Just over two years ago, Israeli airline Arkia took delivery of the very first Airbus A321LR. A modification of the base A321neo, the A321LR, was designed to perform long-range flights – as is noted in its ‘LR’ name. What have Airbus and A321LR customer airlines managed to achieve in the past two years? Let’s find out.
The A321LR’s early days
The A321LR is an evolution of the A321neo, which itself is a re-engined version of the A321 – the longest jet in the A320 family of aircraft.
This aircraft was set to enter service in 2018, which it successfully achieved with Israeli airline Arkia in November of that year. Just months earlier, in March 2018, the A321LR was still undergoing flight testing as part of its 100-hour flight test and certification program. To make flight conditions ‘as realistic as possible’ while evaluating cabin systems, Airbus said that the A321LR carried 162 human heat-replicating dummy passengers in addition to its 16-member test crew.
In April 2018, it performed a record-breaking flight from Mahé in the Seychelles islands to Toulouse, France – covering a total distance of 4,750 nautical miles in 11 hours.
In addition to having an impressive range, the A321LR also has an increased maximum take-off weight of 97 tonnes, compared to 93.5 tonnes for the A321.
Its long-range is made possible through the addition of a third auxiliary center fuel tank. Airbus has often promoted the fact that this aircraft is ideally suited to transatlantic routes, “allowing airlines to tap into new long-haul markets that were not previously accessible with current single-aisle aircraft.”
The A321LR’s customers and routes
Since Airbus’ first delivery of the A321LR to Arkia, the European planemaker has continued to deliver the single-aisle jet to eager customers around the world. Let’s look at a few routes this plane has already flown and who’s been flying it.
- Aer Lingus: The Irish carrier has used the aircraft to fly short hops to London but may fly transatlantic service to the US out of a Manchester base.
- Air Astana: From Almaty in Kazakhstan, the A321LR has flown to cities like London and Paris.
- Air Busan: The Korean carrier has flown the aircraft on the short route between Seoul and Busan, but Forbes notes that the airline plans to fly the jet to far-flung destinations like Bali and Delhi.
- Air Transat: Out of its base in Montreal, the aircraft has flown to Athens, London, and Copenhagen, among other destinations.
- Azores Airlines took delivery of its first A321LR in July of 2019 and was operating it on transatlantic routes.
- SAS: The Scandinavian carrier only recently took delivery of its first A321LR last month. It was initially set to operate a service to Boston.
- TAP Air Portugal: From Lisbon, the A321LR has flown to Toronto, Washington D.C., and Maceió (Brazil).
“In North America it allows us to explore markets on the East Coast, such as New York, Boston, Montreal or Washington. In Brazil the A321LR can open new markets in the Northeast and complement existing services to cities like Recife, Natal, Fortaleza or Salvador,” -Antonoaldo Neves, CEO, TAP Air Portugal (2019) via Airbus
To be eclipsed by the A321XLR
The long-distance routes already being served by the A321LR offer an exciting preview of what’s in store for the A321XLR. Announced at the 2019 Paris Air Show, this even-longer-range A321neo-variant will fly an additional 15% range above the A321LR.
The A321XLR was immediately the star of the show when Airbus announced major orders for it from the likes of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, IndiGo, Indigo Partners (which includes Wizz Air), Qantas, and many more.
What do you think of the A321LR’s achievements to date? Have you experienced the jet for yourself yet? Let us know in the comments.