How useful is an Airbus A321XLR?

The payload range of the A321XLR

We have covered the necessary changes to an A321LR to increase its use as a long-range aircraft. We found we needed more fuel and an increased Maximum TakeOff Weight, MTOW. The additional fuel needed is 3,000l paired with an MTOW of 101 tonnes, up from 97t.

The larger fuel volume is needed to stay in the air longer than the present nine hours of the A321LR. The A321XLR adds another hour and a half to the A321LR’s capability. This longer flying time translates to an additional 500nm of range with the same passenger load.

This takes the A321 from a reliable London to New York aircraft to a Frankfurt to Chicago jet. While the A321LR could cover the east US to west Europe, the XLR extends this to mid-US to mid-Europe.

A large number of airlines hesitate to use the A321LR for trans-Atlantic flying as its range in too limited for a pratical US to Europe network. There would be too many unscheduled fuel stops when going west during the winter months.

With the A321XLR the range is there to cover large parts of the US to an interesting part of Europe. From Chicago, all of Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland and large parts of Poland could be covered. The A321LR restricts any Chicago flying to the UK or Ireland with the occasional fuel stop when going west.

Going east from London or Paris the XLR covers up to Delhi whereas an LR would have to fuel when flying longer than Dubai.

The trade between passengers and range

The above-described routes are with a typical domestic two-class cabin of 200 seats. For a three-class cabin with a business section with lie-flat seats, we land at 150 to 160 seat cabins.

There is not the place for more than 16 to 20 life flat seats combined with a 24 seat extended legroom Premium section, then the typical 18 rows of six abreast economy seats at 30-inch to 31-inch pitch, for a long-range three-class cabin of 150 seats.

The combined weight of the heavier cabin and the reduced passenger load of 150 passengers with bags would bring the range to the same as the previous Domestic two-class cabin holding 200 passengers.


The A321XLR turns the interesting but not fully useful A321LR medium-range aircraft into a very useful medium to long-range aircraft.

This as the seat mile cost of the A321LR and A321XLR is the same as the costs of flying the same passenger on an A330neo or Boeing 787. But while these require a minimum of 220 passengers per departure to make a route viable, an A321XLR would work with routes offering 140 passengers per departure.

If the city pair offers a larger daily capacity, the A321XLR can cover this with two departures per day instead of the single departure of the A330neo/787. With the same operating cost per seat as the next step-up widebodies, the A321XLR is a very flexible tool for an airline.

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