Qantas has added 36 A321XLRs to the airline group’s Airbus A320neo family aircraft order book, with the extra long range narrowbody to be delivered from 2024.
The airline group announced on Wednesday the order for 36 aircraft comprised 10 new orders and 26 conversions from its existing order of 99 Airbus A320neo family aircraft.
Qantas group chief executive Alan Joyce said the aircraft could be used by either Qantas or low-cost carrier (LCC) Jetstar.
“We’ll take a decision closer to the time about which parts of the group will use these aircraft, but there is plenty of potential across Qantas and Jetstar,” Joyce said in a statement.
“We’ll also take a view on whether they are used to replace older aircraft or whether they are used for growth, which will depend on what’s happening in the market.”
Currently, Qantas subsidiary Network Aviation operates A320s from its Perth base, while Jetstar’s franchises in Australia and New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam fly A320 family aircraft.
(Jetstar also flies Boeing 787-8s out of Australia, while it has Dash-8 Q300 turboprops on regional routes in New Zealand.)
Meanwhile, Qantas has 75 Boeing 737-800s that are used domestically within Australia and on some international routes. The airline has said previously it would turn its attention to replacing those aircraft after it completed Project Sunrise evaluation for an aircraft capable of flying nonstop from Australia’s east coast to London and New York with a commercially viable payload.
The long-standing A320neo order was first placed in October 2011, when Qantas put pen to paper for 32 A320s and 78 A320neos.
It chose the CFM LEAP-1A engine for the aircraft in 2012.
The order was later topped up to 99 A320neo family aircraft, split between 54 A320neo and 45 of the larger A321neo, with deliveries scheduled to begin in 2019.
In February 2018, Qantas announced it has restructured the order book, both pushing back first delivery and including 18 long-range A321LRs for Jetstar Australia and New Zealand. Deliveries of those A321LRs would begin in mid-2020 and would be used domestically within Australia and on some international routes, such as to Denpasar.
Qantas said the group’s orders following Wednesday’s change would now comprise 45 A320neos, 28 A321LRs and 36 A321XLRs.
“The order includes significant flexibility for the Qantas Group to make adjustments to delivery schedules depending on market conditions,” Qantas said.
Launched at the Paris Air Show on Monday, the A321XLR would have a range of 4,700nm and seating for 180-220 passengers in a typical two-class configuration, figures from Airbus showed.
Technically, the A321XLR differs from the A321LR in that the auxiliary centre tanks (ACT) in the hold area otherwise used by luggage and/or cargo was supplemented by a new integrated rear centre tank (RCT), installed as more of a permanent feature than the removable ACT.
Meanwhile, a modified landing gear would enable an increased maximum takeoff weight of 101 tonnes. Further, Airbus said the aircraft also had “an optimised wing trailing-edge flap configuration to preserve the same take-off performance and engine thrust requirements as today’s A321neo”.
Deliveries were expected to begin in 2023, with Middle East Airlines (MEA) the launch customer.
Orders for the aircraft so far have come from Aer Lingus, Cebu Pacific, Iberia and Saudi Arabian Airlines, as well as from leasing companies.
In an Australian context, Joyce said the aircraft was designed to “fly further and more efficiently than any other single aisle jet on the market”.
“It can fly routes like Cairns-Tokyo or Melbourne-Singapore, which existing narrow-bodies can’t,” Joyce said.
“That changes the economics of lots of potential routes into Asia to make them not just physically possible but financially attractive.”