An XLR that could be a GAMECHANGER
Cruising Heights|August - September 2021
The Airbus A 321XLR that is scheduled to enter service in 2023 could completely revolutionise long-haul international travel. It offers unbeatable economics as well as range. A special report.

On August 11, JetBlue launched its maiden flight across the Atlantic from its home at John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) Terminal-5 to Heathrow (London), in a first for the airline’s Airbus A321

Long Range (LR) aircraft. The A321LR is the first of 13 on order and will enable JetBlue point-to-point transatlantic service between the multiple points in the US (Boston is next on target) and London this summer.

The airline has over 57 of the A320neo family on order. The aircraft will support JetBlue’s focus city strategy by allowing the airline to implement further expansion to additional European destinations from Boston and New York, while also providing added fuel efficiency.

“The delivery of our new A321LR sets the stage for a new era at JetBlue in which we now have an aircraft allowing us to stretch our wings and become a truly global carrier offering flights beyond the Americas for the first time ever,” said Robin Hayes, Chief Executive Officer, JetBlue. “The A321LR platform– offering the range of a widebody but with the economics of a single-aisle aircraft– is the right size for us and will allow us to effectively compete with our award-winning service and low fares on flights between the US and London. We congratulate Airbus on bringing to life the most exciting and innovative narrow-bodied aircraft cabin in the world and JetBlue is honored to be the launch customer for Airspace on the A320 family.”

The A321LR allows JetBlue to tap into new long-haul markets, like London, that were not previously accessible with the airline’s existing fleet. The LR’s range of up to 4,000 nautical miles is made possible by three additional center fuel tanks and the aircraft delivers 30 percent fuel savings and nearly 50 percent reduction in noise footprint compared to previous generations of aircraft. JetBlue converted 13 aircraft in its existing A321 order book to the LR version in April 2019 with the ability to convert more. Additionally, JetBlue has converted another 13 aircraft in its existing order book to the Extra-Long Range– or XLR version of the A321.

But that’s not all. There is one more version on the way- A321XLR—that will begin flight testing early next year. It is arguably the most anticipated aircraft in the market considering the operating costs, the savings on fuel burn, the range, and the extra real-estate onboard. This single-aisle aircraft is reflective of the new trend worldwide for long-haul single-aisle planes. No wonder JetBlue decided to convert 13 aircraft in its existing Airbus A321neo order book to the XLR version for delivery scheduled to begin in 2023.

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