How the new Airbus A321XLR will shake up business travel

By David Flynn, June 17 2019
How the new Airbus A321XLR will shake up business travel

Airbus will add an ultra-long range A321XLR to its best-selling family of single-aisle jets, allowing airlines to open new routes and sharpen competition on existing popular routes such as London-New York.

Long rumoured and recently hinted at by Airbus executives, the A321XLR was formally launched at the start of this week's Paris Air Show and take wing in 2023.

JetBlue may be among the first airlines to fly the long-legged A321XLR, which would complement its trans-Atlantic A321LR services due to launch in 2021.

This continent-striding version of the A320neo family will carry around 200 passengers in a two-class configuration and could shake up and reshape trans-Atlantic travel.

Better NY-London business class fares

Challenger airlines such as JetBlue will drive prices lower, especially in premium business class cabins, while the A321XLR's extended range – pegged at 'up to 4,700nmi' or 8,700km – will also add further-field destinations such as New York to continental Europe.

“London is the biggest opportunity because it has the highest fares, but there would be other opportunities if we had an airplane that had more range," JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes told media earlier this month, citing Brussels and Amsterdam as examples. "The XLR gives us more range."

Another card in the A321XLR's hand: it could open up non-stop flights to and even between smaller cities which couldn't justify larger twin-aisle jets such as the Airbus A330 or Boeing 787 series, and which would otherwise require a stopover.

Airbus says the A321XLR will also "open new world-wide routes such as India to Europe or China to Australia", while other suggested routes include Sydney to Tokyo, London to Miami and New York to Rome.

These direct 'thin' routes would prove a value time- and hassle-saver for business traveller, although passenger comfort will come to the fore: most Australians have spent 90 minutes flying in the single-aisle Boeing 737 between Sydney and Melbourne or Sydney and Brisbane, but typical A321XLR routes could span eight to nine hours.

Airbus will fit the A321XLR with the same Airspace cabin as the twin-aisle A330neo and A350 jets – a package combining a quieter cabin, LED lighting and larger overhead storage bins.

However, the cabin of an A320-series jet is typically pressurised to the equivalent of 7,000-8,000 feet above sea level, compared to an equivalent 6,000 feet for modern jets such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.

That lower effective cabin altitude minimises flight fatigue and plays a part in reducing the impact of jetlag.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

01 Nov 2017

Total posts 1

I have frequently flown QF 737 on 4-6 hour flights and it is not a pleasant experience!

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 104

The 737 is a bit narrower than the a320. I've been in several a320s (ie Asiana) and found the economy comfort to be higher than a wide body.

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1245

The 4.5h trek from NAN-SYD had me feeling a bit of cabin fever by hour 3...


03 May 2013

Total posts 671

737 like the 777 are abhorrent cramped and loud. Give me an Airbus any day. A380, A350 or 787 in that order.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 100

They're joking if they think they'd catch me booking one of them...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 219

The A321T is one I have used often between JFK and LAX. It's OK. The B737 by comparison is not so good. Happy to try it

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

12 Jul 2016

Total posts 27

AKL to Honolulu

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

31 Oct 2016

Total posts 71

bugger that for a joke

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

14 Mar 2017

Total posts 152

This may work if the operator can combine some decent high-value flat beds up the front with sufficient volume down the back. 30% less fuel burn is a lot of $ to play with.

KLM - Flying Blue

05 Feb 2019

Total posts 38

Frequent flyer passengers do not like to cross the ocean inside a narrow-body aircraft

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 193

Why do you think Frequent flyer passengers would not cross an ocean inside a narrow-body aircraft ?

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

11 Sep 2015

Total posts 8

1. Long bathroom lines

2. trolley blocking. widebodys at least you can crawl across to the other side.

05 Jan 2018

Total posts 57

can almost see mr joyce sharpening his pencil to sign on the dotted line for this 'revolutionary' product...


10 Sep 2011

Total posts 162

He has signed up. Converted A320 NEO orders over

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2015

Total posts 35

It's funny how some people think that this plane will be too small to fly longer routes when the Boeing 757 does it all the time at the moment across the Atlantic with various airlines and the British Airways' even smaller all Business Class (2+2) Airbus A318 flies regularly from London City Airport to New York City and is super popular - And it's funny when everyone wanted to fly on the 747 but always preferred the Upper Deck ( 3+3 economy or 2+2 Business Class) because it was like flying in a "private jet" - which is exactly what it will be like flying on this A321XLR if you are fast asleep in your Business Class bed or indeed even in economy where you will be in your 18in width economy seat compared to your 17in economy seat on the wide body Boeing 787 - so I think nobody needs to worry and everyone will be very happy - especially if airlines such as Jetblue start to bring the price of Business Fares down and offer real competition which this plane is all about. :-)

16 Nov 2018

Total posts 28

If you fly economy, A350 and A321 mean the same to you. 1 or 2 inches on your seat wouldn't make much difference. Surely when A321XLR is scheduled on 9-hour routes, flat bed business seats will be considered by airlines. Staggered 2-2 can give you the aisle access. High frequency wins.

24 Apr 2015

Total posts 128

just like the B787, another hub buster.

Air Canada - Aeroplan

02 Sep 2015

Total posts 16

While the A321 is classed as narrow body it should be noted that its fuselage width is 7 in wider than the B707 , which was continued in 727,737 and 757. In fact the A321XLR looks like a 707 with half the fuel burn. Sounds much better than 10 abreast in 777 !

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