LONDON – With Airbus completing a staggering 13-hour test flight with the A321XLR, what does this mean for the industry going into the future?
Airbus was keen to highlight its longevity in range to customers by flying a route that spells out “XLR” in the skies for those in the industry to see.
With this in mind, let’s see what this test flight from the A321XLR means for the industry going into the future.
Airbus Shows It Can Be Done: Narrowbody-Longer Haul Travel…
Official airborne testing of the aircraft type commenced in June 2022, when the aircraft completed an initial four-hour and 35-minute test.
It also began the journey of a two-year test program, with the expectation of entry-into-service to occur in early 2024.
At the time, Philippe Mhun, Airbus’ EVP of Programmes and Services, said the following on the first flight:
“This is a major milestone for the A320 Family and its customers worldwide. With the A321XLR coming into service, airlines will be able to offer long-haul comfort on a single-aisle aircraft, thanks to its unique Airspace cabin.”
“The A321XLR will open new routes with unbeatable economics and environmental performance.”
This 13-hour test flight marks another milestone in the program and shows the world that such a long flight for a narrowbody aircraft can be done.
When the aircraft enters service, this could potentially set a precedent for how long-haul travel will evolve going into the future.
It Will Be A Popular Aircraft…
From the sales perspective, Airbus has already had a successful run selling the A321XLR.
The European planemaker has sold over 500 units of the type to over 20 different customers, with the vast majority coming from airshows.
For Airbus, the last airshow-based order for the A321XLR came from LATAM Airlines at the Farnborough Air Show, which came following a commitment for 17 A321neos.
Airbus will want to expand on further sales for the A321XLR at the Paris Air Show, which is due to take place in June 2023.
However, with over 500 units sold already, it’s going to be interesting to see how much further Airbus can go with the aircraft type.
It’s clear that it is going to be a popular aircraft.
A Niche, But Effective Market to Take on Boeing…
Airbus has hit this on the head correctly in terms of identifying a niche market but offers significant success from this.
With Boeing lagging behind in market share, especially with the abandonment of its NMA program, the focus is on the MAX and its long-haul aircraft.
“Airbus is obviously marketing that level of additional performance, but it has a specific corner of the market where that actually fits above it.”
“You need a wide body like the 787 for long-haul travel, and even with the MAX, there are some transatlantic routes with it already.”
“So the versatility of that product, I think, comes into question in terms of where you could deploy it and actually generate value.”
“I think longer term, we’re always looking at where a product fit could exist in our future opportunities, especially with the future development of our future families.”
Such a doubling down on the 787 and the 737 MAX has been clearly seen this week, especially with the American planemaker securing an order with United Airlines for over 200 aircraft.
Either way, this is going to be an exciting space to watch over the next two years.
It remains clear that the A321XLR is going to be a game-changer for the industry and could enable carriers who don’t operate long-haul to give it a good stab.
As we get closer to that entry-into-service deadline of early 2024, Airbus will no doubt continue to ramp up its sales and marketing momentum so then the jet can be even more successful when it comes to market.
But for now, all eyes are now on Airbus to deliver the A321XLR, as well as what more can be done with the jet going into the future.