Airbus officially launched a long-range version of the A321neo designed to carry a maximum takeoff weight of 97 metric tons with an announcement on Tuesday that Air Lease Corporation (ALC) had signed a memorandum of understanding for 30 of the airplanes. The Los Angeles-based lessor has now committed to ordering 90 A321neos, including the 60 for which it had already signed at the 2014 Farnborough airshow.
Designed to fly 206 passengers as far as 4,000 nautical miles, the so-called A321neo 97t now ranks as the longest-range single-aisle airliner on the market, capable of flying transatlantic routes and potentially opening long-haul markets inaccessible by any other single-aisle airplane in production or in development.
The latest A3231neo variant draws on the Airbus Cabin-Flex (ACF) concept, which, in this case, incorporates an additional fuel tank in the forward under-floor hold of the aircraft and minor improvements to the wing and fuselage. Airbus expects first deliveries of the new variant to start in 2019.
Airbus hopes to sell at least 1,000 examples of the airplane, according to chief operating officer for customers John Leahy. About half of the demand would come from the Boeing 757-200 replacement market, he said, while Airbus draws the balance from growth requirements.
Leahy cited transatlantic operations as well as other single-aisle routes between North and South America and segments within Asia as new market opportunities not economically viable with the 757. “We [will be] burning 25- to 30-percent less fuel, depending on how many seats you put in,” he said. Leahy called ALC CEO Steven Udvar-Hazy the “grandfather of the industry” for his role in launching many new aircraft.
Under the assumption that its MOUs for 30 A321neo aircraft and 25 A330neos become firm orders, ALC would account for the sale of 258 Airbus airplanes, including 53 A320 and 140 A320neo-family airplanes, 15 A330s, 25 A350s and 25 A330neos.
Additional reporting by Ian Goold