Airbus has delivered the first A321LR long-range narrowbody to launch customer Arkia Airlines.
The delivery ceremony was held at Airbus’s facility in Hamburg, Germany on November 13 with representatives from the Israel-based airline, Airbus executives, invited guests and media.
The A321LR 4X-AGH took off from Hamburg on its ferry flight to Tel Aviv a little after 1420, landing at Ben Gurion International Airport about four hours later.
Arkia, which became the launch customer for the A321LR following the collapse of Primera, has fitted A321LR with 220 seats in a one-class configuration. The aircraft is powered with CFM LEAP 1-A engines.
Stunning performance to commemorate the world’s first commercial #A321LR aircraft…?✈️
• 4,000+ nautical miles range
• Launch customer: ARKIA pic.twitter.com/x2jXHtInQJ
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) November 13, 2018
The airline has two more A321LRs on order.
The A321LR (which is also known as the A321neoLR) began flight testing earlier in 2018.
The aircraft has a maximum seating capacity of 244 passengers and a range of up to 4,000nm, according to the Airbus website.
In terms of potential new routes in this part of the world, that puts almost all of mainland Australia potentially within range from numerous cities in Asia such as Manila-Melbourne (3,397nm), Perth-Chennai (3,384nm), Singapore-Sydney (3,396nm) or Auckland-Denpasar (3,641nm).
As part of the 100-hour flight test program, the A321LR in March operated a nonstop flight from Mahe in the Seychelles islands to Toulouse, covering a total distance of 4,750nm in 11 hours.
In addition to the 16-member flight test crew, the cabin also included 162 “human heat-replicating dummy passengers”, Airbus said on April 11.
Jetstar to get first A321LR in 2020
Qantas announced in February 2018 it had ordered 18 A321LRs for its low-cost-carrier unit Jetstar, with the arrival of the first aircraft scheduled for mid-2020.
The A321LRs will be the first aircraft to be delivered from the Qantas Group’s longstanding order for 99 A320neo family aircraft, which will be powered by CFM LEAP 1-A engines.
At the time of the announcement, Qantas said the A321LR would be able to operate Jetstar’s Melbourne and Sydney to Bali routes, freeing up Boeing 787-8s to be redeployed to other destinations in China, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Honolulu in the United States.
Further the A321LR would give Jetstar a flexible aircraft capable of operating domestically in Australia during the day and then an overnight international service from Australia’s east coast to Bali or an international route of similar stage length.
Jetstar group chief executive Gareth Evans said in August the A321LR could potentially also open up some new routes in addition to replacing the 787-8s on Bali.
Evans said there was much work and planning currently underway for the mid-2020 entry into service of the A321LR, which he described as a “small aircraft with a very competitive unit cost that can go a long way”.
“Our network people are having a field day trying to work out where the opportunities are and they’ve got a few ideas as well,” Evans told a CAPA – Centre for Aviation conference in Sydney.
Jetstar’s A321LRs are the only order for the type in Oceania.
However, Air New Zealand has received the first of seven A321neo and six A320neo narrowbodies on order. The 13 aircraft will replace existing A320ceos currently being flown on trans-Tasman and Pacific Islands routes.
The New Zealand carrier also has seven A321neos on order for its domestic operations.
Philippine Airlines became the first operator to fly the A321neo to Australia on July 3, when flight PR221, operated by RP-C9930, touched down at Brisbane Airport a little after 0900, following its seven and a half hour journey from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
And Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) was the first to fly the A320neo to Australia when necessary engine inspections on its Boeing 787-8 fleet forced it to downgauge a couple of Bandar Seri Begawan-Melbourne rotations in August to the Airbus narrowbody.
At the end of October 2018, Airbus had received 2,212 orders for the A321neo, with 89 aircraft delivered, figures from its website showed. The manufacturer does not break down the number into A321neo and A321LR variants.
VIDEO: A look at the A321LR’s first flight in January 2018 from Airbus’s YouTube channel.