Montreal - Airbus could build a longer-range variant of A321LR by 2023 to beat Boeing's NMA (New Midsize Airplane).

Airbus briefed Canadian carrier Air Transat and the Irish lessor AerCap about its plans to build a new long-range single-aisle. An improved variant of the existing A321neo dubbed as the XLR for the extra long range is under consideration for a while by the European manufacturer to compete Boeing's wholly new design NMA or so-called Boeing 797.

An A321XLR is in sight

We’re a natural buyer for the XLR,
the Air Transat CEO Jean-Francois Lemay said on October 11.

Lemay also provided some clue about the likely range of the new aircraft, stating that the A321XLR could easily reach destinations in the eastern part of Europe such as Split in Croatia, where the airline plans to fly from 2019. The route will be served by the Airbus A330s of the Canadian carrier because it is beyond the range of the A321LR.

Air Transat is not among the potential buyers of the Boeing 797 since the operator is in a transition process for an all-Airbus fleet. Currently, five Boeing 737-800 aircraft are in service at Canadian operator. With the arrival of 15 A321LR, the Boeing 737s and the older Airbus A310s will be removed from the fleet respectively.

This is how the Boeing 797 will look

Lemay thinks that narrow-body devices will increasingly dominate the trans-Atlantic routes as airlines discover the potential of smaller planes on longer lines.

The current long-range version of the A321neo (A321LR) will join the Air Transat fleet from next year. The aircraft can reach Britain, France, Spain, and Portugal from Canada, but won’t be able to fly to other European destinations further east.

At the end of last month, the aircraft received ETOPS certification from both FAA and EASA allowing the type to fly on all transatlantic routes.