The International Airlines Group (IAG) is ordering eight Airbus A321XLR aircraft for Iberia and six for Aer Lingus, plus 14 options. The airlines will be among the launch customers for the extra long-range narrowbody aircraft with their first deliveries scheduled for 2023.
The A321XLR will be used to expand both Aer Lingus and Iberia’s existing long haul fleets. Each aircraft will be fitted with Economy and Business cabins including full flat seats. They will also feature the same gate-to-gate inflight entertainment, internet connectivity and ambient lighting as new generation longhaul aircraft.
Above - Boeing resurgence within IAG? (British Airways).
These aircraft will enable Aer Lingus to launch new routes beyond the US East Coast and Canada. The airline is already taking eight A321neo LR on lease with the first delivery scheduled for this summer.
For Iberia, this is a new aircraft type that will enable it to operate new transatlantic destinations and increase frequencies in key markets.
Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive, said: “The A321XLR has the same unit cost as a widebody longhaul aircraft which will enable profitable network expansion. This will strengthen both Dublin and Madrid hubs providing new transatlantic routes and additional flexibility for connecting passengers. These aircraft will also bring further cost efficiencies and environmental benefits.”
The Airbus order fits in with the current use by both Aer Lingus and Iberia of the 319/320/321 narrowbody family of aircraft but the fact that they are derived from short-haul types indicates that passenger numbers on the routes upon which the aircraft will be deployed are not expected to warrant the use of traditionally larger capacity types.
With a list price of US$142 million (2018 prices) smaller aircraft obviously represent good value for airlines like Aer Lingus but also provide greater flexibility for larger carriers like Iberia. It is something of a curiousity however, that with production of the Airbus A380 due to end, airlines are reverting back to what seems like the era of 707/DC-8 sized aircraft for certain longer sectors.
While an order for Airbus types is less of a surprise, the Letter of Intent (LOI) by IAG for 200 Boeing 737 aircraft is more of an eyebrow raiser.
The mix of 737-8 and 737-10 aircraft would be delivered between 2023 and 2027 and would be powered by CFM Leap engines. It is anticipated that the aircraft would be used by a number of the Group’s airlines including Vueling, LEVEL plus British Airways at London Gatwick airport.
Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive, said: “We’re very pleased to sign this letter of intent with Boeing and are certain that these aircraft will be a great addition to IAG’s shorthaul fleet.
“We have every confidence in Boeing and expect that the aircraft will make a successful return to service in the coming months having received approval from the regulators”.
Aer Lingus A321 (Kevan James)
Although the LOI is subject to formal agreement, given the latest version of the 737 is still grounded, the LOI is two things; firstly it may see (if the order is subsequently confirmed) a return to Boeing on shorter routes for British Airways but does raise questions over the continued use by Airbus types by Vueling.
Nevertheless, 2018 saw the entry of three new aircraft types to the IAG fleet; the Airbus A320neo, A321neo and A350. In addition, IAG received further deliveries of A330 and Boeing 787 aircraft. The new aircraft are up to 20% more fuel efficient than the aircraft they replace. Glancing through the fleet mix for all IAG carriers, and with group member airline LEVEL also using A330 aircraft, there is no doubt that Airbus will continue to be strongly represented through the IAG carrier's fleets.
Aer Lingus: A320, A321, A330-300, A330-200, ATR (op in conjuction with Stobart Air) and Boeing 757 (op by ASL).
British Airways: A318-100, A319-100, A320-200, A321-200, A380-800, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777-200, Boeing 777-300, Boeing 787-8, Boeing 787-9, Embraer 170 and Embraer 190.
Airbus A350s begin arriving in 2019.
Iberia: A319, A320, A320NEO, A321, A330-200, A330-300, A340-600, A350.
(Not including Air Nostrum or Iberia Express aircraft).
Level: A320, A321, A330-200
Vueling: A319, A320, A321.