The Boeing Single Aisle Aircraft.
When you read that sentence you probably think of the 737 family and all of the aircraft it includes, however there is another aircraft type produced by Boeing that serves this market: the Boeing 757.
Being first introduced in 1983 with Eastern Airlines, it was produced up until 2001, and is, to this day a backbone aircraft for some airlines, as it allows carriers to fly the so called “long and skinny routes” or long routes that have little demand.
However, the average age of a 757 in the fleet of an American carrier is 21 years old. This means that a lot of the aircraft are nearing retirement age and will need replacement. For over a year now Boeing has been studying the business case for a new single aisle aircraft, dubbed the 797, to replace these planes, however it seems like Airbus has beat them to it!
During the 2019 Paris Air Show Airbus announced the brand new A321XLR. This new variant of the already existing A321Neo is made to have a much bigger range, being able to fly 4,700 miles! It also carries 206 passengers in a typical two class configuration. This plane gained a lot of attention during the Paris Air Show 2019, with a total of over 200 orders being placed during the entire show.
So, what exactly distinguishes this variant from the already existing NEO and LR versions? Well, it's equipped with extra fuel tanks and due to the high efficiency of the NEO and the increased capacity of the A321 it fits in perfectly to replace the 757!
Who has ordered it?
Currently the biggest customers of the type are American Airlines, Indigo Partners and the Qantas Group. Although both Delta and United have yet to place an order, the step up from American Airlines really shows the potential the plane has. With a huge potential for flights over the Atlantic, the A321XLR has a bright future ahead of it, but this does bring up one question...
Is Boeing still considering the NMA?
Having already invested a considerably large $15bn into the project, it’s unlikely that the company will just scrap the project, but with the 737MAX now taking the stage, it's looking very likely that the announced 2025 entry will be delayed.
In turn this means that when the 797 is ready to enter the market, a lot of the existing 757s will have been already retired, or very old. Which means airlines will likely have already replaced their planes, or will be in the process of doing so, with this leading us back to the A321XLR.
In truth only time can tell what will happen but if Boeing doesn’t act fast, it’s very likely that the A321XLR will gain even more ground on it, making it even more difficult for Boeing to launch their aircraft.