With Airbus already having an edge in the single-aisle long range market, the potential launch of an even longer range jet is likely to result in significantly upping the pressure on its competitor Boeing Co.
Guillaume Faury, the incoming chief executive of Airbus hinted that 2019 could see the airplane maker potentially launch the A321XLR – the long-range version of its best-selling A321 single-aisle jet.
When asked whether Airbus plans on launching the proposed new variant, Faury stated, “I will be more precise in 2019.”
He made these remarks on the sidelines of a delivery ceremony in Toulouse.
In June 2018, there were media reports of Airbus considering the addition of an new model, the A321XLR, to the long-range version of its A321 series as a strategic part of efforts aimed at pre-empting a new jet being studied by its U.S. rival Boeing Co.
The proposed A321XLR would carry extra fuel and further expand the range of the already enhanced A321LR version, which has recently claimed a long-distance record for single-aisle jets.
By further expanding the range, Airbus’s plan on applying more pressure on Boeing, said industry sources.
Although Airbus has gained the upper hand in the market for smaller jets, where it has outsold Boeing, it is however being outgunned in the market for bigger jets.
“We see the ability of the A321 to go long-range in a very competitive way, as a way to change the industry and to completely close the gap between the single-aisle and the long-range,” by allowing the A321 to fly further, said Faury.
He went on to add, “Obviously we are looking at going in that direction and we are serious about it, and we will be looking at it next year”.
According to critics, fragmenting the A321 into several variants will inherently carry some commercial risks as it might make them harder to finance, while passengers would have to get used to sitting for longer periods in a fuselage made for shorter trips.
Faury is set to replace Airbus’ current CEO, Tom Enders, in April 2019.