PARIS: Airbus will launch a long-range version of its A321neo jet at the Paris Air Show on Monday, aiming to carve out new routes for airlines with smaller planes and steal a march on rival Boeing’s plans for a possible new mid-market jet.
The European planemaker will announce close to 200 orders for the new model — the A321XLR — over the week, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The aerospace industry’s biggest annual event, which alternates with Britain’s Farnborough Airshow, is traditionally a slugging match between Airbus and Boeing sales teams in the $150 billion a year commercial aircraft market.
But analysts expect this year’s show to be relatively subdued, with slowing economies, trade tensions and geopolitical uncertainty unsettling airlines, highlighted by a profit warning from Germany’s Lufthansa late on Sunday.
Airbus and Boeing are also grappling with their own problems. The US planemaker strives to bring its top-selling 737 MAX jet back into service after its grounding following two fatal crashes. Airbus, meanwhile, is occupied with a long-running corruption scandal.
Boeing boss Dennis Muilenburg on Sunday said he expected to announce orders for wide-body jets at the show but his main focus at the event is safety.
Analysts expect anything from 400 to 800 commercial aircraft orders and commitments at the show, compared with 959 at Farnborough last year, though it can be hard to identify truly new business against firmed-up commitments and switched models.
Airbus’s A321XLR is set to be the longest-range narrow-body jetliner as airlines look to maximize the flexibility of more fuel-efficient, single-aisle aircraft.
Its range of 4,500 nautical miles will leapfrog the out-of-production Boeing 757 and nudges it into the long-jump category occupied by more costly wide-body jets.
It also eats into a range category targeted by a possible mid-market twin-aisle jet — the NMA — under review by Boeing.
But there is a debate over whether passengers will enjoy flying longer distances in medium-haul planes and at what price.
In particular, the rise of the single-aisle, long-distance jet involves revisiting years of industry marketing about the benefit of roomier cabins to counter jet lag on long trips.
Boeing’s Muilenburg on Sunday said that the A321XLR would only “scratch an edge” of the market segment targeted by the NMA.