At the Paris Air Show on Monday, global major aerospace group Airbus launched the latest version of its A321neo (new engine option) single-aisle airliner (itself the largest model in the A320neo family). This is the A321XLR, XLR standing for extra long range. This new version, which will enter service in 2023, will have a range of up to 4 700 nautical miles (about 8 700 km), 15% greater than the range of the current A321LR (long-range) version. It will also deliver 30% less fuel consumption per seat than previous generation competitor types.
That same day the manufacturer also announced that Lebanese flag carrier Middle East Airlines had become the launch customer for the type, by signing a firm order for four A321XLRs. Airbus separately reported that day that the Air Lease Corporation had signed a Letter of Intent for 27 A321XLRs (along with 23 standard A321neos and 50 A220-300s). On Tuesday it announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Philippines low cost carrier Cebu Pacific for ten A321XLRs (plus 16 A330neos and 5 A320neos).
“With this added range, airlines will be able to operate a lower-cost single-aisle aircraft on longer and less heavily travelled routes – many of which can only now be served by larger and less efficient wide-body aircraft,” explained Airbus in its press release. “This will enable operators to open new world-wide routes such as India to Europe or China to Australia, as well as further extending the Family’s non-stop reach on direct transatlantic flights between continental Europe and the Americas.”
The A321XLR has been designed to have minimal changes and maximum commonality with the A321LR and the wider A320neo aircraft family. The changes that have been made are those required to provide the extra long range and an increased revenue payload.
The key difference between the A321XLR and the A321LR is the fitting of a new, permanent, Rear Centre (fuel) Tank (RCT), in place of several optional Additional Centre Tanks (ACTs). The RCT contains more fuel than the ACTs but occupies a smaller volume in the cargo hold. This means that the A321XLR has more volume for under-cabin cargo and luggage on long routes.
Another important difference is that the A321XLR has modified undercarriage to cope with the aircraft’s increased maximum take-off weight of 101 t. It also has an optimised wing trailing edge flap configuration to maintain the same engine thrust and take-off requirements as those found in the A321neo.
Airbus noted that its A320neo family is the number one selling single-aisle airliner in the world. Since it was launched in 2010, it has won more than 6 500 orders from more than 100 customers. It is equipped with new generation engines and upswept Sharklet wing-tips, as well as other refinements. These provide double-digit savings in fuel consumption, in comparison to the previous generation A320 family.