Airbus looking at a 757 replacement market with A321neoLR?

written by John Walton | October 31, 2014
An American Airlines A321 on approach ot LAX. (John Walton)
An American Airlines A321 on approach to LAX. (John Walton)

Airbus seems to think it has the replacement for the Boeing 757-200’s international missions with the snappily-monikered A321neoLR. The -LR version is a high gross weight version of the stretched A320 Family narrowbody, US-based Leeham News reports, quoting Airbus EVP of sales and marketing Kiran Rao.

Three extra fuel tanks bring the A321neoLR’s range up to 3,900nm (7,223km), an increase of nearly 500km over the regular A321neo’s 3,650nm (6,759km). That’s also 100nm (185km) more than a wingletted 757, which have westbound seasonal range issues owing to North Atlantic headwinds that can require a refuelling stop on routes at range limits, not least because of US air traffic control arrival inefficiencies.

The biggest opportunity will be for the three largest US carriers, American, Delta, and United, all of which operate extensive 757 fleets domestically, within the Americas and across the Atlantic. All three are current A320 Family operators, with American and Delta having A320neo Family orders.

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Within the US, the 757 replacement tends to be the 737-900 or A321 at the larger end and 737-800 or A320 for less capacity. Regionally, the hot-and-high niche the 757 served has been taken up by the A319, yet there has up to now been no transatlantic replacement. Airlines have had the choice to cut services or upgauge to an A330-200 or (an often equally ageing) 767-300ER.

Carriers would have an ideal aircraft with the A321neoLR to open up new long and thin routes, especially where traffic is more origin/destination than connecting, or where partner airlines’ operations are limited. Most US airline flights to UK destinations outside London, and many to European destinations outside partner hubs, use the 757.

The A321neoLR will, Leeham reports, allow for a 164-passenger configuration assuming five rows of fully flat beds in business class, although the US carriers with recently refitted fleets (Delta and American) outfit their transatlantic 757s with four rows of B/E Diamond seating.

Narrowbodies are evolving from short- to mid-haul missions to the shorter end of long-haul routes, and the newest generation of products is creating keen opportunities for a number of carriers.

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There’s a narrowbody sweet spot at 150 passengers where flight attendant requirements and seating density combine most efficiently. That’s unlikely to be a direct carbon copy for the A321neoLR given that most airlines won’t require more than 4-5 rows of business class, but an extension of the logic used in numerous premium narrowbody products could well get there.

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12 Comments

  • Captain

    says:

    Which is more expensive, the 737-max or the A321neoLR???

  • ngatimozart

    says:

    Could be a replacement for the RNZAF B757s if they decide to go down that route. Would need to be modded so wonder if the A330-200 based MRTT without the tanker fit out would be a more practical proposition, given that it is an already known quantity and certified.

  • John Walton

    says:

    Captain, list price for a 737 MAX 9 is USD 113.3m, whereas an A321neo (no price yet for the LR version) is USD 120.5m.

    ngatimozart, potentially, although parking a MRTT at some of the smaller regular destinations of those 752s would be a bit of a problem. Given the role they have in diplo transport in particular, I can’t imagine WLG would be particularly happy to have to work around one of those all that often.

  • marc

    says:

    NZ would better served by the ultra long range 737 BBJ / 700ER. Both have over 10,000k range.

  • Matt

    says:

    @Captain

    The 737 MAX (and especially the -9 version) have lift off issues with long range tanks as their undercarriage is too short; they need longer runways (not always available) and use more fuel at take off (limiting range). Putting more tanks in a A321 presents far less an issue (and slightly longer range than a 757-200). So cost may not be the only issue, in some circumstances the MAX just can’t do the job.

  • Matt

    says:

    @Captain

    I just did a quick search on Google; the MAX-8 will need more than 9,000 ft of runway in normal conditions at MTOW, and the MAX-9 will need more than 10,000ft!! Hot and high is then anyones guess; maybe as long as 12,000ft for the MAX-9. As a relative comparison, a 747-400ER needs less than 10,000ft and the concorde used to need slightly more than 10,000ft.

    Boeing have a honest to goodness issue on their hands here.

  • David

    says:

    ngatimozart, history suggests the Airbus A321neoLR would be an unlikely replacement for the RNZAF 757-200. The RNZAF 757s were equipped with forward cargo doors and strengthened floors. While they were conversions, it was a common modification that was proven and certificated and indeed, available on new-built aircraft. There are no similar cargo mods for any of the A320 family and never likely to be.

  • Random

    says:

    Perhaps QF / JQ and VA should be looking to these types of aircraft for international expansion. Longer-range international city pairs out of smaller Australian markets like Newcastle, Sunshine Coast, Townsville and Darwin would all benefit from aircraft like these. Presently all of these cities are under serviced with direct services to hubs like KL, Singapore, HK, Honolulu, and international regional locs in NZ.

    Australia’s largest regional cities have frequently been overlooked in the desire to maintain a hub-mentality centred on selected international ports. Successive governments have probably been guilty of promoting the hub mentality…. all of which has left Australia’s share of international services at record low levels. Aircraft in this class would probably give the range payload necessary to make these thinner routes viable.

    QF Intl is scaling back services to a distinct few mainline trunk routes using very big aircraft. Why not go the other way by opening up thinner city pairs that have been over looked. They might just find that some of these lower volume routes are strong with smaller aircraft.

  • marc

    says:

    @Random
    With an extra 500k’s of range, it’s hardly going to be a gamebreaker for Aus’s east coast secondary cities. This plane can not do east coast to Hawaii, and Singapore/KL unlikely.

  • Reading all of these articles about the B757 replacement & A321neoLR gets me thinking. I’m sure Boeing have something in the wind, it most likely will be based on B787 technology and will have a trickle down effect for the B737 MAX follow up. I give them 12-18 months to announce it and it will be another game changer like the B787.

  • random

    says:

    @marc

    Townsville-Honolulu 7500km
    Newcastle-HK 7300km

    Yes these routes are max range or just beyond for these new aircraft and previous B757 but this is the class of aircraft required to make them happen. Typically Australian carriers have not explored these aircraft for these types of routes. Perhaps it’s now time with improved fuel efficiency, to consider them as a necessary niche in order to avoid limiting international routes to head-to-head mainline trunk services. We are rapidly heading towards Australian carriers servicing half a dozen main international cities from half a dozen Australian cities.

  • Glen

    says:

    It looks to me as this aircraft should be a winner and that Boeing are being beaten into second place again as in the A320 NEO vs 737 MAX. Airbus are already testing there new aircraft and the MAX is no where to be seen.I do wonder if the A320 NEO LR will have the hot and high capabilty of the 757 the only aircraft that can fly from Bogata. I do think the the RNZAF should buy A330s new or second hand it would be jump in capabilty which the RNZAF needs

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