A321neo configurations and A320 production

By Bjorn Fehrm

18 Jan 2015: As part of the preparations for the Airbus A321LR article 15 Jan. we saw a need to clarify with Airbus the production configurations for A321neo. There had been several iterations of what will be produced come mid-2018 when the A321neo variant is scheduled to roll off the FALs at Airbus in an enhanced Airbus Cabin-Flex (ACF) variant.

This variant features a three-door pairs layout that allows a raised max passenger limit by virtue of displaced door three and an addition of a second overwing exit. Recent media articles have suggested that both the initial four-door variant as well as the three-door variant would be available.

When we were briefed by Airbus in October on what today is launched as A321LR we were told this variant would be built with the enhanced ACF fuselage. Further we were told there would only be one structural version of the aircraft incorporating the 97t versions structural enhancements. This then raises the question, would Airbus produce two variants of A321neo?

We have now got the answer from Airbus. First our question: Is the four-door fuselage still orderable in A321neo version come 2018?

Airbus: We can offer the four-door configuration for the A321neo if the market requires it. There are today more than 1,000 A321s in service and more than 2,300 have been ordered. So the four-door A321 fleet will be very important by 2018. But there are a lot of benefits associated to A321neo ACF, including full cabin layout flexibility, so our customers will move to ACF progressively as it becomes available.

The AFC mentioned here is Airbus Cabin Flex, the new fuselage concept that Airbus has made to allow the A321neo to carry up to 240 passenger, Figure 1. It deletes the second door pair, moves the third doors further back and offers up to two overwing exits.AFC fpr A321neo

Figure 1. Airbus Cabin-Flex, ACF, for A321neo. Source: Airbus.

The answer from Airbus clarifies that ACF or Airbus Cabin-Flex will then be the new standard for A321neo going forward from 2018 as it brings several advantages. It enables a larger exit limit of up to 240 passenger when operators orders it with the second overwing exit. It also does away with the second doors just ahead of the wing, which in practice divides the aircraft in an often to cramped premium section between doors one and two. With doors two eliminated, the operator has larger freedom where to stop any premium cabin and start the next cabin segment.

Figure 2 show A321neo Cabin-Flex with an all economy layout compared to the traditional A321neo four-door layout which will be the initial production version from 2016.


Figure 2. Airbus Cabin-Flex for A321neo, cabin layout with all economy. Source: Airbus.

A321LR will be available 2019 and then the AFC fuselage will have been in production a year. As we were briefed, the A321LR will only be offered in this version of the fuselage.

We were told that the elimination of door two brings such weight advantages that the extra strengthening of the A321LR structure that will be necessary will not increase the the aircraft’s empty weight compared to a four-door variant. Airbus can thereby rationalize the build standard for A321neo so that for AFC versions there will only be one version of the aircraft which has the stronger LR structure for all variants of A321neo.

A320 production rates.

Airbus also told us Tuesday they will keep the production rate steady at 42 per month over the ongoing transition from ceo to neo. As the A320neo production increases the combined ceo and neo production will ramp to 46 per month during 2016. The total cross over from ceo to neo will take three years, i.e. into 2017.

As Airbus has more visibility how this cross over will work they will take a decision to ramp the production further, said Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier. This visibility and therefore decision could come later in 2015, as Airbus has realized they need to increase production to cope with the backlog of orders. “But right now is not the time for such a decision,” according to Bregier. “The sensitive supply chain shall be left to do the ceo to neo crossover without disturbances.”

Our sources in the supply chain indicate that Airbus has alerted them to be ready to go to 54/mo in 2018.

15 Comments on “A321neo configurations and A320 production

  1. Airbus would be better off with their A321 turn-around-wise if installing Type A doors fwd and aft, with a type C or type B door mid-cabin overwing emergency exit. It would also improve the chances for a good paxcount at the forthcoming emergency evacuation test. This solution would divide the cabin in two fixed sections, instead of three fixed sections as planned for A321LR. The latter works out OK with a 28″ pitch —> 240 pax, but not all operators are LLC. At 29″ or more, you’ll lose three rows or 18 seats, with a forth Lavatory (for proper Lav ratio) plus additional galleys (7-8 hours’ flights ?) you’re down another 12 seats, to 210 @ 29″ pitch, still a LCC-type cabin environment. We shouldn’t dream too much, the 240 pax offer is more to challenge Randy than for Operators. A two-sectioned cabin is a much better/more flexible solution, cf H21QR.

  2. For the 240-passenger variant, there appears to be only 2 toilets. I predict VERY long lines extending in the single aisle by passengers waiting to use the facilities. Perhaps, Airbus proposes using the air sickness bags for waste disposal? And, maybe discount airlines can gain additional revenue by selling heavy-duty, leak-proof bags on board at an exorbitant profit to desperate passengers!

    • The 240 seat version has 3 toilets – 1 at the front and 2 at the rear. The rear two can be combined on request to accommodate persons with reduced mobility.

  3. Even in the strict frame of (post-2019) A321 NEO used for feeder purposes, or for charter operations or by LCC operators, the announced capacity of 240 pax is purely for decorum. The A321 in the (3+3) configuration is known to be aflicted by the ‘757 syndrome’ entailing a string of ground turn-around and in-flight service inefficiencies. Beyond 200 passengers, the aircraft’s slot time degenerates beyond reason. Very few are those operators who actually installed more than 35 rows (210 pax), operators who went all the way to 220 pax (the previous certified limit) struggle with the plane’s 24h-productivity. The A321 NEO and A321LR could both perfectly well live with 225 pax as the exit limit (three type B doors, whereof one mid-cabin overwing). This new line of communication by Airbus around ‘240 pax’ seems a kind of unserious PR exercise, not intended for Customers. What for ? Aimed at whom ? Customers know better ! Again, as said before : two fixed-length cabin sections is enough and is clearly the better/more flexible solution. Anyway, the future evacuation test will bring Airbus back to reason ?

  4. A321 at 240 seats and A321LR don’t have muc to do with eachother. Apart from the (smart) ACF, it is also based on the Space Flex aft galley complex, that brings in 6-9 seatplaces. Space Flex will be introduced by a European Flag carrier in the coming months, independent of ACF. And be retrofitted on many existing A320 series.


    When making 6-8 hour flights, you have 2-3 catering service rounds. When incorporating Business Class the required galley volume raises even more. Deleting galley space, like Space Flex does, is out of the question for those flight where the A21LR is aimed at. More likely you need additional galley space instead of seats.

  5. How’s this whole exit thing work? 55 for a pair of doors or 40 for a pair of overwing exits? Could this be rated for 245? How about the MAX 200, could they plug one pair of wing exits delete the extra pitch in that row?

  6. @ TC : You may want to look up FAR121 Part25 Section 807 and you’ll find things like this (unless there’s been updates I haven’t taken note of ?) :
    Type A 110
    Type B 75
    Type C 55
    Type I 45
    Type II 40
    Type III 35

    • Thanks for the info.
      New A320 exit capacity is 189 + (extra A321 door) 55= 244?

      How the 215 for the 737-900ER is arrived at is even tougher to surmise.

      But, it still seems like Ryanair should be able to get away with just one overwing exit, 55,40,45,55, although they would have to rename the model the MAX195.

  7. @ TC : Certified Exit Limit is defined from the convergence of two different factors :
    1 – installation of Emergency Exits (hardware) —> Theoretical Exit Limit
    2 – demonstrated paxcount in the Emergency Evacuation test in 90 seconds (software)

    The Certified Exit limit is the lower figure of 1 or 2
    FAR121 Part 25 Section 807 and following sections is long and heavy text for insiders. For example dual side-by-side type III overwing exits give you a theoretical exit limit of 2 x 35 = 70, but they give you a 5 pax penalty for interference from closeness, total 70 -5 = 65 pax … add this to twice 75 pax (type B doors fwd and aft) and you get 75 +75 +65 = 215 pax CQFD

  8. Some “long haul” A321 configurations

    BA: Club, 2 class, 151 seats

    AA Transcon, 4 class, 102 seats

    Jetblue Transcon, 4 class, 159 seats

    Two class long haul on a A321 LR, 160 seats seems a reasonable benchmark. So 16t passenger+ bags. Empty weight 55t makes 71t, 25t fuel makes 96t. Not much left for cargo on 4000NM flights.

    But e.g. 2x daily KLM or United Chicago-AMS to disrupt each others hubs is possible.


    • The exit limit for the A320 is 189, so if there is a plug in the mid-cabin door on the A321neo, like on the 739, 189 will work for most two class carriers, also Hawaiian.

      • @ TC “the exit limit for A320 is 189”

        The exit limit for A320 is 180, cf http://www.airbus.com/aircraftfamilies/passengeraircraft/a320family/a320/

        Airbus are TARGETTING to raise the exit limit of the A320 to 189 pax … whether or not they will actually will be able to ACHIEVE this remains to be seen, bookmakers are adjusting the odds these days … given the currently chosen strategy, l’d put my own 100 € bet down on Airbus failing, ie on Airbus (with or without expert coaching from any HAW Professor) being turned down by FAA/EASA !

  9. Is it me or do the designers at Airbus not realize they are turning a plane series that once had excellent cabin comfort into the WORST cabin ever? Especially the new aft lavatory configuration. I understand Airbus and Boeing are in a max passenger pissing match but a 240 passenger A321 is HORRIBLE. How do I know? Because my passengers are already hitting their heads as they get (contort?) into the far aft A/C left lav door. At what point do we bring this aircraft back into the realm of being a great alternative with passenger comfort? If you really want to know whether this space flex marketing scam is working ask the people who have to work it and hear the CONSISTANT complaints from their customers. Oh, and did I mention the inability for a passenger who is non-ambulatory by leg injury or disability to be lifted up should they fall forward in unexpected turbulence? It’s embarrassing and humiliating for the passenger. It also presents a lawsuit if the passenger cannot be successfully removed from the lav. Airbus space flex is really airbus space crap.

  10. A lot of water passed under the bridges of river Arno at Firenze since January … at this time, we are aware that Boeing and Airbus came around the live Evacuation Test by referring to Operational Research modelling, so the new CERTIFIED Exit Limits are : A320 =189 seats; A321 = 240 seats and (probably ?) 738 = 200 seats, spot on the ‘Sweet Spot’ of Michael O’Leary …

    So unfortunately we have not been given to witness the blunder of the OEMs failing to successfully carry out the much spectacular live evacuation test … too bad !

    But again, joining in choir todd : it is uncertain whom exactly Airbus are hoping to convince with their PR campaign about 240 seats in the A321. Few operators will be fooled by all this sand-in-the-eyes bullshit ! So WHY are Airbus doing this ? Is it just to challenge Randy ?

  11. Why do the personal air vents stop at row 18? Its very hot and stuffy back there in coach

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