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Airbus tackles 757 range with higher-weight A321neo

Airbus is aiming to introduce a higher-weight version of the A321neo in early 2019, in a bid to reinforce the type’s challenge to the Boeing 757 market.

It has previously detailed four sub-variants for the A321neo, with maximum take-off weights ranging from 89t to 93.5t.

But the airframer states that it will present a 97t version with “true transatlantic range”, featuring 164 seats including 20 lie-flat beds in a business-class cabin.

The aircraft will achieve 25% lower cost per seat compared with the 757, it adds.

While Airbus has yet to disclose a launch customer, it says it is “actively discussing” the development with operators.

Airbus has been trying to pitch the A321neo as a 757-200 replacement, and has already developed an interior which will allow the type to accommodate 240 passengers.

The 757-200’s cabin, with specific exit configurations, is able to seat 239.

But the 757’s range has been a crucial point of attack for Airbus. Blended winglets have added some 200nm to the 757’s capability, according to Aviation Partners Boeing, and give it a range close to 4,000nm for a payload of 160 passengers.

In comparison Airbus data for the current A321neo indicates that, even with an additional centre tank, the range with a comparable payload falls short of 3,500nm.

But Airbus believes that it can exceed the 757’s range by around 100nm with a higher-weight version of its re-engined jet, a decision first revealed by sales and marketing chief Kiran Rao to Leeham News. The A321neo will be powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G or CFM International Leap-1A engines.

This “significant range increase”, it says, will give the type the capability to succeed the 757 on transatlantic services.

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