United Ordering 50 Airbus A321XLRs

Roughly speaking Airbus makes the desirable narrowbody aircraft and Boeing makes the desirable widebodies. That was true before the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded, a huge blow to Boeing’s narrowbody competitiveness. However for most carriers the economics of the 787 and 777 outclass comparable Airbus jets.

The United Airlines fleet is Boeing for widebodies, and is currently split between Boeing and Airbus for narrowbodies – although legacy Continental Airlines executives, who had been in charge up until the ouster of CEO Jeff Smisek amidst a corruption probe, favored Boeing.

Airbus now is poised for a big win, as Bloomberg reports, because United is poised to order 50 Airbus A321XLR long range narrowbodies. Since the order is being reported at $7.1 billion we can assume it’s roughly half that. Deliveries would be slated to begin in 2024.

American Airlines ordered 50 A321XLRs to begin delivery in 2023 back in June.

This aircraft gives carriers the ability to fly between the U.S. East Coast and Midwest and Europe on an economical narrowbody aircraft, making it possible to serve routes that the 757 has operated but with a 25% lower unit cost.

With the deal, expected to be announced as soon as Tuesday, Airbus lines up another major U.S. customer for a model intended to replace Boeing’s out-of-production 757. The Chicago-based manufacturer has postponed deciding whether to develop a new jet of comparable size while it attempts to end the grounding of its workhorse Max, which was banned from the skies in March after two deadly crashes.

The A321XLR carries about the same number of passengers as a Boeing 737 MAX 10, but with longer ranges. These are expected to replace United 757s though not effectively 767s.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The economics of 787 and 777 outclass comparable Airbus jets? My lord what a silly comment. Evner heard of the A350?

  2. This is a big win, I favor Airbus narrowbodies they feel better than the 737s… Just wish UA would phase out the rest of their 737s like they did in 2008 in favor of Airbus…

  3. “The economics of 787 and 777 outclass comparable Airbus jets?” That’s broadbrush statement … in certain contexts it’s true, in certain other contexts not. Even the 333 turns out to be somewhat better for certain missions, not to mention of the new and improved 339.

  4. Simply put, Airbus > Boeing on narrowbody aircraft. I don’t have an opinion on paxex of widebody because honestly there are so many older Boeing’s flying and so few Older Airbus Flying. The older Airbus widebodies were quirky at best, loss leaders to gain market in reality. What’s the oldest Airbus WB flying for a major, maybe a 2002 330 for US? 310, 300, 340 are mostly retired (or new builds), meanwhile UA has 25 YO 777’s flying 13 hour missions regularly. Point is, Airbus makes a better narrowbody than Boeing does right now. Boeing has 787/777 potential for now, but if they falter, that’s not good.

  5. I know the 757 is used now but good lord I could not stomach a transatlantic flight in a narrow body aircraft.

  6. @view – it is absolutely true of the A350 which is too large for most airlines, including delta by the way

    Not so large that almost a thousand of them have been ordered!

  7. #PaxEx-wise, Airbus makes a much better widebody (the A350) than Boeing (the 787/777). 787 is louder and narrower than the A350, the 777 is just … old tech. 777X who knows, could be another MAX-like fiasco (old tech stretched too thin); certainly the fact that it ripped apart when load-tested doesn’t inspire confidence.

  8. 787 is outselling the A350 3 to 1 and the 777X will replace most if not all remaining 777-300, 747 and A380s over time. The A350 is only selling because Boeing doesn’t have slots, but it’s too large for most. The A330neo is selling slow and has cannibalized the A350 sales.

    As good as Airbus is in the narrow body arena, Boeing is owns the wide body market. If Boeing had been smart, the Max would have never been built, the 757 and 767 would be re-engined, and the 797 would be the new narrow body. Looking back, the rush to keep AA was a bad move for Boeing.

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