Exclusive: A321XLR – Lebanon’s MEA Airlines a Launch Customer, Will Order 4 Jets.

Airbus will launch the ‘A321XLR’ this week at Paris Air Show, an extra-long-range variant of the A321LR (which itself is already a long-range variant of the existing A321neo).

As airline customers from around the globe remain focused on efficiency, single-aisle jets with adequate range for long-haul routes have quickly become sought after, leaving Airbus in a strong position as it’s rival Boeing has still not launched its answer to the ‘Middle of Market’ jet (all while facing its largest crisis in recent history with the 737 MAX).

In addition to European airline launch customers, Lebanese flag carrier ‘Middle East Airlines-Air Liban’ (MEA) is set to be the Middle East’s first launch customer for the A321XLR. Aviation Analyst can exclusively reveal that Middle East Airlines will announce an order of four A321XLR jets at Paris Air Show. The order of four A321XLR aircraft is in addition to the airlines’ existing firm order of 11 A321neo jets.

Middle East Airlines is already an Airbus ‘NEO’ customer for both the A320neo family and A330neo jets. The Lebanese carrier first ordered five A320neo and five Airbus A321neo jets back in 2013, before converting the five A320neo making it an all-A321neo order. In 2017, MEA ordered an additional A321neo, bringing its firm commitment to 11 A321neo jets in total.

mea321neo

The evolution of the Airbus A321neo has taken place over a short space of time.

  • A321neo — first flew February 2016 — has a range of approximately 3,700 nautical miles. It’s also capable of flying transatlantic between Paris and New York in an all-Business Class configuration — but most airlines are using the jet for mid-haul routes
  • A321LR (long-range) —first flew January 2018 — has a range of approximately 4,000 nautical miles, capable of flying London to New Delhi non-stop.
  • A321XLR — the new addition to the single-aisle A321neo dubbed the ‘A321XLR’ and expected to be launched this week at Paris Air Show, is expected to have a range of approximately 4,700 miles, plus a higher maximum-take-off-weight.

For many of Airbus’ customers, the A321LR is ‘enough’ in terms of its long-range capabilities. Evens so, Lufthansa, British Airways owner, IAG Group, and Air Malta have each hinted they could be A321XLR customers, pending launch of the increased-range variant.

Recently at Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, I asked Airbus’ Cheif Commercial Officer Christian Scherer about the A321XLR, and if it was the company’s way of ‘narrowing down’ on what customers want…

Here’s his answer about the A321XLR…

Final Thought

As the airlines push the manufacturers to upscale on single-aisle efficiency, it’s clear why Airbus has wasted no time in its plans for the A321XLR. Furthermore, Middle East Airlines — based in Beirut — could see tremendous, yet efficient growth potential armed with a fuel-efficient long-range jet such as the A321XLR.

For more from year’s Paris Air Show, keep up to date for real-time aircraft order announcements on Twitter: @AlexInAir.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.