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May 29, 2024
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Rumors about a Boeing 757 replacement from Airbus have been swirling for months.  Many industry followers have been discussing the Boeing 757 replacement “gap” – because the aircraft OEMs today tout as replacements, the A321neo and 737MAX9, don’t quite meet the bar.

The Boeing 757 is a special aircraft with unique payload/range capabilities.  The way the aircraft is used today is quite different than what was envisaged at EIS.  The capability to operate long thin routes enables it to develop new markets, connecting secondary cities in the US with the same in Europe or South America.

Airbus shared with us that their design concept and it consists of the following key data points:

  • True transatlantic range (100NM more range than 757-200w)
  • Similar seat count to 757 but with true long range comfort. Lie flat bed business class and 18″ wide economy comfort.
  • 25% lower cost per seat vs 757.
  • MTOW of 97 tonnes and three extra fuel tanks.
  • EIS is currently foreseen around 2019?.

In addition we understand Airbus is not committed to this concept without sufficient orders.

So what we have here is a conversation piece for now.  However, where would Airbus start to make its sales pitch?  Clearly it would aim at any and all 757 operators.  As of today, there 963 Boeing 757s in operation.  The chart shows us where they are located.

Airbus is obviously going to focus on the North American market where 71% of the Boeing 757 fleet is located.  That means focusing on three major customers, American, Delta and United.  The current 757s are likely to retire and if they have a second life, it will be at FedEx and UPS.  To sell a new 757 replacement therefore means pitching the Big Three carriers in the US.


We note that the very first item listed by Airbus in describing the new concept is “true transatlantic range”.   While there is a lot of focus on this market by industry analysts and pundits, the reality is that this market is really quite small.

Take a look at this screen shot from FlightRadar24 of Boeing 757s in flight this morning. There are perhaps only a dozen aircraft – under two percent of the fleet – flying trans Atlantic routes.  A senior Airbus official shared with us that they estimate the trans Atlantic 757 replacement market is perhaps as many as 40 aircraft, or four percent of the fleet. That is clearly not enough volume to launch a program.


So what is Airbus up to here?  While described within Airbus as “project study for a higher maximum take of weight version of the A321neo”,  there has to be more to it. This is a disruptive move and we do not believe the timing on this news is related to the current Boeing reporting period.  Indeed, a number of people we spoke within Airbus were surprised by the news.

Some thoughts on the 757 replacement project:

  • Leveraging an existing aircraft design reduces development costs, and the A320neo, particularly with the additional 2% fuel burn reduction available from Pratt & Whitney in 2019, will provide a significant advantage in operating economics.
  • The A321neo may require a bit more tweaking to become a true 757 replacement – but the additional range is the major difference today. The A321 has similar size, but initially had too short a range to effectively compete with the 757 on trans-continental routes in worst-case conditions. The neo, with improved fuel burn combined with additional fuel tanks solve those problems.
  • This move, tantamount to throwing down the gauntlet to the 737MAX9, is quite clever. The 737MAX9 cannot do what the 757 does, which Icelandair has confirmed to us. The 737MAX9 also suffers from runway performance limitations, like the 737-900ER from which it is derived. Consequently, Boeing will be under some market pressure, and they will certainly not take the potential loss of market share with the Big Three US customers without a fight.
  • In addition, with the MAX9 under market pressure, the MAX7 is seeing slow sales, sparking speculation as to whether Boeing will really build the model for a handful of aircraft. If Airbus can put further pressure on the MAX9 and attracts customers for a longer-range A321, the MAX8 will be the only member of the MAX family selling well.
  • Moreover, the MAX200, derived from the MAX8, accomplishes much of the mission for which the MAX9 was intended.

It would appear that Airbus is making a smart move strategically. A derivative model of the A321 is low cost and low risk, and can easily integrate with any of the Big Three, each of which operate Airbus narrow-bodies. The A320 family airframe, being newer than the 737 with higher ground clearance, is easier to enhance with new engine technology.

Boeing, if pressured by this move, may be forced to accelerate a 737 replacement. That could be bad news for CFM, whose LEAP 1B is exclusive to 737MAX, as any 737 replacement aircraft will likely require more thrust than currently available from the LEAP platform without upward scaling a new engine.

Boeing could always go back to the well and request more tax breaks to keep Renton in operation long-term and fund a 737 replacement.  Money may not be the hurdle it appears.  But of course this could not be accomplished by 2019 in order to compete with a potential enhanced A320 family.

The Bottom Line

If Airbus is able to attract interest from the US Big Three and launch this aircraft, which could even be built in Mobile thereby making it even more attractive (with potential tax breaks from Alabama?), Boeing will be under some pressure to accelerate its planned new narrow-body program by several years.  Given the importance to Boeing of the 737, there should be no doubt how the company will react – they will move quickly to defend this revenue stream.

19 thoughts on “Airbus is offering an A321 with longer range as a 757 replacement

  1. This is would be incredible – the opposite of what they’ve done in the widebody market.

    A short while ago, Jon Ostrower said Boeing still had the 757 tooling in Renton. Could we see a re-engined 757 MAX emerge instead? Maybe with a more capable Pratt & Whitney GTF. 737 MAX or 787 style flight deck — the 737 MAX will have 787 style displays? Too much investment for 1,000 planes?

  2. The 737MAX will become an interim aircraft. Boeing will have no choice but to develop a true 757 replacement, a shorter version of which will en up supplanting the 737MAX.

    After all the years since the end of 757 production, a simple MAXing of this older plane seems implausible. Boeing has to go to a wider fuselage and could match new composite wings to an aluminium-lithium fuselage, as on the CSeries.

  3. Where would the fuel tanks go? I presume the stubby A321 wings are already filled in the 30K liter version. So, I’m thinking there would be some type of center (fuselage) fuel tank in the forward baggage area. Maybe less baggage space is not an issue, although longer flights often see heavier baggage loads.

    How would the performance be affected by the extra weight of the fuel? The A321 is not exactly a star performer coming off the runway, worse than the 737-900ER. Keep in mind that the NEO is already going to be a fair bit heavier than the CEO with bigger fans on the wings. The “sharklets” help primarily in cruise, not off the runway. So there is even more weight and drag from those.

    All this to say, I’m not sure the A321NEO will ever be a true 757 replacement. To do so would, in my opinion, require re-winging or at least a wing tip extension like the A330NEO. Perhaps a true 757 replacement is not really needed. I see the “Big Three” operating old 757 routes with 737NG and A320 all the time. The planes are packed, but the issue of capacity seems to be one they are wiling to sacrifice for yield and/or address primarily with frequency in lieu of larger aircraft.

    As you wrote, 757s are seldom used at max ranges. So why the big need to replace them? Frequency can address the most important issue at hand, which is capacity. Range seems secondary to me.

    This sounds like another Airbus PR stunt to distract from the real problem, which is the bludgeoning they are taking in the wide body market as a result of the 777 & 787 strategy against the A350 and now the A330NEO.

    Boeing should not be distracted by this. They need to execute the current plan: 787, 737Max, and 777X; then dive into a new single aisle (NSA) clean sheet design.

  4. I would say no. The A321LR is just an A321NEO with the already available auxiliary fuel tanks for the A320 business jets. So an A321LR is not really a big deal. I guess just paper work.

    The main difference between any 757MAX and the A321LR will be required gate size and the A320 capability to accept LD3-45 container. The big difference for operational empty weight will also stay. Therefore a 757MAX can’t match with a A321LR. This case for the 757 is terminated.

    A 757MAX would need far more range than the A321LR but where is the business case for such a range? US west coast to Asia? Airbus could offer a cheap A330R for such range. No container vs. LD3. Also imagine more than 10 hours inside a 737 size fuselage and seat size!

  5. The idea with a wing extension is probably the best solution for this plane, better than winglets.
    As there will be fewer seats on the LR-version, there will be less need for baggage too, not that the 321 freight compartment would be filled to the brim anyway. So there should be plenty of room for the tanks.
    It is not only trans-atlantic, but this plane offers chances on many thin city-pairs that can not be served profitably up to now – including the 757. For that reason I don’t think only the big three US carriers will be interested, but other airlines around the world will find new opportunites.

  6. For B757 replacement, Yes, I feel, Boeing will not leave the site free for Airbus alone, Boeing tools, technology and experience are there to be applied and B757 MAX will be introduced soon by Boeing. it is a matter of time as what happens with B737 MAX.

  7. Dear Scratch, what exactly do you mean by “… bludgeoning they are taking in the wide body market as a result of the 777 & 787 strategy against the A350 and now the A330NEO.”

    May I remind you of a couple of simple figures:
    Airbus has sold as many A330s since the 787 launch as Boeing has sold 787s.
    Since 2008 Airbus has sold more A330/A350s (953) than Boeing has sold 787/777/777X (936).

    Not sure that the term “bludgeoning” accurately describes the situation …

  8. Christian,

    Orders mean nothing. They are a cheap commodity by airline standards. Deliveries are a more valid metric. The reality is that Boeing is now and will continue to take wide body marketshare from Airbus going forward.

    While A330 production rates are now on the decline, the 787 rates are hitting stride. The 777 will continue at 8.33 per month until close to the 777X phase in. While the A350 test program has gone well, there are serious questions about the production ramp up. Add to that the cancellation of the A358 and questions about the -1000’s ability to compete against the 777X. The A380 program continues to lose money, and the A330NEO probably steals as many A350 orders as it does 787 orders, if not more.

    In sum, it looks really bad for Airbus. Their product offering in the wide body space is a mess. There are huge gaps in size and effective competitors bracketing both the A350 and the NEO.

  9. The real pb, Scratch, is A321LR availability : if Airbus had 300 of them here and now, they would all be gone in a snap of time. Unless another boost to monthly throughput ?, earliest free A321 delivery slot is somewhen in 2019 ? Therefore, MAX-ing the old but still active 757s on a retrofit basis (+ winglet retrofit) would usefully help extend operational life another 10 years … after all, that’s a solution, in preference to passive waitn’see until you can lay your hands upon another A321 ? The ROIC of such a retrofit job would be very attractive !!

  10. So what? Current 757s are being replaced now by A321 and 739. The intro of LR changes very little. Boeing is headed towards 50+ 737 per month and leads A320 in deliveries this year of NG vs CEO. I think a re-engined 767-2C would be a much better response than 757 again. The line is already up and running and the re-engine would have lots of options, GEnx and RR Trent. Trip costs might be higher, but seat costs would be less, and the twin aisle product would be better for quick turns and passenger comfort on longer flights. Either way, I consider this a niche market, not worth making a large investment on.

  11. I feel the same way. The 767-200 with seating in the 210-240 range, it would be a low cost upgrade. I wonder how much weight could be trimmed from this 1980’s frame and could interior walls be shaved to allow wider aisles . The only thing it might lack is the 757’s great short field performance, but if its better than the 737-9MAX and the A321NEOLR, we could have a winner here. Easy transatlantic, and South America range and more city pairs than the 757.
    The 767 line will be open for quite a while and it might attract more interest than a 757MAX.

  12. Scratch,
    Saying that orders don’t count reminds me of Boeing’s PR messages in the early 2000s when Airbus was winning the order race but not yet the delivery race. A couple of years later orders became deliveries and Airbus lead on both fronts.

    True, Airbus just reduced A330 rates. You believe that 777 rates will continue at 8.33 per month, I’ll bet you they won’t unless they sell them at a big loss. At that rate they would have almost 300 slots to fill until the 777X. How many are they selling currently? 40 in 2015 so far, if my numbers are right … do the math!

    I’m not sure what Boeing is trying to achieve by banging the rate increase drum. My fear is that they will revert back to the wild production swings of the 90s and early 2000s where they yoyo-ed between 300 and 600 aircraft per year. This cannot be good for the industry, talk to a few lessors and I believe they will concur with me.

    Back to product strategy. The A330neo and the A350-900/1000 are well spaced going from 250 to 290 to 330 to 370 seats. I don’t see how the neo will eat into A350 orders, they are different aircraft sizes for different markets. The only order book that the neo will continue eat into is the 787s as the current A330 has done already.

    And 777X vs -1000? Just one number: 35. That’s how many tons heavier the 777X will be compared to the A350-1000, and it will only bring 35 more seats.

    Last but not least, the A380. Again, just one number: 70. That’s how many orders the aircraft got in the past 12 months. Add to that the raving comments from airline CEOs about the A380 whenever they get a chance (see Tim Clark and Willie Walsh recently).

    And I almost forgot, how about the single aisle market? Market share is still 60/40 in favor of the Neo well after the MAX launch. The 737MAX is essentially a one product family, with only 40% market share. The MAX7 is dead, the MAX9 not far form it, and the MAX8 just ate into the MAX9 big time when Boeing launched the MAX8-200. Oh, I forgot, only deliveries count … do we seriously believe that all those 50+ aircraft by month they want to produce will be MAX8?

  13. @Scratch
    It’s OK being a Boeing fanboi, but this is just silly.
    Yes, the A321neoLR will have two additional centre tanks (ACT) in the forward part of the aft hold and one ACT in the aft part of the forward hold.
    No, the A321 does not have worse field performance than the 737-900ER. In fact, it’s much better thanks to the higher thrust of the engines and higher rotation angle; the llatter point due to the fuselage of the 737-900ER which is positioned much closer to the ground than what’s the case for the A321.
    Astuteman over at a.net wrote an excellent comment about this today:
    I’ll have to apologise again. When I look at the ACAP documents, there appears to be nothing too shabby about the A321’s field performance. Unlike the 739.
    • If the 116t 757 with P+W 2040 engines takes 7 500ft at sea level at ISA + 14 c
    • If the 93.5t A321 with CFM’s takes 8 500ft at sea level at ISA + 15c
    • If the winglets will improve that performance by 3t of TOW for a given field length
    • If i.e. an A321NEO will take about 8 000ft at sea level at ISA + 15c
    • If the A321NEO LR gains 6% more thrust over the regular A321NEO yet is only 3.5% heavier at MTOW.
    • If anything, it’s field performance will be better than the A321NEO.
    • If I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call a take-off performance within a few hundred feet of the 757’s as “shabby”.
    Feel free to have a go at the 737-900ER though. That requires the neck end of 11 000ft under the same conditions.
    If you want to describe something as “shabby”.
    It’s absolutely not in the same league as the 757 or A321NEO

    Source: Reply 9 in the link below.
    As for the sharklets; well, I’m sorry to say that yet again you manage to come across as someone who has absolutely no clue about what you’re talking about.
    Please do read this linked document closely:
    Starting on page 16:
    Sharklets improve take-off performance
    • If facing obstacles or climb limitations, Sharklets will increase take-off weight (up to 3 tonnes) by:
    • Improving second segment performance
    • Clearing more obstacles
    • Higher initial cruise altitude

    Scratch: “All this to say, I’m not sure the A321NEO will ever be a true 757 replacement. To do so would, in my opinion, require re-winging or at least a wing tip extension like the A330NEO. Perhaps a true 757 replacement is not really needed”
    -Oh well, the A321neoLR will be a true 757 replacement whether you like it or not. It doesn’t require a new wing and it already has wing tip extensions in the form of sharklets. As a matter of fact, the wing aspect ratio i.e. wingspan squared divided by wing area) of the basic 757 wing is pretty lousy; It’s about 8, although the winglets added to the 757 wing as a retrofit increased the wing aspect ratio to 9.32. For the A320ceo and A321 ceo, however, the wing aspect ratio 9.48 and 9.23 respectively. For the A320neo and A321neo, it’s 10.45 and 10.17 respectively. So, the wingleted 757 only managed to roughly equal the A321ceo wing in aspect ratio. As you perhaps noticed in the link to the Airbus sharklets publication (page 10); the lift-dependent-drag is inversely proportional to the square of the span, thus an obvious way to reduce drag is to increase the span.
    Now, you may have noticed that with the new engine technology now coming online with the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan engine family as well as the LEAP-X family, about 15 percent less fuel is required for the same payload/range. This means, of course, that if the wingleted 757-200 was still in production, its range would be increased to more than 4500nm (i.e. pax and bags; no additional cargo), if it would be outfitted with the same type of engines. For example, that’s why the medium-ranged-designed “A-market” A330-300 will almost be transformed into a “B-market” aircraft merely by re-engining the aircraft with the Trent-7000 engines, in addition to a few aerodynamic tweaks. Doing the same thing to a “B-market” aircraft such as the 777-200ER would only turn it into a “C-market” aircraft — a market segment that’s just a niche (i.e 777-200LR and A340-500). BTW, that’s part of the reason why the A330neo looks to be quite a headache for Boeing. The current A330ceo has a wing aspect ratio of 10.06 while the A330ceo will have a wing aspect ratio of 11.07! (i.e assuming wing area is increased from 361.6m to 370m). The 787 wing, on the other hand has only an aspec ratio of 9.48 while it’s 8.91 for the 777-300ER. Hence, it’s pretty clear that the A321neoLR will have a more than satisfactory wing, and with the only “negative” factor being that it’s fuel volume limited — which is solved by the ACT fuel tanks.
    NB: One source re: wing aspect ratio:
    Scratch: “This sounds like another Airbus PR stunt to distract from the real problem, which is the bludgeoning they are taking in the wide body market as a result of the 777 & 787 strategy against the A350 and now the A330NEO.”
    – Again, fanboism at its best; that is, entertainment-wise!
    As a matter of fact, though; just repeating the talking points of VV and Saj Ahmad — over and over again — doesn’t mean that it’s correct and close to the truth. Far from it! The fact is that Boeing is worried about their single aisle market share due to the fact that the 737MAX programme is starting to look more and more like a one trick pony (i.e. 737-9), while the A350 is ready for EIS after what seems to be a near flawless development and flight test programme, while they expect to break-even on the A350 before 2020*; or after having delivered between 350 – 400 A350s. Compare that to the 787 where I would guess the break even is well north of 1200 units at this point. As for the A330neo; it’s one thing that the fanbois are running around saying that everything is hunk dory with Boeing’s WB line-up; whithin Boeing there are quite few people who are worried about Airbus gaining more even more pricing flexibility against the 787 in upcoming RFPs.
    * http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-14/eads-cuts-cashflow-target-as-challenges-continue-on-a350-program.html

  14. Agree. 50+ 737-8MAXes per month will IMJ not be sustainable for very long. On the other hand, I expect Airbus to raise A32Xneo production to 60 a month before the end of the decade and to 70 units per months a few years later. In addition, I would not be surprised if Airbus launched 2 new A32X models; i.e. A322Xneo and A323Xneo. An A322Xneo could be stretched by 6-8 fuselage frames over that of the A320neo; have the same MTOW and trade range for payload/capacity. The payload/range range capability of an A322neo would be similar to today’s A320neo. The A323 could be stretched by 6-8 fuselage frames over that of the A321neo; have the same MTOW as that of the A321neoLR and trade range for payload/capacity. The payload/range capability of an A323Xneo would be similar to todays A321ceo, while its rotation angle at take-off should not be any worse than that of the 757-300.
    NB: The current A321 is a 13 frame stretch of the A320.

  15. Correction:
    The payload/range range capability of an A322neo would be similar to today’s A320ceo — not A320neo as I wrote!

  16. So let Boeing MAX out the 767-2C or both this aircraft AND the still active 752 fleet … the problem is for Boeing to gather enough decision-making impetus to swing around internally soon enough to offer 767MAX + 757MAX (retrofit or newbuilds resurrected ?). I fail to see enough adrenaline in the higher spheres Boeing for those guys to pass that kind of decisions ? And LD2 containers are not so popular with Forwarders either …

  17. OV-099 : from the outset the A322 is a fully defined concept, ie, from the very launch of the A32X family in the early ’80ies : it is a 10 frames/210″ stretch beyond A321, with capability for 7 aft + 6 fwd, total 13 AKH. Take-off rotation angle is very precisely 10º (for DC-8-63 the r.a. was 8.3º and is considered a lower limit) or 1.3º less than today’s A321.

  18. You should stick to posting on VeroVenia’s blog, it’s the only place where your BS will be tolerated, encouraged and left unchallenged.

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