Last week American Airlines placed an order for 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft which they expect to start receiving into the fleet in 2023.
The airline’s President shared in their employee “Tell Me Why” broadcast at the time that the plane could fly from “JFK, Philadelphia, Charlotte, even DFW” to open new markets. And since he sees the plane operating “transcon or close-in Europe or close-in South America” they don’t envision nearly as many seats as they fit into the Airbus A321neo (which has 196).
American Airlines Airbus A321 at New York JFK
Indeed Isom offered, “if and when we fly it to close-in Europe” with the example of Philadelphia – Basel, “that would require lie flat seats, all aisle access for business class…allow for premium economy.” In other words a true premium product, at least up front.
At this past week’s Crew News employee question and answer session, airline CEO Doug Parker asked Vice President of Network Planning Vasu Raja to weigh in on where they’ll fly the XLR.
Raja, first cautioning that he needed to be ‘a bit careful’ to avoid tipping their hand to competitors, offered:
Small cities in Europe, think routes that we could’ve flown in a 757 but this airplane has 25% lower unit cost than that.. secondary cities in Spain and France where we have a ton of network strength with the joint venture.
And there’s also a number of markets in Germany where today people fly into the southeast or into Florida but they have to double connect or they have to fly to another hub and drive and that can be optimally served out of a place like Charlotte.
That probably means routes like Philadelphia – Nice and Malaga, a city they’ve looked at flying to recently along with Charlotte to perhaps Dusseldorf or even Berlin.
Since it will be about four years before the A321XLR enters the fleet route conditions can certainly change but the aircraft opens up a lot of possibilities. To me the greatest opportunity is to become relevant to New Yorkers which would do a lot to bolster their credit card business, capturing lucrative card spend which is the driver of the airline’s profits.