The Qantas Group has ordered up to 36 of the newly launched and long-legged A321XLRs, opening up routes such as Cairns-Tokyo and Melbourne-Singapore to fuel-efficient single-aisle flights.
The long-range planes will be delivered from fiscal 2024 and are part of an update to its existing order for 99 A320neo family aircraft.
The update adds 10 A321XLRs to boosts the total order to 109 and converts 26 existing A321neo orders to the extra-long-range planes.
The order includes significant flexibility for the Qantas Group to make adjustments to delivery schedules to match market conditions.
It means the Australian carrier now has 28 Airbus A321LRs, 36 A321XLRs and 45 A320neos on order with deliveries beginning with 18 A321LRs destined for Jetstar.
The A321XLR has a range of around 8700kms, allowing to fly 15 percent further than the A321LR and be deployed on routes currently flown by widebody aircraft.
It is able to fly such long distances due to additional fuel tanks in the belly of the aircraft plus, improved aerodynamics and a 25 percent increase to maximum take-off weight compared with the Group’s existing A320s.
The classic aircraft are currently used across Jetstar and in resources markets with QantasLink.
The ALR’s efficiency and size compared to big widebody jet will allow it to open up new routes for the flying kangaroo or improve the economics on existing routes.
Depending on cabin configurations, which Qantas did not reveal, it can carry up to 244 passengers and offers a 30 percent lower fuel burn per seat compared with previous generation competitor aircraft.
Qantas says the fuel-efficient aircraft will improve fleet flexibility and network options but could potentially be used “by different airlines in the Qantas Group”.
“We already know the A320 is a great aircraft and this new variant can fly further and more efficiently than any other single-aisle jet on the market,’’ Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said.
“It can fly routes like Cairns-Tokyo or Melbourne-Singapore, which existing narrow-bodies can’t, and that changes the economics of lots of potential routes into Asia to make them not just physically possible but financially attractive.
“We’ll take a decision closer to the time about which parts of the group will use these aircraft, but there is plenty of potential across Qantas and Jetstar.
“We’ll also take a view on whether they are used to replace older aircraft or whether they are used for growth, which will depend on what’s happening in the market.
“All fleet decisions we make are ultimately guided by our financial framework, which balances our capital expenditure and need to invest for the future with our debt levels and ongoing returns to shareholders.”
The Jetstar A321LRs will arrive between Mid-2020 and mid-2022 and will operate a mix of domestic and international routes.
If all goes well, this will allow the A321XLRs to slot in from the 2024 financial year.