United Airlines selects 50 Airbus A321XLR as 757 replacement

Airbus launched the A321XLR program in June this year. Computer rendering: © Airbus

United Airlines has announced an order for 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft, to ‘begin replacing’ its aging fleet of Boeing 757-200, but also delays the delivery of its first Airbus A350.

The US-American airline says it will use the newly ordered jets on transatlantic flights from it hubs in Newark and Washington DC. United has scheduled to deploy the type on international flights, starting in 2024.

The new Airbus A321XLR aircraft is an ideal one-for-one replacement for the older, less-efficient aircraft currently operating between some of the most vital cities in our intercontinental network.Andrew Nocella, Executive Vice President and CCO of United Airlines

He continues to say that the range capabilities give United the option to add new destinations to its European route network. The airline says this aircraft type has a 30% lower fuel burn compared to previous aircraft. This refers to the Boeing 757-200, of which United is currently operating more than 50 frames, mostly on shorter, lower-capacity transatlantic routes, that do not have a high enough demand to fill a wide body airliner like the Boeing 767 or 787.

In today’s announcement, United also says that it has pushed back deliveries of its 45 ordered Airbus A350-900 until as late as 2027, to ‘better align with the carrier’s operational needs’. The airline first ordered 25 A350-900 in early-2010, then in 2013 converted this order to the larger A350-1000 and added ten more aircraft. In 2017, the airline switched back to the -900 version, but again signed for ten additional aircraft. Back in 2010, it was stated that the first A350 would be delivered to United in 2016.

Airbus’ A321XLR is a long-range single aisle airplane based on the A321neo, with a longer range than the existing A321LR. The European aircraft manufacturer officially launched the A321XLR program at the Paris Air Show 2019 in June, and has since managed to secure several hundred orders and commitments for the aircraft, from airlines and leasing companies all around the world.

Competitor Boeing attempted to secure this market between typical single isle and wide body airplanes, by developing a ‘new middle of the market aircraft’, often referred to as the ‘NMA’. Several US-based airlines had expressed interest in the type as a replacement for their aging Boeing 757 fleets. However, some (including United Airlines) have instead opted for the new Airbus A321XLR ,the program, speculated to become the ‘797’ one day, is yet to be launched.

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