Chicago, Illinois - United Airlines has placed an order for 50 Airbus A321XLR to replace its aging Boeing 757-200s.
The carrier plans to deploy Airbus's extra-long-range single-aisles on routes to Europe from its East Coast hubs Newark and Washington, from 2024.
Before United, other major US carriers JetBlue and American Airlines have both agreed with the European planemaker to order some of the new narrowbody jets that Airbus is developing for long-haul routes.
These orders came after Boeing failed to announce this year the launch of its new mid-market plane dubbed B797 due to the ongoing 737 MAX crisis.
United and American are both operating huge Boeing 757 and 767 fleets and these planes are approaching the end of their life span.
A321XLR versus B797
Airbus made its official announcement for the A321XLR program during the Paris Air Show this year in June.
The new plane will have a range of up to 4,700 nautical miles, 15% compared with the standard A321LR. It is enough to connect cities like New York and Rome or Tokyo and Sydney.
The plane marks a trend toward smaller aircraft with more flight range and lower operating costs.
Boeing was also expected to announce its new plane for the middle of the market during the Paris Air Show, but the American aircraft manufacturer said that it delayed it for one year. Boeing assigned all its engineers and designers working for the B797 to the 737 MAX program to return the troubled aircraft to the service as soon as possible.
Airbus obviously benefited from the lack of a competing aircraft from Boeing. If it was announced during the Paris Air Show as expected before, the A321XLR might not have much chance against the Boeing's all-new twin-aisle plane that would be smaller than its 787s but larger than its 737s. Because, passenger comfort is an important factor in long-haul flights and twin-aisle jets provide more space in the cabin compared to single-aisle jets.
Airbus A321XLR will be able to accommodate 180 to 220 passengers in a bi-class layout depending on the airlines' configuration preferences.