The A321XLR is not flying yet, but the hangar where it will be assembled has now been completed. It is located at the large Airbus plant in Hamburg and measures 120 x 80 meters – the same size as a standard soccer field.
So, it wasn’t actually the new jetliner that attracted the attention of 200 hand-picked guests last week, but the facility where the A321 Extra Long Range (XLR) will soon be manufactured.
Seamless air transportation
The aircraft, once airborne, is a beacon of hope for those airports wanting to move up from second to first international league in air traffic. Airlines operating this specific jetliner can offer the market nonstop services over distances of up to 8,700 kilometers; certainly a USP, measured against today’s flight offers. However, it is not only the aircraft operators and their passengers who benefit, but also airports - particularly secondary ones. For candidates such as Barcelona, Budapest, Asuncion, Hyderabad, or Gothenburg, the A321XLR could become a game changer. Thanks to nonstop services enabled by the aircraft, these places can broaden their network, offering passengers seamless air transportation over greater distances. Travelers will benefit most, because they will no longer have to transit at larger hubs when flying long distance. This leads to time gains and stress reduction since transiting at crowed airports such as Heathrow, Dubai, Mumbai, or Miami, usually increases a traveler’s blood pressure. Attractive, future nonstop routes could, for instance, be New York – Hamburg, Chennai – London, or Melbourne – Kuala Lumpur, to name just three. Depending on its class configuration, the A321XLR can accommodate between 180 to 220 travelers.
Plane lacks any cargo capacity
Back to the hangar inauguration ceremony: Freight forwarders did not show up to the event, and understandably so since the jetliner is not a cargo friendly aircraft. In contrast to sister variants of the A320 family, it lacks cargo compartments in the lower deck. In order to achieve greater range, a large tank capable of accommodating additional 13,100 liters of kerosene, will be installed in the belly area. Thus, air freight capacity loses out.
In addition, there will be a container tank placed in the front fuselage area. So, all in all, compared to its A320 sister models, the A321XLR will be able to take an additional 16,000 liters of fuel.
Currently, the aircraft is undergoing a first test series, followed by the certification process carried out by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This is scheduled for mid-2024. Right after, and provided everything goes according to plan, Airbus will deliver the first A321XLRs to its customers.
Turbines are SAF compatible
Looking across the big pond, it is remarkable that Airbus rival, Boeing, does not have a comparable product on offer. Its B757, which resembles the A321XLR in size and capacity, has long since seen its best days. In comparison, the B757 is much fuel thirstier, leading to substantial greenhouse gas emissions. This difference is stressed by Airbus, which speaks of 30% less kerosene consumption measured against the B757. Together with its range advantage, the A321XLR’s climate friendliness is another key argument, attracting orders. In addition to this, the European plane maker also points out that its turbines can burn Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) as an alternative to powering the aircraft with traditional Jet A-1 kerosene.
So far, almost 570 orders for the new jetliner have been registered, coming from 27 different customers. Delivery will take place at Hamburg, the aircraft manufacturer’s global narrowbody center. However, due to rising orders, the Airbus plants in Mobile, Alabama, Tianjin, China, and Toulouse, France, are also likely to be involved in the production of the aircraft.
The bad news for the global cargo community is that Airbus has not envisaged a freighter version of the A321XLR. At least, not yet.
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