Despite setbacks, the hotly anticipated Airbus A321XLR is expected to enter service in 2023. That might seem like a long time off, but it will pass in a flash. Among the customers lining up for the new XLRs is Budapest-based Wizz Air. That’s got the pundits guessing where Wizz will start flying their XLRs. It is still a parlor game, but we now know Wizz has no plans to send the A321XLRs across the Atlantic.
Wizz Air rules out flying the A321XLR across the Atlantic
Wizz Air is set to receive 20 Airbus A321XLRs. Wizz’s owners, Indigo Partners, signed a deal to buy 50 of the planes in 2019. Among its stable of airlines, Indigo Partners is giving Wizz Air the lion’s share of the new planes.
The XLR is the next step forward in the A321neo’s evolution. The XLR’s key difference is its massive range – 5,400 miles (8,700 kilometers). In contrast, the standard A321neo has a range of just under 3,730 miles (6,000 kilometers). Boeing’s rival 737 MAX 8 can jet 4,080 miles (6,570 kilometers) before refueling. The XLR’s impressive range has some suggesting Wizz Air would be sending the plane onto transatlantic routes.
With a thick cluster of routes stretching from Reykjavik (KEF) in the west Almaty (ALA) in the east, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine Wizz going the extra miles and landing in North America. The A321XLR certainly has the capabilities to do so.
But in an exclusive webinar interview with Simple Flying, Wizz Air CCO George Michalolpoulos said the A321XLR would not be used to fly across the Atlantic.
“Our plan is really to connect the dots,” he told Simple Flying’s Joanna Bailey. “There are points we currently serve out of our 191 airports where you simply can’t fly direct because we don’t have the range in the on the 321neo. That’s where the primary purpose for us purchasing the XLR lies.”
Wizz Air puts the focus on price, not comfort
And that may be just as well. The average flight time between London (LHR) and New York (JFK) is a few minutes shy of eight hours. That is a long time to spend in a single-aisle plane, doubly so in a single-aisle plane on a low-cost carrier like Wizz Air. Taking further gloss off the prospects of a Wizz Air A321XLR flight to JFK, Michalopoulos told Simple Flying passenger comfort was secondary to price concerns when operating his new planes. However, for Wizz, that’s the basis of their (successful) operating model.
“At the end of the day, consumers are looking to save on travel and spend that money when they reach their destination,” the Wizz Air CCO said.
India is a potential destination for Wizz’s A321XLR
Wizz Air already puts passengers onto single-aisle planes on flights up to six hours. George Michalolpoulos argues the A321XLR will suit underserviced long thin routes that won’t profitably support wide-bodied flights. He suggests the XLR could be a candidate to operate Wizz’s proposed India flights from its new Abu Dhabi base.
“We haven’t finalized the allocation, and we haven’t made any announcements on how we are going to allocate the XLR, but India would certainly be a candidate.”
Wizz Air presently plans to start flying the A321XLR in 2023. The airline will probably be keeping us guessing where to for a little while yet.