Air Canada to fly 'extra long-range' Airbus A321neo, will acquire 26
The longest-range Airbus A321neo will be joining Air Canada's fleet.
Canada's flag carrier on Tuesday announced it was acquiring 26 A321XLRs, which will be added to its fleet starting in 2024. Of those 26 aircraft, 20 will be leased, with Air Canada purchasing six outright along with options for 14 additional aircraft.
The A321XLR, which stands for "extra long-range," has an advertised range of 4,300 nautical miles and an 11-hour endurance, though the type still hasn't flown yet. The rollout of the first aircraft is expected soon, with flight testing expected to begin this year.
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Given the aircraft's long range, Air Canada plans to operate the aircraft in a premium configuration. Its A321XLRs will be fitted with 14 lie-flat Signature Class seats and 168 economy class seats. Specifics of the seats have yet to be announced, though it's worth noting that this configuration is not particularly premium-heavy, at least as far as A321neo operators go. For example, JetBlue fits 24 Mint business class seats with direct aisle access in its A321LRs.
As is standard on Air Canada's fleet, the new A321XLRs will feature seatback entertainment and WiFi. They will also feature Airbus' signature Airspace cabin.
Air Canada promised the aircraft would be used on transatlantic flights once it receives ETOPS clearance from the airline's regulator, Transport Canada. ETOPS is a type of certification that allows twin-engine commercial aircraft to fly long, overwater routes, clearing them to fly more than 60 minutes from a suitable diversion airport.
Air Canada did not tease specific routes it might fly with the aircraft, but, in a press release, Airbus noted that the A321XLR "will allow services from eastern Canada to a much larger selection of European destinations."
Air Canada said it will announce which engine manufacturer it is selecting at a later date. A321neos can be powered by engines manufactured by CFM International or Pratt & Whitney, and Air Canada has variants of both neo engines in its fleet of Boeing 737 MAXes and Airbus A220s.
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"Air Canada is committed to further strengthen its market-leading position, especially through investments in new technology," Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau said in a statement. "The acquisition of the state-of-the-art Airbus A321XLR is an important element of this strategy and will drive our core priorities of elevating the customer experience, advancing our environmental goals, network expansion and increasing our overall cost efficiency.
"This order also shows that Air Canada is emerging strongly from the pandemic and is ideally positioned to grow, compete and thrive in a reshaped global aviation industry."
As of February, 25 customers had ordered 515 A321XLRs. This includes American Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue and Qantas.