Live from Airbus HQ, here in Hamburg, Germany — Airbus has officially handed over the first ever commercial Airbus A321LR to worldwide launch customer, ARKIA Airlines.
As I mentioned in the previous article, the A321LR is the newest, largest and heaviest member of the A320 family, and can seat up to 240 passengers — while having the ability to fly more than 4,000 nautical miles nonstop (based on a 206 passenger seating configuration).
Arkia’s aircraft is equipped with 220 seats, meaning its range is approximately 3,500 nautical miles. The new jet is equipped with CFM International’s LEAP-1A engines, which are much quieter (both inside and outside the cabin) than previous generation engines.
Over the last three days, I’ve joined the Nakash family (the owners of Arkia) for the delivery of this single-aisle, long-range jet. The family said they were pleased to ‘not follow the trend’ of predominantly white/grey/navy blue airline liveries, and instead wanted the aircraft to wear vibrant, bright & dynamic colours.
The small Israeli airline is the worldwide launch customer of an aircraft Airbus says will ‘revolutionise’ long-haul travel, given its efficiency. The A321LR is the long-range variant of the A321neo. Arkia will use the aircraft on European routes, which are yet to be confirmed. Once Arkia’s three other A321LR’s (currently on order) enter service, the intention of the airline is to have the long-range jets deployed on new routes from Tel Aviv, further afield.
In terms of connectivity — the ‘white hump’ visible at the rear of the fuselage is a WiFi antenna. Arkia’s A321LR is equipped with onboard internet connectivity supplied and powered by Panasonic.
Inside, the aircraft consists of 220 seats, in a 3-3 configuration — upholstered in brown and beige leather, with Arkia-coloured antimacassars.
Row 1 offers an increased amount of legroom, given the bulkhead.
During the cabin design process, Arkia has opted for comfort over ‘what every other airline is doing’. Today, seats on many single-aisle airliners are so slimline (they’re lighter in weight) they can resemble an ironing board.
However, on Arkia’s A321LR, the leather seats are very well padded and would be more than comfortable for mid/long-haul routes.
In an era of ‘bring your own device’ — Arkia has responded to the rise in demand of passengers using smartphones, notebooks, tablets and e-readers by incorporating a power socket, USB port, and a dedicated ‘bring your own device’ holder on each seat-back.
An interior which integrates passengers’ own devices within the design of the seat is a modern concept, and it’s great to see such a small carrier like Arkia (of whom have never operated an Airbus before) introduce this into the cabin.
Furthermore, passengers connected to Arkia’s onboard WiFi have the opportunity to stream in-flight entertainment content on their own devices.
The aircraft is equipped with mood-lighting throughout, which complements the colours of the cabin interior, and helps reduce jet lag.
Row 28 is the new prime exit-row seat on this jet, given a new rear section — with an ‘Airbus Cabin Flex’ (ACF) exit-door configuration, in order to maximise cabin space.
In the rear, the last row of the cabin is equipped with a curtain rail — as these seats may be used by cabin crew, for crew rest periods.
In what’s more good news about this jet — the lavatories chosen by the airline are full-size, and not the new, very cramped lavatories available as an option on A320neo family aircraft, and 737 MAX aircraft too.
In the rear galley — the brown leather continues, even on cabin crew jumpseats,
Wearing the iconic Airbus ‘bandit mask’ (or sunglasses, whatever your preference) — Arkia’s first A321LR is a significant milestone for the small carrier, but also for Airbus. This jet is hoping to secure a position in the market as a ‘MoM’ – a ‘middle of the market’ jet, an aircraft that can operate long-range routes, efficiently.
Arkia Airlines enter a brand new chapter with the introduction of the world’s first A321LR. Globally, airlines face increasing pressures amid the price of oil reaching nearly $90 US dollars a barrel — and henceforth, efficiency is more valuable than ever before.
The Israeli carrier has created a cabin with comfort in mind and acknowledges how important the feeling of ‘space’ is to its majority clientele. As a result, Arkia’s A321LR has 20 fewer seats than it could have had — a win for passenger comfort.
The growth of this family-owned airline is set to continue, with the introduction of three more A321LR’s, as well as the Airbus A330-900neo — for new, long-haul, transatlantic routes the carrier is currently working on establishing.
I’m personally fond of how the ‘spirit’ of Arkia conveys successfully through its livery and cabin design. It’s also great to see such a small airline adopt modern concepts such as the ‘bring your own device’ holder — a feature even legacy carriers haven’t installed yet, despite it being very popular with passengers, and often deemed ‘necessary.’
Today, on the delivery of the world’s first A321LR, Arkia’s future looks set to be bright, and passengers in the region will soon begin flying on the world’s first ever commercial long-range member of the single-aisle Airbus family.