PAS19: A321XLR rakes in orders as IAG signs for 200 737 MAX

The Paris Air Show kicked off this week with Airbus’ announcement of the A321XLR. The aircraft, which has a range of 4,700nm (8,704km), has raked in hundreds of orders since, with customers including IAG, American Airlines, and Qantas.

IAG kicked off by announcing that it would be placing an order for 14 A321XLR. The deal includes eight for Iberia and six for Aer Lingus, with options for a further 14.

The twinjets will allow Aer Lingus – already a long-range A321LR customer – to operate new transatlantic services beyond the US East Coast. IAG chief executive Willie Walsh says that the XLR has the “same unit cost as a widebody long-haul aircraft,” which will support profitable expansion.

In addition to the Airbus order, IAG revealed yesterday a letter of intent for 200 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The announcement, which came much to the surprise of many, marks the first major order of the MAX since the type was grounded worldwide following a second fatal crash earlier this year.

The 200 jets are to be a mix of -8s and -10s,  and will be used by a number of IAG’s airlines, including Vueling, LEVEL, and British Airways. IAG specified that the UK carrier would operate the aircraft from London Gatwick Airport.

Success for Airbus at Paris days 2 and 3

Airbus has made a strong start to the Paris Air Show, securing orders with a number of airlines for its A321XLR.

American Airlines has decided that it will acquire 50 A321XLR aircraft, converting 30 of its existing A321neo orders with incremental orders for an additional 20.

Frontier also converted 18 of its 177 A320neo-family orders to the A321XLR, part of a larger commitment from parent Indigo Partners for 50 of the aircraft. Deliveries will occur in the 2024-26 timeframe.

Meanwhile, TAP Portugal announced plans to order the A321XLR, potentially converting some of its existing A321LR orders to the XLR.

A further commitment was made by Australian flag carrier Qantas, which will take 36 Airbus A321XLRs in an update for A320 neo family aircraft.

The change sees 26 of its 99 existing A320neo orders converted to the longest-ranging variant, while it will also order 10 additional A321XLRs. That takes its overall commitment for A320neo family jets to 109.

The first XLR is due for delivery during the 2024 financial year, around two years after its budget unit Jetstar is scheduled to take delivery of its first of 18 A321LRs on order.

“We already know the A320 is a great aircraft and this new variant can fly further and more efficiently than any other single-aisle jet on the market,” said Qantas group chief executive Alan Joyce.

“It can fly routes like Cairns-Tokyo or Melbourne-Singapore, which existing narrowbodies can’t, and that changes the economics of lots of potential routes into Asia to make them not just physically possible but financially attractive.”

Virgin Atlantic is also signing for up to 20 Airbus A330neo twinjets, with an initial eight firm aircraft and another six being taken from US lessor Air Lease.

Virgin is also taking options on a further six of the twinjet type. Deliveries will take place over the course of 2021-24.

Virgin Atlantic will use the -900 version of the re-engined aircraft to replace Airbus A330-300s and -200s. All A330-900s are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines.

“Return to growth is crucial and critical for us,” said Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss. He added that the order is part of the airline’s “biggest fleet transformation,” which includes the delivery shortly of the carrier’s first A350-1000 – one of 12.