Airbus remains convinced that its two-pronged assault on the middle-of-the-market sector is sufficient and it will wait to see whether Boeing reacts with its New Mid-market Airplane (NMA).
The European manufacturer is offering its new 4,700nm (8,700km)-range, 244-seat A321XLR single-aisle along with the long-range A330neo widebody family to address the mid-market segment. Boeing meanwhile is working to launch its NMA, which is expected to have a hybrid single/twin-aisle configuration and 5,000nm range.
Launched during the Paris air show backed by over 240 commitments, the A321XLR has got off to a strong start. However key customers like Air Lease – and potential ones like United Airlines – have stated that there is still a need for Boeing’s NMA.
“We believe the NMA will continue to be in development. But, certainly the A321XLR is a formidable competitor,” said Air Lease chief executive John Plueger when announcing the first order for the XLR.
However, Airbus’s chief executive Guillaume Faury feels Toulouse is on the front foot in the battle for the mid-market segment and doesn't need to react further at the moment: “The A321XLR is a big move into that space with a very competitive range,” he says.
“The need for reacting is not on our side. We are acting and proactive, and therefore we will be observing what will be happening in the rest of the industry.”
Faury’s sales chief Christian Scherer is also satisfied that Airbus has the optimum product line-up.
“For a fraction of the cost of a new programme we have provided a now widely endorsed solution called the A321XLR,” he says. “And for the fraction of a brand-new programme we have produced a now widely endorsed solution on the widebody side of the middle of the market, which is the A330neo.”
Scherer hinted recently that there could be additional developments in the pipeline for the A321, using the word “extended-range versions plural” when talking about Airbus’s intent with its largest single-aisle. Whether these could include a so-called A321 “YLR” – perhaps incorporating larger changes such as a stretch and possibly a version of the powerplant that Boeing selects for the NMA – may only become clear once Faury and his team have concluded their “observing” and Boeing’s made its intentions clear.