The Qantas Group has secured up to 36 Airbus A321 XLR (extra long range) aircraft for delivery from financial year 2024 onwards, in an update of its existing order.
The update will see 26 of the Group’s existing A321 NEO orders converted to A321 XLRs and add a further 10 XLRs – taking the total order from 99 aircraft to 109. The order includes significant flexibility for the Qantas Group to make adjustments to delivery schedules depending on market conditions.
The fuel efficient, longer-range XLR will improve fleet flexibility and network options for potential use by different airlines in the Qantas Group. Its ability to fly longer distances means it can be used to open up new destinations or replace wide-body aircraft on existing routes, improving overall economics.
The A321 XLR has a range of around 8,700 kilometres, which is 15 per cent longer than the A321 LR. Depending on cabin configuration it can carry up to 244 passengers. It offers a 30 per cent lower fuel burn per seat compared with previous generation aircraft.
Key to the XLR’s flying range are additional fuel tanks in the belly of the aircraft plus, improved aerodynamics and a 25 per cent increase to maximum take-off weight compared with the Group’s existing A320s Classics, which are used across Jetstar and in resources markets with QantasLink.
Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce said: “We already know the A320 is a great aircraft and this new variant can fly further and more efficiently than any other single aisle jet on the market. It can fly routes like Cairns-Tokyo or Melbourne-Singapore, which existing narrow-bodies can’t, and that changes the economics of lots of potential routes into Asia to make them not just physically possible but financially attractive.
“We’ll take a decision closer to the time about which parts of the Group will use these aircraft, but there is plenty of potential across Qantas and Jetstar. We’ll also take a view on whether they are used to replace older aircraft or whether they are used for growth, which will depend on what’s happening in the market.
“All fleet decisions we make are ultimately guided by our financial framework, which balances our capital expenditure and need to invest for the future with our debt levels and ongoing returns to shareholders.”
As announced in early 2018, the first deliveries from the Group’s A320 Family order will begin with 18 A321LR aircraft for Jetstar, arriving between mid-2020 and mid-2022. These will operate a mix of domestic and international routes. The first A321 XLR would be available to the Group from the 2024 financial year onwards.