Airbus A321XLR: small jets are the future of big travel
In today’s long-haul flights, travelers are accustomed to large jets with spacious cabins, two aisles, and space to walk. But the future of flights will be much more similar to the dawn of the Jet Age 60 years ago, when the plane was much smaller.
Airbus is betting that this is how we will travel in the future. The A320 family has evolved over the past 30 years, adding smaller and smaller models that can travel across continents.
Airbus has been progressively upgrading the A321 – the largest of a single aisle aircraft – since it first flew in 1993. In 2013 he added “Sharklets” (what Airbus calls winglets), new engines in 2016 and extra fuel tanks in 2018.
Extra long range
This summer, the Paris Air Show witnessed the launch of the Airbus A321XLR, the last in line. “XLR” stands for “Extra Long Range”. With a number of passengers between 175 and 200, three classes with low-class business seats, premium and economical cabins, XLR will be able to reach up to 4,700 nautical miles or 8,700 kilometers. At a maximum capacity of 244 passenger seats on board, the range drops to 4,000 nautical miles, or 7,400 kilometers.
XLR will be able to connect cities such as Rome and New York, London and Delhi, Tokyo and Sydney. This long international journey remembers the beginning of global jet travel.
“I think we are really in the” Return to the Future “moment here,” said Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and founder of the Atmosphere Research Group. In the late 1950s, travelers were amazed by the speed and comfort of the first Douglas DC-8 and the Boeing 707. These pioneering aircraft inaugurated a new era of international travel, although planes sometimes could not reach their destinations without stopping refueling halfway.
Douglas and Boeing quickly began to increase aircraft coverage and shortly before passengers continued service between distant cities, including leaps across the ocean.
Then, 50 years ago, in 1969, the Boeing 747 jumbo appeared. “Queen of Heaven” changes air travel forever. Much larger than 707, passengers now feel as if they are flying into a large room with two aisles, instead of a metal pipe with one nave. It wasn’t long before the airlines moved long-distance travel with long-haul aircraft such as the 747 and its contemporaries, Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011 TriStar
For decades, planes with two aisles such as Boeing 767, 777 and 787 and Airbus A330, A350 and A380 have become the standard for international travel. And while the Boeing 757 single aisle offers yeoman services from the mid-80s on medium-distance routes – including transatlantic – airlines that still run planes are trying to improve their fleet.