Two weeks ago I wrote that American Airlines was likely to order the Airbus A321XLR at the Paris Air Show. They’ve now done exactly that.
- Ordered 50 Airbus A321XLRs
- Convert 30 A321neo orders to XLR orders: 8 aircraft in 2023, and 22 aircraft in 2024
- Exercising 20 A321neo options to XLR orders for 2025 delivery.
The existing A321LR is capable of flying East Coast – Western Europe, but the new XLR adds about 500 miles of range — making it possible to fly routes like Chicago – Frankfurt though there’s a weight/passenger tradeoff, you get more passengers in a typical domestic layout than with premium cabin seats. The XLR should solve the winter Westbound weather challenges for flights between secondary Western European cities and Philadelphia.
American Airlines Airbus A321 at New York JFK
American needs a Boeing 757 replacement aircraft, the ‘middle of the market’ plane as it’s known that can carry a smaller number of passengers fuel efficiently across medium-range distances. American disclosed plans to get down to 24 Boeing 757s.
I wrote that I expected an A321XLR order to be a swap for existing A321neos they have already ordered representing no net increase in aircraft, “if American were to order A321XLRs — the long range variant of the A321 — that they would swap existing orders of aircraft for these planes. So far American has only taken delivery of a handful of the 100 Airbus A321neos that they have on order.”
According to airline President Robert Isom the XLR ‘costs a little bit more’ than the neos American already had on order, but the first 30 of these planes replace Airbus narrowbodies already in their capital plan and the remainder aren’t until 2025. Investors aren’t getting the slowdown in capital spend they’ve been looking for so that the operation increases the amount of cash it spins off, but this isn’t a huge increase in capital spend either.
Isom shares 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). He offers, “if and when we fly it to close-in Europe” and gives the example of Philadelphia – Basel, “that would require lie flat seats, all aisle access for business class…allow for premium economy.”
The vision for direct aisle access lie flat business class — an improvement over American’s lie flat 757s with 2×2 seats — and premium economy, as well as potentially basing some A321XLRs at New York JFK creating the potential for more Europe flying from New York — represents really exciting potential for the airline.