It was announced overnight that United Airlines has ordered 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft.
The new Airbus aircraft will enter the fleet from 2024.
This will come as a further boost for Airbus. The A321XLR has proven to be extremely popular since it was announced at the Paris Air Show back in June.
United Airlines currently operates the older generation Airbus A319 and A320 series. The airline introduced the A320 to their fleet in 1993, followed by the A319 in 1997. They so far haven’t paid too much attention to the larger A321 though.
Following their merger with Continental Airlines in 2010, United Airlines acquired a number of Boeing 737 aircraft. As of today, their Airbus fleet are the oddballs of the airline.
The Boeing 737 is the workhorse of the shorthaul fleet, with 343 operated by the airline. Although it should be noted that 14 737MAX aircraft are currently victims of the ongoing grounding of the type.
For longhaul missions, United relies on the Boeing 767, 777 and all variants of the 787 Dreamliner.
So Where Does The A321XLR Fit In?
The new A321XLR that United Airlines have on order will replace the Boeing 757’s that they operate. These have been a difficult aircraft to replace for the airlines over the last few years. Entering into service in 1983, it has proven to be just as at home on 30 minute domestic hops as it has on Trans-Atlantic runs.
And this is where the aircraft has been found more recently. It is perfect for routes that cover a longer distance that don’t warrant a larger aircraft.
This isn’t the only place the type is found though. The last time I flew onboard the Boeing 757 was an hours hop between Phoenix and San Diego.
Until now, there hasn’t been a suitable replacement for the Boeing 757. Boeing have teased a new NMA (New Midsize Aircraft) for a number of years, but with the issues they have faced in 2019 it would appear that has been put on hold for the foreseeable future.
Therefore Airbus saw a gap in the market and created an extended range version of their popular A321. The aircraft can seat roughly the same amount of passengers as the Boeing 757. But with the additional upgrades, it can fly around 800nm further than the 757. And crucially, it will be able to do so more efficiently.
What About The Boeing 737-MAX10?
United Airlines has an order for 100 Boeing 737-MAX10 aircraft. This is a very similar aircraft to the A321XLR. It carries the same number of passengers, although it does lack the range of the A321XLR. Despite this, it could still carry out East-Coast USA -> Europe missions.
Will we see United Airlines cancel their 737-MAX10 order? Well, it will likely cost them a fair amount, seeing as they have so many on order. Although if the type remains grounded for much longer, it may become easier for United to cancel.
What I suspect will happen is that the A321XLR will mostly replace the 757’s US -> Europe sectors. They could also be used for growth.
The 737-MAX10 could then be placed on to more premium domestic routes.
It was announced in August 2018 that United planned on fitting its 737-MAX10 fleet with premium lie flat seats in their First Class cabin. Whether this was fleet wide or just a select few aircraft wasn’t made clear.