LE BOURGET: Airbus launched a long-range version of its A321neo jet at the Paris Airshow on Monday, aiming to carve out new routes for airlines with smaller planes and steal a march on rival Boeing’s plans for a possible new mid-market jet.
The European planemaker will announce close to 200 orders for the new model — the A321XLR — over the week, sources familiar with the matter said.
“We can fly from north-eastern Asia into south Asia, from the Middle East to Bali or from Japan deep into Australia, and so on,” said Airbus chief salesman Christian Scherer.
“It is therefore the lowest-risk investment for airlines on these kinds of routes.” Leasing company Air Lease Corp became the first customer of the new aircraft, taking 27 as part of a deal for 100 Airbus planes. Sources familiar with the matter said JetBlue Airways Corp would also buy some of the new jets.
The aerospace industry’s biggest annual event, which alternates with Britain’s Farnborough Airshow, is traditionally a slugging match between Airbus and Boeing sales teams in the $150 billion a year commercial aircraft market.
But analysts expect this year’s show to be relatively subdued, with slowing economies, trade tensions and geopolitical uncertainties unsettling airlines — highlighted by a profit warning from Germany’s Lufthansa late on Sunday.
Airbus and Boeing are also grappling with their own problems. The US planemaker is striving to bring its top-selling 737 MAX jet back into service after its grounding following two fatal crashes. Airbus, meanwhile, is occupied with a long-running corruption scandal.
Boeing executives took turns to apologise for the loss of life in the crashes and pledged to apply the lessons learned to future planes following criticism of its response to the disasters in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.
“This is the most trying of times,” Boeing commercial airplanes boss Kevin McAllister told a press briefing.
“But without a doubt this is a pivotal moment for all of us. It’s a time to capture learnings. It’s a time to be introspective. And it’s a time for us to make sure accidents like this never happen again.” Boeing Chairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg on Sunday said he expected to announce orders for wide-body jets at the Paris show, but his main focus at the event was safety.
Analysts expect anything from 400 to 800 commercial aircraft orders and commitments at the gathering, compared with 959 at Farnborough last year, though it can be hard to identify truly new business against firmed-up commitments and switched models.
The Airbus A321XLR will be the longest-range narrow-body jetliner and arrives as airlines look to maximise the flexibility of more fuel-efficient, single-aisle aircraft.
Its range of up to 4,700 nautical miles — about 15 per cent more than the previous A321LR — will leapfrog the out-of-production Boeing 757 and nudges it into the long-jump category occupied by more costly wide-body jets. — Reuters