People gathered at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport on 25 September 2014 to witness the historic first “neo” flight – Photo: Airbus
Recently, Leeham News broke news to the world that Airbus is offering a new variant of the A321neo. This aircraft, dubbed the A321neoLR (rolls right off the tongue, right?) is set to extend the range of the aircraft an additional 400-500 nautical miles (nm) over the standard A321neo (now slated to be around the 4,000 nm mark). Airbus has confirmed the aircraft, according to Leeham, and they say that it will have a 100 nm range advantage over the 757-200W, the variant used primarily for trans-Atlantic flights.
Is this new aircraft the death knell finally for the 757?
The 737-900ER is a popular choice as a longer-range aircraft to replace older 757s, but is it the right fit? Photo: Alaska Airlines
We have looked multiple times at the differences between the 757 & the A321. The two aircraft have always gone back and forth as apparent direct competitors and even the new 737-900ER, which seem to be extremely popular with airlines like Delta, Alaska or the Lion Air Group from Indonesia, can’t seem to replace the 757.
What keeps Boeing from producing a new aircraft to properly replace the 757?
An American Airlines 757-200 at Los Angeles, a sight that can’t last forever – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com
If you fly long-haul in North America you have probably flown on a narrow bodied aircraft. Whether it be transcontinental flights between the coasts or flying transatlantic between the USA and Europe, the North American airlines just love to use these smaller, more efficient aircraft. For me, the daddy of these aircraft is the Boeing 757, which is no longer in production but still is the stalwart of the narrow bodies.
Flying with Delta, United, US Airways and American Airlines you will more than likely step onto a 757-200 or the super long 757-300 for a flight to Hawaii, New York or even London. But what happens when this aircraft goes out of service? What is there to replace it? As the 757s start to be retired from service due to age (US Airways is already doing this), the airlines are going to have to start replacing these aircraft with something… but what?
A Rough Chart showing Etops 60 vs Etops 120 between New York and London
You need to look first at what makes these aircraft so popular: the passenger to range ratio. The 757 has that unique mix of enough passengers on-board with the range to get it over an ocean or across a large continent without a hassle, while still maintaining reasonable fuel burn costs. The narrow body set up (single aisle) allows the flight to serve routes, and especially cities, which would not be able to handle the wide body (generally double aisle) aircraft such as the Boeing 767, Boeing 777 or Airbus A330.
Historically if you were going to fly long-haul you needed four engines. Even as far back as the Boeing 707 or the Douglas DC 8, these aircraft were designed to fly those long haul routes with engines for backup, should one fail. Then along came aircraft like the Boeing 757, 767 and Airbus A300. They only had two engines, but were still able to cover long distances over water with only minor changes.
Although ETOPS (Extended Range Twin Engine Operations) has been around for quite some time it had always been restricted 60 minutes, then it was extended to 120 minutes. The 120 extension came in to help flights across the Atlantic to London.
A United 757-300, the Aircraft that never ends – Photo: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com
At a 60 minute rating they would have to fly from New York to London over Iceland to ensure that there was a landing site in range within 60 minutes. With new engine & navigation technology, came the introduction of 120 rating (though 180 minute etops is now the standard). It meant you could go direct over the ocean without a worry, as half way across you would still be within 2 hours of Iceland or New York or London. This revolutionized air travel.
As technology progressed more, the ETOPS ratings extended out, with Boeing currently holding a 330 minute rating for the 777 & 787 aircraft. Airbus is expecting a 350 minute rating for the new A350 XWB.
Today, narrow body aircraft serve plenty of ETOPS routes. Alaska Airlines operates the Boeing 737-800 & 900 from the west coast to Hawaii and there are quite a few rumors that Southwest might join them with their 737-800’s as well.
The A320 family though does some interesting ETOPS flights as well. The Airbus A318, also known as the Baby Bus, flies across the Atlantic with British Airways and Air Canada Air Canada flies an A319; a long way to go on such a small aircraft. When you have long thin routes (long distance, small amount of passengers) you need to use an appropriate aircraft.
But which aircraft will most likely fill the gap that the 757 will leave? Boeing has the 737-900ER and variants of the new 737 Max as well. Airbus is offering the A321 and soon the A321neo.
The A320neo family should extend the range of this aircraft by a good 600 miles. This could be the difference of serving a route or not and combines the capacity of the original A321, with the range of an A319 (the aircraft in the Airbus narrow body family with the longest range).
American Airlines has selected the A321 to replace its aging 757-200s and 767-200s on its transcontinental routes. Hawaiian Airlines just ordered the A321neo to expand its ETOPS operations. Flights from Honolulu to Los Angeles for instance are in the range of an A321neo and by utilizing this aircraft, they can free up some of their A330s or 767s to serve other, longer routes or routes that need the higher capacity. The A321neo will allow them to expand to possible new markets that do not have the demand for the larger A330 or 767.
Other airlines, like Icelandair, which currently only operates a fleet of Boeing 757s, are planning to expand their operations by introducing 12 737 MAX 8 and 9 aircraft. United Airlines, which currently has over 150 757s has ordered 100 737 MAX aircraft, which many will be used to replace the aging 757s.
Mock up of what Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A321NEO will look like. Aircraft image from Airbus, edited by Brandon Farris.
The new Airbus A321neo and 737 9 MAX will change the narrow body long range family, as it takes over those routes the 757 currently serves. This will also put more 757s on the market and possibly low cost carriers like Allegiant Air, might be able to add more 757s to their fleet and expand their ETOPs flights.
These aircraft and other new ones like it should replace those venerable 757s flying the sky at the moment. It will be good for those flying on-board, as new aircraft means a better on-board experience, but for some like me, it will be a sad day to see fewer 757s take flight. Seeing that ungainly long body of the 757-300, which looks like it shouldn’t exist on such a thin aircraft, is an amazing sight. When you step on-board, the single aisle looks like it will never end. Hopefully these new aircraft can inspire similar thoughts amongst future generations of AvGeeks.
||This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos
Mock up of what Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A321neo will look like. Aircraft image from Airbus. Can you tell where the background image was taken (it is a real photograph by Brandon Farris).
On Monday Hawaiian Airlines made a big announcement that it was ordering the Airbus A321neo to add to its expanding fleet.
The order is for 16 A321neo’s along with the rights to purchase up to nine more of the type. The carrier currently has 43 aircraft that is a mix of Boeing 767-300ER that it primarily uses on its west coast operations from the islands, the A330-200 used on international long haul ops and the Boeing 717 that it uses for inter-island hopping.
“Everyone at Hawaiian wants us to keep our position as the market leader in service quality, cost efficiency and choice of destinations. Ordering the A321neo will secure this legacy on routes to the U.S. West Coast beyond the middle of this decade,” said Mark Dunkerley, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines. “The A321neo will be the most fuel-efficient aircraft of its type after its introduction in 2016. With its slightly smaller size we’ll be able to open new markets that are not viable for wide-body service, while also being able to augment service on existing routes to the West Coast of North America.”
At 146-feet-long, the A321neo will seat approximately 190 passengers in a two-class configuration (First and Coach) and has a range of 3,650 nautical miles. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, however, the aircraft have a total list-price value of approximately $2.8 billion if all of the purchase rights are exercised.
The new acquisitions are also contingent upon Hawaiian signing new agreements with its pilots and flight attendant unions covering operation of the new aircraft type. If new agreements are reached, the fleet expansion is expected to generate roughly 1,000 additional jobs at the airline.
“This is a significant investment in the future of both Hawaiian and Hawaii. Our tourism-based economy and local employment will benefit as we continue our strategy of diversifying our business while improving the efficiency of our operation,” Dunkerley commented.
This is the current range of the A321 from Hawaii. The A321NEO will add an additional 450 miles.
“We have come to think of Hawaiian Airlines as ‘ohana’ (family) and are very pleased to add yet another branch to our tree with this pending expansion of the Hawaiian Airbus fleet,” said John Leahy, Airbus chief operating officer, customers. “Hawaiian has gotten great results with their A330s.”
There is much speculation from analyst and fans where the aircraft will be flown, whether they will take over the current 767 west coast routes or lead to expansion for Hawaiian to operate to new west coast operations. By the time these aircraft join the fleet their 767’s will be around 18 to 20 years old for the leased ones and 30 years with the four that it purchased from Delta in 2005.
Other ideas are this purchase is to keep the A350 and A330-200s free to continue what has been a rather aggressive expansion from the quite airlines on the islands.
||This story written by…Brandon Farris, Correspondent. Brandon is an avid aviation geek based in Seattle. He got started in Photography and Reporting back in 2010. He loves to travel where ever he has to to cover the story and try to get the best darn shot possible.
@BrandonsBlog | RightStuffPhotography | Flickr