Indigo Partners and three of the low-cost carriers (LCCs) in which it owns shares signed an MoU with Airbus to acquire 50 of the European airframer’s new 4,700-nm A321XLRs. The deal, announced on the third day of the Paris Air Show, includes new orders for 32 examples and the conversion of an existing order for 18 A320neo family airliners.
Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer told AIN he did not know the XLR’s order tally by heart, but “the counter keeps clocking…it’s a good number.”
Twenty of the A321XLRs will be allocated to Hungary-based Wizz Air, 18 to U.S. carrier Frontier Airlines, and 12 to JetSMART in Chile. Wizz Air will be the first of the three to take delivery of the XLRs, starting in 2023. Volaris, the Mexican LCC in which the U.S. private equity firm holds a stake, will not take any XLRs.
The four airlines now operate a combined 295 A320 family aircraft, and, with the new commitments, have 636 on order. “The XLR will add significant range and will enable the airlines to stretch their network opportunities dramatically,” Bill Franke, founder and CEO of Indigo Partners, explained to AIN.
The XLR has commonality with the A320’s training, maintenance, and reliability, and those are elements “we are very familiar with,” he noted. Ordering the XLR is “an early and timely decision. We believe we are ahead of the market with this.”
Wizz Air CEO Jozsef Varadi also emphasized the XLR’s range and economics, which he said “will give us a strategic advantage.” The XLR will represent some 5 to 10 percent of his airline’s total capacity once all aircraft on order are delivered.
Frontier CEO Barry Biffle indicated “there is place for a lot more” than the 18 XLRs the Denver, Colorado-based airline has committed to. “This aircraft will enable us to go coast to coast, reach almost all destinations in South America from Florida, and even do Europe.” Frontier does not currently fly to Europe. “We would consider it, but the airshow is not the place to make network announcements,” he stressed.