United Airlines placed an order for 50 A321XLR aircraft, the extra long-range version of the Airbus A321neo series, to service transatlantic routes from the U.S. east coast. The twin-engine, single-aisle aircraft will replace 53 Boeing 757-200 jets now in use on those routes beginning in 2024.
At list prices, the UAL order could be worth up to $7.1 billion.
“The new Airbus A321XLR aircraft is an ideal, one-for-one replacement for the older, less-efficient aircraft currently operating between some of the most vital cities in our intercontinental network,” said Andrew Nocella, United’s EVP and chief commercial officer. “In addition to strengthening our ability to fly more efficiently, the A321XLR opens potential new destinations to further develop our route network and provide customers with more options to travel the globe.”
Airbus introduced the A321XLR earlier this year at the 2019 Paris Air Show as a new variant of the A321LR (the long-range version of the A321neo series). It will have a range of up to 4,700 nm (8,700 km, or 5,400 miles); and 30% lower fuel consumption per seat than previous-generation jets. The maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) will be 101 metric tons (111 tons), and takeoff, climb, and flight performance will be comparable to the A321neo.
The XLR design combines the A321neo’s two rear center fuel tanks into one, adding fuel capacity and reducing structural weight. Other changes include structural reinforcements and modified landing gears for the increased MTOW, and enhanced braking capability.
The narrow-body aircraft will be powered by the same geared-turbofan engines (CFM International LEAP-1A, or Pratt & Whitney PW1000G) and piloted by the same flight crews as the current A321neo aircraft.
Prior to the UAL contract, Airbus had booked orders for more than 200 of the new aircraft in the five months since introducing it. IT calls the A321XLR "the next evolutionary step in the A320neo/A321neo family of aircraft, meeting market requirements for increased range and payload in a single-aisle aircraft, and creating more value for the airlines by enabling economically viable service on longer routes than any comparable aircraft model."