Qantas adds Airbus A321XLR to its fleet

Qantas adds Airbus A321XLR to its fleet

Qantas has joined the roster of airlines signing up as launch customers for the extended-range Airbus A321XLR.

The airline has inked a deal for up to 36 of the A321XLR jets, due for delivery from mid-2024, by trading up from 26 of its previous orders for the less long-legged A321neo and adding ten more aircaft to the shopping list.

Although the order was placed by the Qantas Group, which encompasses current A321 stalwart Jetstar, group CEO Alan Joyce has left the door open to the A321XLRs joining the red-tailed Airbus A330 fleet for flights into Asia.

"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," Joyce remarked.

“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."

This continent-striding version of the single-aisle A320neo family will carry around 200 passengers in a two-class configuration and is expected to shake up and reshape trans-Atlantic travel, although the same impacts could extend to the Asia-Pacific region.

Some challenger airlines will use the A321XLR to drive prices lower, especially in premium business class cabins.

Another card in the A321XLR's hand: it could open up non-stop flights to and even between smaller cities which couldn't justify larger twin-aisle jets such as the Airbus A330 or Boeing 787 series, and which would otherwise require a stopover.

These direct 'thin' routes would prove a value time- and hassle-saver for business traveller, although passenger comfort will come to the fore: most Australians have spent 90 minutes flying in the single-aisle Boeing 737 between Sydney and Melbourne or Sydney and Brisbane, but typical A321XLR routes could span eight to nine hours.

Airbus will fit the A321XLR with the same Airspace cabin as the twin-aisle A330neo and A350 jets – a package combining a quieter cabin, LED lighting and larger overhead storage bins.

However, the cabin of an A320-series jet is typically pressurised to the equivalent of 7,000-8,000 feet above sea level, compared to an equivalent 6,000 feet for modern jets such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.

That lower effective cabin altitude minimises flight fatigue and plays a part in reducing the impact of jetlag.

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • David Dale


    19 Jun, 2019 01:27 pm

    As it has been widely rumoured previously, it’s also certain these new jets will join the Qantas fleet. I personally was hoping for the Boeing MAX, but this isn’t bad either.
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  • tomJ


    19 Jun, 2019 02:14 pm

    I reckon the A32x family is an upgrade on the B737max personally. The A32x cabin is wider than the 737, making 3-3 economy seats that little bit more bearable.
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  • Flying Fish


    19 Jun, 2019 08:41 pm

    The A321 is by far a superior product compared to the B737 Max. I fly the AA A321T variant between east and west coast USA once a month and the passenger experience (even in Y) on those 5-7 hour legs is head and shoulders above the B737 Max. I reckon with a decent medium haul J and Y+ hard product this would be a winner for QF if they’re looking to increase frequency and/or capacity on routes into Asia
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  • Jason Kumar


    19 Jun, 2019 01:37 pm

    Also with the opening of WSA in 2026 I can see a lot more narrow body flights operating to Asia (mostly from Asian airlines). Interesting times ahead!
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  • highflyer


    19 Jun, 2019 01:41 pm

    Thin routes such as... Adelaide-Singapore?
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  • D747


    19 Jun, 2019 02:12 pm

    I'm not a fan of long haul flights in single aisle aircraft. Not at all. I did 5.5 hours to Fiji in a 738 recently. It was zero fun.
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  • Pcoder


    19 Jun, 2019 02:29 pm

    The a320 series is 17cm wider in the cabin. The standard width for the a320 economy seats is 18" compared to 17" for most 737s. The seats should be wider than the 787s
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  • andrewjason81


    19 Jun, 2019 02:37 pm

    Exactly. I think the max time you'd want to spend is 4-5 hours, and even that is a stretch. So in terms of passenger comfort, an 8 or 9 jaunt to SIN or BKK would be horrendous, unless your in J class, or if they install a more premium Y product, in which case it would probably prove uneconomic. Make no mistake, Qantas will use these for the Jetstar leisure traveller who pay little and expect a crap experience.
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  • patrickk


    19 Jun, 2019 02:48 pm

    If the seat and amenities are the same as a A330/350 I cannot see the issue. Remember the 757 narrow body did these routes not so long ago. I did the 737 on Jet Airways Mumbai to Singapore from tome to time until they went broke. Okay but would have preferred a slightly wider seat but then that is what the A321 offers.
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  • Jason Bird


    19 Jun, 2019 03:58 pm

    I did that same Jet Airways flight and the leg room was diabolically bad!! I will NEVER fly an Indian airline again when visiting the family in Singa
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  • patrickk


    19 Jun, 2019 06:20 pm

    Airlines determine leg room but not seat widht
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  • PeterRH


    19 Jun, 2019 02:22 pm

    CNS-HGK to replace cancelled CX flights plus CNS-BKK. Both good for 1 stop to Europe.
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  • Albinoni1967


    19 Jun, 2019 02:31 pm

    Thank God for this, well done Qantas and they did not buy those soda can 737 Max, Airbus A321XLR is a far superior aeroplane than the 737 Max
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  • jrfsp


    19 Jun, 2019 02:37 pm

    Agreed, upgrade over the 737 on long routes.
    May even have 3 lavs in economy!!
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  • David Hackett


    19 Jun, 2019 02:50 pm

    Great for JQ, if this works for them and AJ is happy I can see the economics of them taking over the routes of the 11 Dreamliners JQ operate and they inturn getting a refurb and repaint into QF colours
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  • Martin Rose


    19 Jun, 2019 03:37 pm

    I've seen an article about the 737max series that called them the 737 Barbie Doll because they have been pulled and stretched so far that they cannot stand on their own two feet!! I hope Qantas consider a320's for OZ to replace 737NG series jets. Probably not going to happen given their investment in 737 sims training etc.
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  • Horizon360


    19 Jun, 2019 04:08 pm

    It will be all about how they configure the cabin. If they configure the A321XLR with 18 inch wide seats, 32 inches of pitch and a modern IFE with wifi then I'll take that over a cramped 9-abreast 787 or 10-abreast 777 anyday.
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  • Mark Hatherley


    19 Jun, 2019 05:15 pm

    Tahiti here we come without the stop over in Auckland
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  • Bernhard Zunk


    19 Jun, 2019 11:45 pm

    Given Philippine Airlines already operate A321LR flights between Sydney and Manila (6200km) and that Tahiti is 6100km then Sydney-Tahiti is already a viable route with the A321neoLR.
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  • Dan


    22 Jun, 2019 07:00 pm

    PR doesn't operate the A321LR, they operate the normal A321neo with extra fuel tanks fitted for MNL-East Coast AU flights.
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  • AJW


    19 Jun, 2019 05:41 pm

    Still 5 years away!
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  • Bernhard Zunk


    19 Jun, 2019 11:23 pm

    But QANTAS Jetstar have the A320neo and A321neoLR delivering next year. Both aircraft have longer legs and we will start to see new routes open up.
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  • Lps988


    19 Jun, 2019 07:11 pm

    I like the order and on a side note that mock up photo at the top of the article looks pretty schmick.

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  • Nick  Sydney 348

    Nick Sydney 2

    19 Jun, 2019 07:38 pm

    Have been on the A321T from NY to LA and it was fine.
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  • Balta  Caceres

    Aircraft Lover

    19 Jun, 2019 09:19 pm

    The A-321 has two toilets for 175 economy class passengers
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  • Bernhard Zunk


    19 Jun, 2019 11:51 pm

    Long flights are actually less problematic than short ones for toilet access. If you are on a Sydney Melbourne flight there is not much time between the service trolley blocking the aisle, being stuck in a seat with your food tray and seat belt sign for Landung on again to go to the toilet . The 8 hour flight I did to Manila on an A321LR had no issues with toilet access.
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  • Traveller14


    19 Jun, 2019 09:37 pm

    Alan Joyce said above that existing narrowbodies cannot fly MEL - SIN. However PR already flies (until August) its narrowbody A321neos between SYD and MNL nonstop, and that's a slightly longer route than MEL - SIN. (It also flies these BNE - MNL.)

    Was he correct?
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  • Andy H

    Andy H

    19 Jun, 2019 10:18 pm

    PR has used the A321NEO's on MEL-MNL, however I heard that demand was so great that they decided to just fly the A330's on the route.
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  • JeCCo87


    19 Jun, 2019 09:42 pm

    The ill-fated RedQ could've used some of these birds
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  • nige00160


    19 Jun, 2019 09:55 pm

    Interesting he mentioned Tokyo-Cairns as an example of a route that this aircraft can serve. I wonder how many slots are available at Narita/Haneda to cater for the expected increase in narrowbody services for niche routes ?
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  • Himeno


    21 Jun, 2019 10:45 pm

    HND is slot controlled with slots being issued to nations by the Japanese government.

    NRT is building a 3rd runway to open by 2028, extending the 2nd runway and shortening the curfew by 2.5 hours (becoming 0030-0500, currently 2300-0600).
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  • Christopher Campbell


    20 Jun, 2019 01:31 am

    When are the normal A320neos being delivered?
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  • patrickk


    20 Jun, 2019 03:43 pm

    I think next year to Jetstar.
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  • aniljak


    20 Jun, 2019 06:04 am

    Hopefully this will mean opening up of services from places like Canberra, Adelaide, Hobart, Townsville and Newcastle to Singapore and New Zealand.
    Interesting that Qantas is one of many major 737 operators who have announced orders for A321XLR this week. Clearly there is little faith in the 737MAX amongst operators and they are all scrambling to get in line with Airbus!
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  • Trogdor


    20 Jun, 2019 09:08 am

    The A321XLR does something the 737MAX can't do - it has over 2,500 klm greater range than a 737-MAX 10 (which carries the same amount of passengers).
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  • Craig Dennington


    20 Jun, 2019 08:52 am

    I did LHR-TLV on the BA 321 (ex BMI frames) a few years back. Decent plane for that journey. Certainly much nicer then SYD-PER on a 737.

    I quite like the Airbus.
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    20 Jun, 2019 08:56 am

    Agreed analjak, QF will need to combat the rise of Silkair and other Asian carriers who are increasing services to secondary ports like DRW and CNS with talk of TSV also on the radar now that the Singapore Military have commenced their training area near Townsville, I am sure QF will also be eyeing off some of these routes.
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  • Simon Sheales


    20 Jun, 2019 09:38 am

    I very much doubt these will be used for QF mainline services, as the current JQ 320 fleet needs replacing in the coming years. flying 4+ hours in a narrow body regardless of class not the best experience, perfect for low cost operations.
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  • Matt


    20 Jun, 2019 11:28 am

    Any sane business wouldn't commit to orders like this without already having done a business case and I think AJ knows already exactly where these planes will be used. And it'll most likely be Jetstar to improve their yields on those sectors. Which is a shame because they could probably make greater revenue having Qantas fly them. A direct Qantas Adelaide-Singapore would be great to then connect into Europe.
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  • Miguel


    20 Jun, 2019 02:31 pm

    I hope that the CGI render implies that Alan Joyce is more certain than "keep a door open" for a mainline QF A321
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  • Aleks Popovic


    21 Jun, 2019 12:22 am

    You could easily do 3-4 rows of staggered 1-2/2-1 or 1-1 herringbone in J with fully flat beds, 4 rows of Y+ In a 2-2 recliner (current premium), and then the rest in Y... you can still attract that premium market.
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  • Pcoder


    21 Jun, 2019 11:48 am

    There is one reason why we can guarantee the A321XLRs in Qantas colours - Western Sydney airport.

    Currently at Sydney airport due to curfew, the terminal goes very quiet in the evening as most flights have to depart early to escape any issues with the curfew. Compare this with Melbourne airport which is quiet busy around 11pm. The A321XLR will allow Qantas to add flights to major destinations like SIN, BKK, HKG, PVG, KIX and NRT departing late night from the Sydney basin without the need to fill up a large widebody plane.

    In regards to business class on the a321s, another seat that would fit well is the Apex Suite, which would probably make good use of the floor space with good amenities and privacy for the travellers.
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  • Karl


    23 Jun, 2019 03:10 pm

    Lots of talk about using these Adelaide to Singapore. Qantas is really missing this as part of their network and it would be a lot more valuable to them to connect into their Jetstar Asia network than onto any code share partners into Europe. SQ can do two flights a day and therefore stealing potential Qantas passengers. Also bring back the morning departure from Singapore to Sydney. Again they can use this to connect into their Jetstar Asia network.
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  • Traveller14


    23 Jun, 2019 03:19 pm

    Apart from QF maybe perceiving it can make more money on other routes, it might also not like having in time one of these aircraft isolated in continually doing ADL - SIN - ADL rotations with consequent empty running to maintenance in BNE, SYD or wherever every few days. It may also be relatively difficult to staff the cockpit as for one return trip a day, establishing a base may not be cost effective.
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  • patrickk


    23 Jun, 2019 11:24 pm

    I think it would be much more than Adelaide to Singapore in mind, there are no shortage of other options including Canberra, western Sydney, and Sydney Melbourne Brisbane to Asian ports they currently don’t serve such as Ho Chi Minh city and Seoul.
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  • Pcoder


    24 Jun, 2019 04:38 pm

    Yeah another route that the A321XLR will be perfect for is the SYD-KIX. This is currently not daily as it would probably be to much capacity but changing to the A321XLR would allow it to operate daily and not go overboard with seat capacity.
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  • Herman  G


    27 Jun, 2019 09:15 am

    It's sad to see the mistake of Boeing not having the 757 updated.. because some of those routes of XLR actually could be done with the old 757 dame
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  • Himeno


    30 Jun, 2019 11:03 pm

    Boeing's Yellowstone Project is a long term plan started 11 years ago to replace their line up.

    3 size aircraft.
    Y2 for the 250-350 pax market, replace 767-300 and -400. Became 787.
    Y3 for 350-600+ pax market, replace 777-300 and 747. Became 777X.
    Y1 for the 100-250 pax market, replace 737, 757 and 767-200. Currently being worked on as "New Midsize Airplane" aka 797.

    Boeing's problems were, 1) dismantling the 757 production line tooling so they couldn't make more even if they wanted to, and 2) delay work on the 797 after AA's split 737/A320 500+ aircraft order promoted them to make the 737 MAX.

    They should at least have stored the 757 tooling so they had something available to offer in the ~220 seat market instead of giving all that to the A321 for the past 15 years.
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24 Jul, 2019 05:40 pm


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