Airbus readies A321XLR jetliner launch, sees A330neo sales

Ann Santiago
June 21, 2019

European aerospace giant Airbus announced the deal with American Airlines on its newly-launched narrowbody aircraft at the Paris Air Show on Wednesday.

Continuing a strong week for Airbus, American Airlines has confirmed it will acquire 50 A321XLR aircraft, the new longer-range version of the A321neo. It will further improve the carrier's already industry-leading fuel efficiency and maintain the company's status of having one of the youngest and most modern fleets in the U.S. Frontier expects to take delivery of its first A321XLR aircraft in 2024.

The large purchase comes as another blow to USA planemaker Boeing, which was an outsider on the first day of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget as it failed to secure any orders.

With the Max grounded since March after two deadly crashes, this year's biennial event was supposed to be dominated by Airbus. The Australian flag carrier placed a firm order for 10 A321XLRs and converted 26 of an existing order for A320neo family jets to the A321XLR.

Airbus has landed a string of orders at the show, including sales of the new A321XLR to Australia's Qantas, Saudi Arabian Airlines, the Philippines' Cebu Pacific and Arizona-based low-priced airline investor Indigo Partners. No price tag was put on the contract but it is likely worth billions of dollars. Frontier now has more than 175 Airbus A320 family aircraft on order.

Another card in the A321XLR's hand: it could open up non-stop flights to and even between smaller cities which couldn't justify larger twin-aisle jets such as the Airbus A330 or Boeing 787 series, and which would otherwise require a stopover.

While Qantas generally operates a fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft on short-haul services, Network Aviation does operate Airbus A320 flights out of Perth on behalf of the airline, and subsidiary Jetstar has a large A320 family fleet.

"Moreover, Le Bourget saw successes for the A220 which won new business for 85 aircraft, and for the widebody A330neo for which Airbus received orders and commitments for 24 new aircraft".

The shock announcement came midway through the exhibition and helped Boeing clear some of the gloom surrounding the 737 Max by instilling a measure of confidence in its future.

The two sides also traded blows over competition for wide-body jets, with each scoring key wins in Asia.

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