for long haul flights. The long range of the A321LR could allow the carrier to operate these flights without having many empty seats. Every empty seat means the carrier makes less money from every other ticket sold for the flight.
Rickard Gustafson, SAS chief executive was quoted as saying “I believe the A321LR could be an attractive aircraft that can unlock new markets in the long-haul space,” he says. “That’s something we’re looking into.” The airline is yet to decide if it will convert some of its 35 A320 NEO orders to the A321LR, or to source these aircraft elsewhere.
Norwegian has firm orders for 30 A321LRs. While it is selling some of its ordered A320 aircraft, it will currently keep the A321s it has ordered. Two possible uses for the long range aircraft have been hinted to by Norwegian staff. The Cheif Financial Officer, Geir Karlsen, has hinted at using the A321LR on Argentinian routes. “We are pretty excited about what we are doing in Argentina and depending on how that goes we will decide on the solution on the Airbus 321 and will possibly move some of them to Argentina.”
Cheif Commercial Officer, Thomas Ramdahl, on the other hand suggests using the aircraft for transatlantic flights. He was quoted as saying “You will see more A321LR routes coming in to medium-size airports in the USA, connecting to different capitals in Europe.” Before going on to add “We will be looking at the Washington area… I think it will be a A321LR destination.”
Aer Lingus has 8 A321LR aircraft ordered. There are potentially three things that they could use this aircraft for. They could create new routes where a large plane isn’t practical. Aer Lingus could also go down the route of replacing A330s on shorter US routes. The final, less likely option it to replace their B757s. Air Transat and Primera Air also have A321LR orders.
With orders from low cost and full service airlines, the A321 could see two possible layouts. Carriers like Aer Lingus will have a business class section. In line with its other aircraft, it is likely that these seats would be lie fat. Other airlines such as Norwegian and Primera will not include business class as is the case over the rest of their fleet.
It is unclear if the aircraft would have crew rest compartments. While these are invaluable for crew on long haul flights, they also take away space from passengers and cargo. On a narrow body aircraft such as the A321, this space comes at a premium. Maybe the full service airlines such as Aer Lingus would put a crew rest area into the aircraft, however, for low cost operators the staff will likely have to make do with a seat in the galley.