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.
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.
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.