This morning Air Canada announced it is acquiring 26 extra-long range (XLR) versions of the Airbus A321neo. Air Canada cites sufficient range to serve all North American and select transatlantic markets while offering customers added comfort and improving the carrier’s fuel efficiency to advance its environmental programs. 

Deliveries begin in 1Q24 and the final aircraft should be delivered in 1Q27. Fifteen aircraft will be leased from Air Lease Corporation and come from ALC’s order book with Airbus, to which it added twenty XLRs at the Dubai Airshow. The aircraft from ALC will join in 2024 and 2025. Five more will be leased from AerCap, and six acquired under a purchase agreement with Airbus. The deal includes purchase rights for an additional 14 aircraft between 2027 and 2030. 

Airbus’ PR states: “Air Canada has confirmed an order with Airbus for six A321XLR aircraft, previously listed as undisclosed in the Airbus order book. With this commitment, Air Canada’s A321XLR fleet will comprise 26 aircraft including 20 additional A321XLRs the carrier is acquiring through lessors.

Air Canada goes on to state its A321XLRs will accommodate 182 passengers in a configuration of 14 lie-flat Air Canada Signature Class seats and 168 Economy Class seats. Among the aircraft’s amenities, customers will enjoy next-generation seatback entertainment, access to inflight Wifi, and a spacious cabin design featuring generous overhead baggage storage bins. With a range of approximately 8,700 kilometers and an ability to fly up to 11 hours, the A321XLR can operate non-stop anywhere across North America and, pending Transport Canada approval for overseas operations, also fly transatlantic missions, bolstering the carrier’s hubs and network. Air Canada is in the process of selecting an engine manufacturer for its A321XLR aircraft.

No engine selection made

Air Canada, which reported an extremely challenging year in 2021, has not announced its engine choice but given the use of the Pratt & Whitney GTF on their A220 fleet, we are inclined to think the GTF has the edge.  The selection of this aircraft means Air Canada will cherry-pick markets across the Atlantic – not just Europe, but even North Africa, specifically even Casablanca.  Moreover, after the collapse of the deal with AirTransat, this is this move is the other shoe dropping.  Air Canada will be able to overmatch Air Transat from Montreal and has the ability to feed ts flights. 

Another thought worth noting: Air Canada is a MAX customer and does not see the MAX as an option for this type of service.  Their A321XLR deal is, potentially, 40 aircraft.  This is not a niche decision, Air Canada ordered 40 MAX8 and has taken 33 deliveries.  Here we have another long-term Boeing customer moving in the direction of the A321.

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Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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