Jetstar has opted for a 232-seat all-economy cabin for its new A321neo LR with slightly wider seats, inflight entertainment streaming, new mood lighting and overhead bins that are 40 percent bigger.
The airline will retain its 29-inch seat pitch but will offer in the new plane slightly wider Recaro seats — now at 18.2 inches compared to 17.8 to 17.9 inches on existing aircraft — with tapered armrests.
Jetstar has 18 of the aircraft coming into the fleet from August 2020.
With an additional 1200kms of range, they will mostly be used on domestic operations but will be used to replace Boeing 787 Dreamliner capacity so the widebody aircraft can be deployed on markets such as Korea and Japan.
“There are lots of interesting opportunities here, particularly to Bali, and that will allow us to free up some of the 787 capacity currently deployed on that route, Jetstar chief executive Gareth Evans said.
“But also, for example, the aircraft is able to fly from places like Melbourne to Nadi (Fiji), opening up new destinations with a smaller gauge aircraft than a 787.”
Evans said the combination of the jet’s range and its ability to fly domestically and internationally while deploying on longer-range missions would be powerful for Jetstar.
He said the low-cost carrier was exploring all network options and it would make a decision closer to the delivery of the aircraft.
The Jetstar boss also touted the aircraft as an improvement in comfort and a boost in efficiency that would help keep fares low.
The A321LR’s CFM LEAP engines offer a 15 percent improvement in fuel efficiency that will allow each aircraft to save almost 1.2 million kilograms of fuel annually. That’s equivalent to 4000 tonnes of carbon emissions or to removing 1500 cars from the road annually.
New weather radar will also enhance its ability to dodge storms, improving passenger comfort as well as fuel efficiency.
The 40 percent bigger overhead bins and the inflight entertainment option will both be welcome changes in the cabin and Evans noted the mood lighting was also an improvement.
Complementing the inflight entertainment streaming, which will include an app with new release movies and TV shows, will be flip down smartphone and tablet cradles as well as in-seat USB charging.
The inflight streaming would also be rolled out on the existing Airbus fleet, Evans said.
“Customers will be able to download the dedicated Jetstar entertainment app or just phones and access through their browser by connecting to the onboard network,’’ he said.
Evans said airline staff had been working since February 2018 to fine-tune the cabin.
He said the aircraft had been configured with the idea that the majority of the flying would be domestic and business class was never an option.
“We’ve been cognizant, though, of the fact they will be on longer sectors so we’ve tried to put some comforts on board — the entertainment, the chargers, the wider seats — so that we try to get the balance right,’’ he said.
Assembly of the first aircraft is expected to start in March 2020 with two aircraft arriving before Christmas and the remainder of the program by 2022.
Jetstar has the flexibility to hold on to its older jets or release them depending on the level of growth, Evans said.
The first and third A321LR deliveries will see older jets retired to go to freighter conversion for the Qantas domestic freight network.
“With the remainder, we’re going to wait closer to the time,’’ he said. “We can potentially convert those aircraft over to Network Aviation, which is going to be flying up to four A320s in Western Australia by that time, to grow that part of the group operation.
“And there’s huge growth actually going on there in WA.”
Other options included retaining aircraft to grow the Jetstar fleet or retiring them to sell them on the aftermarket.
Evans said this gave Jetstar great flexibility and he suspected over time the airline “will probably be doing a little bit of both, depending on what the demand environment is like”.