With a range of 4,000 nautical miles, the Airbus A321LR can easily complete transatlantic flights. As a result, several airlines have turned their attention to the narrowbody. So let’s see which carriers currently fly the A321LR.
TAP Air Portugal
TAP Air Portugal was one of the early adopters of the A321LR, taking its first jet in April 2019. The carrier operates nine of the long-range aircraft (with three more on the way), flying it on several transatlantic routes to North and South America.
While the pandemic has disrupted plans, the carrier planned to add several new routes in Brazil using the jet. As transatlantic travel will recover in the coming months, we can expect TAP to look toward the A321LR for more efficient crossings and lower costs.
The launch operator of the A321LR, Israel’s Arkia Airways, operates three of the type. Before its grounding last year, the carrier flew these long-haul jets to destinations in Europe and South Asia. The aircraft allowed the carrier to reach new markets and retire its fleet of aging Boeing 757-300s.
Notably, Arkia is one of the few airlines that went for an all-economy configuration on the A321LR. This allowed the airline to carry 220 passengers, lower than Airbus’ single-cabin maximum of 240 seats.
Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus is another European carrier flying the A321LR and currently operates five of the type. The carrier used the jet to fly to several non-hub routes to the US using the narrowbody jet, including Hartford, Dulles, and Philidelphia, according to Routesonline.
Additionally, two planes will be delivered to the airline’s upcoming UK subsidiary that will fly transatlantic leisure-oriented routes and compete with Virgin Atlantic. This new carrier is expected to launch operations in summer 2021, so expect to see more A321LRs making the hop across the pond this year.
Central Asia’s only A321LR operator, Kazakhstan flag carrier Air Astana operates four of the aircraft type. The plane has quickly become the fleet’s flagship, with 16 seats in business class and 150 in economy. The plane flies key routes to Europe, including London and Paris.
Scandanavian joint flag carrier SAS currently files one A321LR. The aircraft was only delivered in October 2020 and sadly did not see much use. According to RadarBox, the aircraft is currently parked and has only flown one flight since delivery.
However, prior to the pandemic, SAS planned to fly this aircraft from Copenhagen to Boston. It even went as far as to put tickets on sale, but it’s unclear when it will return to this proposed route. For now, don’t expect the remaining A321LRs to arrive any time soon.
One airline that pushes the A321LR to its extremes is Canada’s Air Transat, which operates a fleet of seven jets. The carrier retired its last A310 last year and replaced it with the ultra-modern A321LR instead.
In October, the carrier flew from Montreal to Athens (4,103 NM) on the jet, making it the longest commercial flight A321LR at the time (a record which since has been beaten).
Air Transat is currently undergoing a merger with Air Canada (which other airlines are not too happy about). If the takeover goes through smoothly, we could see Air Canada operating the A321LR for years and potentially expanding its fleet in the future (or buying the A321XLR).
The current titleholder of the longest commercial A321LR flight goes to Portuguese carrier Air Azores, which currently flies two of the type. On January 3rd, the carrier flew from Lisbon to Bogota, a 4,200 NM and near 10-hour journey.
Air Busan became the first East Asian carrier to operate the Airbus A321LR last April. The South Korean low-cost airline shared that it appreciates the plane’s “advanced equipment and automatic management system of the flight course and altitude.”
The final airline on our list is Gulf Air, which operates two A321LRs. The first aircraft was delivered in September 2020 and the next one arrived earlier this month. The Bahraini carrier plans to use the aircraft for long-haul European destinations and select routes in the Middle East.
There are a handful of other operators with just one or two aircraft each. These include Air Arabia, La Compagnie, Titan Airways, Viva Aerobus and Ural Airlines.
Coming soon: JetBlue
While JetBlue is yet to take delivery of its first A321LR, the industry is excitedly awaiting this game-changing aircraft’s arrival. The low-cost airline’s recent reveal of its new Mint business class cabin has many eager to fly this jet and could cement the future of long-haul narrowbody travel.
JetBlue plans to fly transatlantic routes to cities like London from this summer onwards. The first A321LR (of 13) for the mission is set to arrive in the next few months, just as demand will hopefully recover with the vaccine.
While the A321LR has relatively few customers, its bigger brother, the A321XLR, promises to shake up the industry. With a longer range and more seating capacity, dozens of airlines have placed orders for this upcoming jet. The first A321XLR is on track to launch in 2023 if everything goes well with production and testing, which is never a guarantee.
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Despite some anxiety about the future of long-haul narrowbody flights, the A321LR has shown passengers that 7+ hours in the back of a single-aisle jet is not unbearable. Most carriers have opted for two-class layouts and roomier economy cabins. If this trend were to hold, long-haul flights may not be too bad for passengers compared to widebodies.
Have you flown an A321LR? Would you fly a narrowbody for seven or more hours or switch to a widebody? Let us know in the comments!