New deal converting existing A321NEO orders to A321XLR is set to open up more routes into Asia

Qantas Group has secured up to 36 Airbus A321 XLR aircraft for delivery from financial year 2024 onwards.

The deal is an update of the airline’s existing order which will see 26 of the Group’s existing A321NEO orders converted to A321XLRs and add a further 10 XLRs. This takes the total order from 99 aircraft to 109. The Qantas Group A320 family order now consists of 28 A321LRs, 36 A321XLRs and 45 A320 NEOs, with flexibility around timing and structure in negotiation with Airbus.

The order enables Qantas Group to make adjustments to delivery schedules depending on market conditions. Quantas has stated that the longer-range XLR will improve fleet flexibility, offering the airline the potential to open up new destinations or replace wide-body aircraft on existing routes.

A321XLR changes economics of potential routes into Asia

Qantas Group CEO, Alan Joyce said: “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. 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.”

He added: “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.”

New aircraft will offer increased take off weight

The A321 XLR has a range of around 8,700 kilometres, 15 per cent longer than the A321LR. Depending on cabin configuration it can carry up to 244 passengers. The aircraft offers a 30 per cent lower fuel burn per seat compared with previous generation aircraft.

Qantas adds the XLR will offer a 25 per cent increase to maximum take-off weight compared with the Group’s existing A320s Classics, which are used across Jetstar and in resources markets with QantasLink.

The first deliveries from the Group’s A320 Family order will begin with 18 A321LR aircraft for Jetstar, arriving between mid-2020 and mid-2022. These will operate a mix of domestic and international routes. The first A321XLR would be available to the Group from the 2024 financial year onwards.