Israeli carrier Arkia had considered the Bombardier CSeries, with a view to acquiring 10 aircraft, before being convinced to look at the single-aisle Airbus.
Speaking to FlightGlobal in Hamburg, chief executive Nir Dagan said Arkia took an interest in Bombardier’s then-C130 proposal.
“We wanted to buy 10,” he says, but says the airframer “froze” the programme.
Airbus, which has fought to establish a presence in Israel, convinced the carrier to consider its aircraft line as an alternative.
Dagan says the carrier was particularly interested in the re-engining programmes being pursued by Airbus.
It successfully persuaded Arkia to take both the A321LR and the A330-900, and Dagan was in Hamburg on 13 November to receive the first A321LR to be delivered to any customer.
He joked to the audience at the handover ceremony that, having been told by Airbus that the CSeries was “not a very good aeroplane”, the airframer subsequently bought the production line.
“Suddenly, it’s a very good aeroplane!” he said.
Arkia is one of the few Boeing 757-300 operators and Dagan praises the economics of the US-built twinjet.
But he tells FlightGlobal: “The A321LR is the first time we’ve found a [single-aisle] aircraft that is more efficient than the 757-300. It’s one of a kind.”
Airbus has developed the aircraft, a long-range version of its A321neo, to chase the 757 replacement market.
Arkia has configured its first A321LR with a single-class layout featuring 220 seats. “We know it is going to be a great aircraft,” says Dagan.
He says the airline intends to use the type on a variety of sectors, from short 30min hops to Larnaca to 5h trans-European routes to London, Paris and Barcelona.
Dagan also indicates that it will deploy the aircraft to “exotic” Indian Ocean destinations, such as Zanzibar and the Seychelles, as well as other points in Africa and Asia.
Arkia is set to introduce its A330-900s from 2020, adding to the list of Airbus customers which operate the A330-A321 combination. Dagan says that Arkia will be taking the highest-weight variant of the A330-900, the 251t version.
Its fleet also includes a regional arm served by Embraer E-Jets.