On June 19th, 2019, Airbus announced that Indigo Partners and three of its airlines would be acquiring 50 new Airbus A321XLR long-range, single-aisle jetliners. The Memorandum of Understanding included new orders for 32 A321XLRs and the conversion of 18 existing A320neo family orders. For Wizz Air, an Indigo Partner airline, it meant that it would be receiving 20 of the new extra-long-range aircraft. Has anything happened to this order since its announcement? Let’s find out.
An Indigo Partner order
Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Indigo Partners is a private equity fund focused on worldwide investments in air transportation. The company has significant ownership stakes in four low-cost airlines:
- Frontier Airlines (U.S.)
- JetSMART (Chile)
- Volaris (Mexico)
- and Wizz Air (Hungary)
Combined, the four carriers operate over 300 Airbus aircraft and, with the new commitments, have over 600 on order.
A game-changing aircraft for Wizz Air
Wizz Air’s Chief Executive Officer, József Váradi, said the following in a company press release:
“The inherent aircraft economics of the Airbus A321XLR will widen our competitive advantage for stimulating demand for air travel in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond while minimizing our environmental footprint. The A320neo family aircraft are game-changing aircraft that enhance Wizz Air’s low fare model and undisputed cost leadership in Europe.”
Deliveries from 2023
A media statement noted that Wizz Air’s current order of A321XLRs would be delivered over three years starting in 2023. The order, which required the approval of Wizz Air shareholders, was approved in October 2019.
As far as we know, there have not been any changes to the plan.
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Speaking to Reuters in July 2019 after the Indigo Partners announcement, Váradi said that the A321XLR gives the budget carrier the opportunity to “connect more dots” in its existing network. In August 2019, CAPA noted that Váradi is considering serving Dubai from London and adding some central Europe-to-India routes.
A high-density layout
It’s hard to imagine Wizz Air offering much more than the basic low-cost-carrier-style service it is currently offering. Its style of operations as a budget carrier means that it’s all about high-density seating and filling the aircraft to its capacity with attractive airfares.
A Wizz Air statement sent to Xinhuanet.com last year confirmed that the A321XLR variant would be operated with 239 seats, the same as the A321neo. As we suspected, the reason is to ensure full fleet commonality with the airline’s existing fleet. Under this configuration, there are a few seats that offer extra legroom onboard the A321 and A321neo – these are simply the exit rows. All other seats will provide the same 28-29 inch, non-reclining seat.
After the order announcement in 2019, the airline’s CEO noted that the carrier is currently flying a number of five to six-hour-long routes “with great satisfaction” to customers. “The XLR will extend our outstanding value and service proposition on routes of seven to eight hours of flying,” he continued.
While we could hope and pray for the possibility that the airline will surprise us with a new seating configuration, it would go against the low-cost model of keeping things as basic and straightforward as possible. Of course, the A321XLR and its long range (and therefore long flights) would be a perfect opportunity and reason for the airline to sell its customers something a little more comfortable than what is currently on offer.
It seems like, despite the current global crisis, all is going as planned for Wizz Air – at least when it comes to the A321XLR. Would you spend seven or eight hours in a Wizz Air seat that doesn’t recline? Particularly if the price was right? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.