In June 2019 American Airlines ordered 50 Airbus A321XLRs to be delivered between 2023 and 2025, and which are meant to fly to small cities in Europe and to close-in South America. The planes will have lie flat business class and a premium economy cabin.
At a recent internal question and answer session with pilots, Vice President of Network and Schedule Planning Brian Znotins shared how American is thinking about using the Airbus A321XLR in Charlotte and how it will trade off with existing widebody service. He offered that,
- Boeing 777s will stay in Charlotte, especially to London Heathrow.
- Charlotte should see A321XLRs flights in addition to departures with that aircraft from Philadelphia, Chicago O’Hare, and New York JFK.
- A321XLRs will mostly be additive, allowing for new routes
- It will also swap with widebodies seasonally – widebodies in the summer, the narrowbody over the winter to Europe when demand drops
- But Charlotte is a stretch to reach some European destinations using the XLR so can’t replace all widebody usage in any case.
American Airlines Airbus A321 at New York JFK
Charlotte has always been a red-headed stepchild for international. It sees a lot of connecting traffic on leisure routes, supporting summer seasonal Europe and Caribbean, but hasn’t been the focus of European growth for American Airlines or US Airways before that. Naturally pilots flying Boeing 777s out of Charlotte are worried that flying will go away.
However the Airbus A321XLR will be good for Charlotte because its lower costs, and ability to fill planes with fewer passengers, means that Charlotte can support more international flying. There are only so many European destinations from Charlotte that will support a Boeing 777, more that American Airlines can fly to with the smaller XLR.