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American ‘evaluating’ proposed long-range A321neo

Updated with comments from American on its order for A320neo family aircraft

American Airlines is “evaluating” Airbus’ proposed long-range A321neo, says vice-president of fleet planning Peter Warlick.

“We will be evaluating the economics and the range and performance capabilities of the long-range version of the A321neo,” he says in an employee newsletter on 30 October that was first reported by Bloomberg.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier would likely use a long-range A321neo, which is being design specifically with transatlantic routes in mind, to replace transatlantic Boeing 757-200s in its fleet if it ordered the potential sub-variant.

The aircraft would have a maximum take-off weight of 97t and fly about 4,100nm in a standard two-class configuration with 164 seats with the first delivery in 2019, Airbus executives said in October.

This compares to maximum take-off weights of 89t to 93.5t and a range of about 3,500nm for the four existing sub-variants of the A321neo.

Airbus has not officially launched the potential 757 replacement, with executives saying that they are “actively discussing” the possibility with operators, but an order from American could be the impetus it needs to launch the programme.

The airline is the largest operator of the Airbus A320 family in the world with 313 aircraft, including 133 A321s, across the American and US Airways fleets, the Ascend Fleets database shows. In addition, it has firm orders for 100 and options for 30 A320neo family aircraft.

American also operates 102 757-200s, Ascend data shows. Of these, a significant number operate on transatlantic routes.

Executives at the carrier, as well as those at Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, have repeatedly lamented the lack of a replacement for transatlantic 757s, which they all use for longer distance routes across the Atlantic, to Hawaii and to Latin America.

“The reality is, no matter what you do, with a widebody aircraft physics is physics and it’s going to have more drag and it’s going to be more expensive to fly [than a narrowbody],” said Scott Kirby, president of American, when asked about the possibility of using an aircraft like the Boeing 787 to replace transatlantic 757s.

He adds: “The 757 is a unique airplane today. As a narrowbody, it has an unique cost structure that can serve a set of markets where it’s the only narrowbody that can serve [them].”

Boeing ended production of the 757 in 2004 and the airframer has yet to offer a direct replacement aircraft. The Boeing 737 Max 9 is the closest replacement, however, it cannot match the maximum take-off weight or range of the 757.

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