To increase the range by 8,700 km, the A321XLR was equipped with a heavily modified fuel system. New fuel tanks were installed on the liner, which will help increase the flight range of the A321XLR — marking means suitability for ultra-long flights — by about 15% compared to the A321LR. This is 30% more than the standard A321neo, which is used for short haul flights.
It is precisely because of the unique ability to make long-haul flights of up to 11 hours with 220 passengers on board that the A321XLR has been acquired by a number of airlines , including American Airlines, Air Canada, Qantas, and United Airlines.
Ultra-efficient and much cheaper to operate than standard wide-body aircraft that typically fly long distances, the A321XLR will be especially popular with fuel-efficient airlines. Unless, of course, Airbus convinces passengers that a single-aisle aircraft can offer the same comfort as wide-body giants.
Airlines plan to install fully reclining business class seats with direct access to the aisle, and in economy class, the aircraft manufacturer promises “real comfort on long flights”; with 46 cm wide seats as standard and modern entertainment features.
However, before the A321XLR can begin commercial flights, Airbus needs to complete a certification flight test campaign that began just a few months ago. The main task was to prove that the “long-range” The A321XLR can indeed fly long distances seamlessly.
On Tuesday, Airbus did just that, flying one of its test A321XLRs through a giant loop over Europe and even taking the time to “paint” XLR symbols in the sky off the coast of France over the Bay of Biscay.
In this test flight, the aircraft exceeded the required certification time by two hours. The new fuel system worked exactly as the designers intended.
The A321XLR is currently slated to enter service in 2024 — if there are no problems with the supply chain and production delays. Then it will be possible to say for sure whether Airbus's grandiose claims of comfort on long-haul flights are true.