Airbus A321XLR was officially launched early in the week and has been extremely popular with airlines. Many airlines have also called it a game switch (#KenyaAirways).
The aircraft has been one of the fastest sales models we have ever seen in the early days of the introduction. The aircraft will have a range of 4,700 nm when it comes into operation in 2023, so it will offer incredible supply and economy for airlines wishing to use point-to-point flights.
As far as airlines like Aer Lingus, American, Frontier, Iberia
However, it looks like Lufthansa is taking a more conservative approach.
Lufthansa's A321XLR skepticism
Lufthansa's CEO Carsten Spohr has said that while the airline is considering ordering the A321XLR, he does not believe that the aircraft is a game switch:
"The new XLR can be used in our network. We are looking at it. But in my opinion, it's a niche product. It won't be a game switch. "
Why? Because he claims it is not convenient to spend more than four hours on a flight in a narrow airplane.
It is ironic that this comes from Lufthansa, the same airline that operated a regionally configured A319 from Frankfurt to Pune via Baku, which I called the world's worst flight. With that flight, passengers were on board a plane without power ports or personal TVs for about 12 hours. In fairness it was a temporary arrangement, but still …
Anyway, I strongly agree with Spohr about this. And before you say "Lucky, he knows more than you do." Yes, it's true, but that doesn't mean airline managers are always getting it right – just look at Lufthansa's recently-decided Eurowings. In addition, Lufthansa has made some dubious decisions on fleets in the past.
Why don't I stick with him?
Every aircraft is niche
Sure, he is right, A321XLR is a niche product. But isn't every plan a niche product at some level? Whether we're talking about A220, A350 / 787, 777X or anything else, every plane niche is at some level.
In many ways, the A321XLR can have the same effect on the industry as the 787 / A350 did, except on long-haul flights instead of long-haul flights. It can open long-distance markets that are not possible with the 300+ seating plan, but it can work with 150-200 seating plan.
As airlines retire 757 and 767, there is safe space in the market for a replacement.
777-9 will also be a niche aircraft
Why this would benefit Lufthansa's network
Lufthansa has a transatlantic joint venture with United, Air Canada, SWISS and Austrian, and it seems that there are many markets where the Lufthansa Group can benefit from the A321XLR.
One of the major goals of the transatlantic joint ventures is to provide smooth one-stop connections. There are certainly transatlantic markets, as well as the markets in Africa, India and the Middle East, where they know that an A330 would offer too much capacity, but where an A321XLR would make it perfect.
This is true of Lufthansa Group Airlines. How about an Austrian flight from Boston, a SWISS flight from Washington or a Lufthansa flight from Nashville?
In addition, this can be very useful for Lufthansa to extend long-distance operations from Düsseldorf to Berlin in the key markets, especially with the death of Eurowings (Lufthansa has long had problems deciding how to serve Düsseldorf to the Newark market.)
Passenger comfort on A321XLR
Lufthansa could easily install all of its current cabins on the A321XLR, including their business class, premium economy and finance locations.
Lufthansa's current business class
The only difference would be the total space in the cottage, although I would argue that there is a fair balance between being able to fly point-to-point and come to fly a bigger plane.
If anything, an airline like Lufthansa would benefit most from the A321XLR. Their joint ventures are about offering one-stop service to points around the world, and there are so many additional city pairs that can be done here, especially when you plan to distribute them over the Lufthansa Group's airlines.
So if we are talking about secondary cities in the US, or other cities in Africa, India and the Middle East, I think the A321XLR has great potential for the Lufthansa group.
Lufthansa's current smallest long-distance plan has 250+ locations, so something less certainly has a market.
My money is on the Lufthansa Group to change and gladly place an A321XLR order. This planet is a game changer (for better or worse when it comes to passenger experience).
What do you think about?