The newly announced A321XLR just keeps getting orders. This plane will launch in 2023, and will be the longest range single aisle plane in the world, with a range of 5,400 miles.
This gives it 15% more range than the A321LR, which has already been popular with airlines. Furthermore, the plane has 30% lower fuel burn than comparable planes in the past, referring to the Boeing 757.
The Qantas Group (which includes Qantas and Jetstar) has just announced their intentions to acquire 36 Airbus A321XLRs, starting in 2024.
This isn’t fully a new order. Qantas Group had already ordered 26 A321neos, and they’ve converted those orders to A321XLRs, and have added a further 10 planes to the order.
Qantas does note that their order gives them significant flexibility to adjust their delivery schedule depending on market conditions, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect that all 36 planes will be delivered within a few years of 2024.
Qantas hasn’t yet decided how they’ll split up the planes between Qantas and Jetstar. Qantas is generally a really conservative airline, so I would expect that Qantas won’t be getting more than half of them (and even that would be aggressive).
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce says the following about the plane:
“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. It can fly routes like Cairns-Tokyo or Melbourne-Singapore, which existing narrow-bodies can’t, and that changes the economics of lots of potential routes into Asia to make them not just physically possible but financially attractive.
“We’ll take a decision closer to the time about which parts of the Group will use these aircraft, but there is plenty of potential across Qantas and Jetstar. We’ll also take a view on whether they are used to replace older aircraft or whether they are used for growth, which will depend on what’s happening in the market.
This plane seems like it could have huge potential for Qantas. Currently Qantas’ smallest long range plane is the A330, and that’s simply too much capacity for many routes to Asia.
It seems clear the primary focus here will be Asia, so this plane could be used in a few different ways:
- It could be used to expand from Sydney and Melbourne to markets in Asia that aren’t currently served
- It could be used to expand to existing markets in Asia from cities in Australia that currently don’t have much service from Qantas to Asia (Cairns and Perth, for example)
- It could be used to increase frequencies on current major routes to Asia
- It could even be used to fly nonstop from Perth to Auckland (especially if Qantas ever continues growing service to Europe out of Perth)
Just to give you a sense of the possibilities, here’s the rough range of the A321XLR from Sydney:
And just to throw out a curve ball, here’s the rough range of the A321XLR from Perth:
The A321XLR is a game changer (and not in a Kenya Airways kind of way), and it’s pretty incredible to see the pace at which airlines are signing on to the plane, in hopes of securing early slots.
Qantas in particular is an airline that can hugely benefit from this plane. They can fly just about anywhere in Asia with the A321XLR. There are so many markets where the economics don’t work out for the A330, but where an A321XLR could make sense.
What do you make of Qantas’ A321XLR order?