Airbus drops strongest hint yet of new A321 with longer range

Airbus drops strongest hint yet of new A321 with longer range
Airbus could announce plans for a new version of its A320 line of jets with extra long range capability at the Paris Air show next week. (Airbus)

Airbus SE’s sales chief is all but confirming the worst-kept secret of next week’s Paris Air Show: that the European planemaker will launch a new version of its A321 jet with much longer range.

The existing A321LR can fly as far as 4,000 nautical miles and “hint, hint, hint, will have a longer range in the near future,” Christian Scherer told reporters.

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The potential A321XLR – for “extra long range” – would enable Airbus to beat Boeing Co. to market with a new offering for middle-distance routes, such as between central Europe and the U.S. heartland. Boeing has been weighing a $15 billion investment in a jet it calls the new midmarket airplane, or NMA. But the U.S. planemaker has put those plans on the back burner until it gets the 737 Max, which was grounded after two deadly crashes, back in the skies.

The rumored A321XLR would be an improvement over the A321LR that Airbus currently produces. (Airbus)

By moving first, Airbus would put pressure on Boeing to respond or risk handing over a segment it once controlled with its 757 and 767 planes. Airbus’s XLR is expected to have a redesigned fuel tank and a higher maximum take-off weight that will give its total range a boost of about 20%.

The Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile assembles the A320 family of aircraft, to include the A321.

In addition, Scherer hinted at upcoming sales announcements of Airbus’s A330neo wide-body jet, saying “by the way, keep watching” for deals involving that plane.

The Paris Air Show begins Monday, June 17.

(Contact the reporter at [email protected].)

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