The pace of change is set to pick up on medium-haul markets such as the North Atlantic after European and US regulators gave the go-ahead for up to three underfloor centre tanks to be installed in the Airbus A321neoLR.
The approval includes 180-minute extended twin-engine operations, ETOPS, and will allow the single-aisle plane to fly up to 4000 nautical miles (7400km) with 206 passengers.
Airlines such as Norwegian are already using single-aisle aircraft to cross the Atlantic but the A321neoLR allows carriers to expand their reach.
It is a contender for routes such as Paris- New York and Lisbon-Recife in South America. Other possibilities include Kuala Lumpur-Tokyo, Dubai-Beijing and Sydney-Singapore.
The plane comes with a new door configuration and the European’s manufacturer’s new Airspace interior.
There is also, according to Airbus, a 30 percent reduction in fuel consumption per seat compared to older aircraft.
The European Aviation Safety Agency and US Federal Aviation Administration approved the change to install up to three optional additional center tanks (ACTs) along with associated fuel management systems and structural reinforcements in the lower fuselage. The A321neo could previously accommodate up to two additional center tanks.
ACTs give airlines the opportunity to increase the total fuel capacity of an aircraft to either extend range or increase payload but also can be removed to return it to a standard configuration.
Also getting the green light was the manufacturer’s “Airbus Cabin Flex” (ACF) option incorporating structural modifications involving the new door arrangements and a maximum take-off weight of up to 97 tonnes.
Only A321neos with the ACF structure will be able to take advantage of the 97-tonne MTOW and the ability to install three underfloor tanks.
“While the ACF configuration will become standard for all new delivered A321neos from around 2020, the 97t MTOW capability and the ability to carry up to three ACTs will be options,’’ Airbus said.
“For the ACTs, customers would specify prior to aircraft manufacture whether the aircraft is to be equipped with an expanded fuel management system as well as the necessary structural reinforcements to secure the underfloor ACTs.”