Jetstar says it expects to receive the first of 18 Airbus A321LRs on order in August 2020, with the aircraft to have 232 seats in a single-class layout.
While Airbus’s recent public statements regarding the challenging ramp-up of the re-engined long-range narrowbody, also referred to as the A321neo LR, had caused some change in the delivery timetable, Jetstar group chief executive Gareth Evans says the revised schedule “works for us”.
“There has been a little bit of a readjustment of the timing over the course of the last 12 months,” Evans told reporters in Sydney on Friday.
“We are very happy where we are at with Airbus and we have worked very closely with them through these issues and it has been a very good outcome for us.”
At its latest quarterly results on Wednesday (European time) Airbus announced it had lowered its delivery target for calendar 2019 amid amid ongoing work to “improve the industrial flow” of its A320 production line.
The airframer said the ramp up in production of the Airbus Cabin Flex (ACF) version of the A321, which allowed airlines to vary the doors and emergency exits based on the desired number of seats, remained challenging.
“We are focused on the A320neo ramp-up and improving the industrial flow while managing the higher level of complexity on the A321 ACF in particular,” Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury said in a statement.
Airbus said it expected to deliver 860 aircraft in 2019, below its previous forecast of between 880 and 890 aircraft from August.
Jetstar said its 18 A321LRs would be configured carry 232 passengers in a single-class configuration and have a range of about 2,915nm. The bulk of the Recaro BL3710 model seats were pitched at 29 inches and were 18.2 inches wide.
Although the A321LR would be used on both domestic and international routes, Evans said there was little consideration given to introduce a business class cabin as they were “primarily” a domestic aircraft.
In recognition of the long-range nature of flights from Australia’s east coast to Bali that the A321LR has been earmarked for, Jetstar planned to introduce a wireless streaming service allowing passengers to watch movies and other television program on their own personal devices. There would also be a USB charging port and smartphone/table holder at every seat.
The A321LR, which will be powered by CFM LEAP 1-A engines, also featured larger overhead bins with 40 per cent more space compared with the current model A321s.
Evans said the wireless streaming feature would be gradually installed on the rest of Jetstar Australia and New Zealand’s fleet of A320 family aircraft.
There would also be operational benefits, with new lighter galley carts, more fuel efficient engines and advanced weather detection technology helping to reduce carbon emissions. The aircraft will also be painted using a new “weight-saving technique”.
“The A321LR will deliver us our most fuel efficient way to get to the destinations yet,” Evans said, noting there would be a fuel saving of 1.2 million kilograms a year compared with Jetstar’s current generation aircraft.
Jetstar A321LR program lead Mark Houston said new technologies embedded on the aircraft would allow the airline to capture a larger quantity of data to help engineers “understand what is actually going on on the aircraft from a mechanical perspective”. This increased the number of data points from 400 on existing A320ceos to about 24,000 data points.
“This data will basically allow us to know more about how the aircraft is mechanically performing than we have ever known before,” Houston said.
Jetstar manager for fleet operations Captain David McCutcheon said there was little difference in flying the A321LR, which has been certified in October 2018 to operate under 180-minute extended operations (ETOPS) rules versus the existing A321s in the fleet.
“Overall it is going to be a great opportunity and an exciting one, not just from my team from the flight ops side but from the overall engineering company processes,” Capt McCutcheon said.
“It is something all of our pilots were looking forward to and I think passengers will enjoy the experience as well.”
A321LR order offers flexibility
The A321LRs will be the first aircraft to be delivered from the Qantas Group’s longstanding order for 99 A320neo family aircraft.
At the time of the A321LR announcement in February 2018, Qantas said the A321LR would be able to operate both domestic routes and international services from Australia’s east coast to Denpasar, freeing up Boeing 787-8s to be redeployed to other destinations in China, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Honolulu in the United States.
“We are exploring all of these network options and we will make the final decisions, particularly around international services, a little closer to the introduction of the aircraft,” Evans said.
Evans said the first four to five A321LRs would free up about three 787-8s for use elsewhere on the network.
The order also offered Jetstar the flexibility for both itself and the broader Qantas group to respond to market conditions.
The arriving aircraft could either be added to the fleet for additional capacity on routes that showing high demand or be used to replace older, smaller gauge aircraft.
A320 family aircraft no longer needed at Jetstar could be returned lessors or transferred to Qantas’s fly-in/fly-out operation in Perth Network Aviation, which already has a small fleet of A320s.
In the more immediate term, Evans said the first A321LR would replace an A321 that was being converted into a freighter for Qantas.
“We have got heaps of flexibility about how much we do or don’t grow either domestically or internationally or through Qantas in the west or through freight,” Evans said.
VIDEO: A Jetstar corporate video looking at the highlights of the low-cost carrier’s soon-to-arrive Airbus A321neoLR long-range narrowbodies.