How American Airlines Will Deploy Its New Airbus A321XLRs

American Airlines expects to begin taking delivery of new extended range narrowbody planes – the Airbus A321XLR – starting in the first quarter of 2024.

At an internal meeting, a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing, executives at the airline discussed how they plan to deploy the plane.

Vice President of Network Planning Brian Znotins shared that they’re still “working with Airbus on the range” of these aircraft, and so they aren’t actually sure what routes it will be able to service. However,

  • They will be based primarily at New York JFK and Philadelphia. This makes sense because they can fly short transatlantic operations, and these hubs offer the shortest distances across the Pond, able to reach more cities. In addition, the plane is expected to deploy on some premium cross country routes to and from New York.

  • >They will also show up in Charlotte, Chicago O’Hare, and Miami operating thin routes to major European destinations mostly, I would imagine, though basing some at Miami could mean northern South America.

In Charlotte the A321XLR will be additive allowing for some new routes without the demand to sustain a widebody aircraft, and it will also swap with widebodies seasonally – widebodies in the summer, the narrowbody over the winter to Europe when demand drops. Charlotte is a stretch to reach some European destinations with the XLR so it won’t open as many routes as it will for its northern hub cousins.

The Airbus A321XLR will be good for Charlotte because its lower costs, and ability to fill planes with fewer passengers, means that Charlotte can support more international flying. There are only so many European destinations from Charlotte that will support a Boeing 777, and there are more that American Airlines can fly to with the smaller XLR.

Massimo Mancini, Vice President of Commercial Planning and Analysis, noted that the XLRs will be used on premium cross country flights. American hasn’t spoken to this specifically, and indeed I still wouldn’t be surprised to see some widebody aircraft used on premium cross country flights as well, as the A321T is phased out.

Over the summer I wrote to expect American to use these Airbus A321XLRs on premium cross country routes allowing them to reconfigure their existing premium A321T fleet to offer standard domestic cabins. That means no more Flagship First Class, a better business class (no longer 2 x 2), and a less premium coach product. That’s exactly what they are doing.

American is putting new business class and premium economy seats in these planes. Business class will be suites with doors, with direct aisle access, just one seat on each side of the aisle. That’s going to be a highly competitive hard product whether it’s flying internationally or on premium domestic routes.

Credit: American Airlines

Credit: American Airlines

While I love the spaciousness of a widebody aircraft, I’m really looking forward to the premium experience on these planes. And I’m looking forward to a premium experience on routes that didn’t previously support one. I’m also grateful for the expected range of the XLR, so that it can be better-used on long routes than comparable Boeing aircraft which have a narrower fuselage and therefore end up having a less desirable passenger experience.

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