Paris, France - Middle East Airlines would become one of the early customers of the Airbus's new extra-long-range A321XLR, says Mohamad El Hout, the chairman of the Lebanese carrier.
The European aircraft manufacturer has already started recording orders for its longer range single-aisle A321XLR.
According to the sources who are close to the matter, Airbus will officially announce the A321XLR program with at least 200 orders at the Paris Air Show this week.
MEA plans to convert four A321neo to the A321XLR from an existing order for 15 Airbus A321neo. The carrier expects the deliveries to start as early as 2023.
The A321XLR will come with a maximum takeoff weight of 101 tonnes and a flight range of 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km). It will be able to accommodate up to 210 passengers.
With the A321XLR, Airbus aims to offer airlines the opportunity to add new long-haul routes to their networks, where demand is too low to deploy a wide-body aircraft.
Several companies have already expressed their interest in the project, including AirAsia, American Airlines, Jetstar Airways, Indigo Partners, and International Airlines Group.
With its new extra-long-range single-aisle, Airbus also aims to compete with the rival for the Middle of Market (MoM). Boeing continues to probe the market for a new more efficient Midsize aircraft as a replacement for the 757s and 767s.
The manufacturer, who is currently focused on re-gaining the trust of its customers and travelers for its plagued 737 MAX after two fatal crashes, will make its ultimate decision next year whether to launch the program or not.
The all-Airbus carrier has 13 A320-200 and five A330-200 in its fleet. Apart from the 15 A321neo, MEA also has four A330-900 in its order book waiting to be delivered.