French carrier La Compagnie has introduced its first Airbus A321neoLR into scheduled service on flights between Paris Orly and Newark Liberty International airport. The debut of the new generation airliner in the trans-Atlantic market represents a step change in the business airline’s offer, delivering significant operational and environmental benefits while providing enhanced comfort and services to passengers.
La Compagnie is an airline with a difference, offering a single all-business class offering. Until now, this has been provided using two Boeing 757-200s configured with 74-seats, but the arrival of the first of two A321neoLRs has boosted seat capacity to 76 seats and enhanced the offering with fully-flat seats in a 2-2 configuration, versus the angled lie-flat seat used on the older 757s.
The French airline is leasing the A321neo from GECAS has fitted it out with the Collins Aerospace Diamond Seat. “Business-class democratisation is in our DNA. With our A321neo we will be able to offer the best to our passengers without the price tag,” explains Jean Charles Périno, executive vice president of Sales and Marketing for La Compagnie.
The two additional seats help with the economics, while the improved interiors certainly help attract and maintain customers, but it is the basic efficiency of the new airliner that delivers the most notable economic benefits for La Compagnie. At a time that fuel prices have been edging upwards, the A321neoLR is expected to deliver an up to 30% improved fuel efficiency on the Paris – Newark route versus the 757.
La Compagnie will celebrate the fifth anniversary of its launch next month and it is considering expanding beyond the comfort of the Paris – New York market. It has settled into Orly airport having originally started flights from Charles de Gaulle, and has now also added a seasonal link between Nice and Newark.
A previous attempt to offer flights between London Luton and Newark was suspended due to economic repercussions post the Brexit vote in the UK, but the airline continues to consider potential other routes. Its general manager Christian Vernet says the carrier could integrate additional A321neo aircraft into its fleet after 2021 “if we find projects that are promising”. In the meantime a second A321neoLR is due for delivery at the start of Sep-2019, but this will directly replace one of the existing two 757-200s.
The A321neoLR is currently the world’s longest range narrowbody, albeit a new longer range version the A321neoXLR was formally launched at the start of this week on the opening day of the Paris Air Show. The additional range the new variant can provide has grabbed the attention of a number of the world’s airlines even though there are only six A321neoLRs currently in service with five airlines.
Airbus had been talking to customers about a possible A321neoXLR since the middle of last year. While Boeing may have been right with the way the widebodied market was developing (787 versus A380), Airbus appears to be taking advantage at the top end of the single-aisle market, especially while the 737MAX remains grounded. Notably, last week American Airlines was added to the list of airlines Airbus has reportedly spoken to about the aircraft. This list also includes JetBlue Airways, Air Malta, IndiGo, Azul and AirAsia.
The A321neoXLR has been launched with a commitment for 27 aircraft for Air Lease Corporation, described by Airbus as an industry “reference” for many airline fleet decisions. Middle East Airlines has also agreed to acquire four aircraft to strengthen its network in Africa and Asia. Other deals are expected to be confirmed during the trade days at the Paris Air Show.
Led by the A321neoLR and now the A321neoXLR, the development and growth of a competitive long haul narrowbody market is opening up new city pairs that were not economical with widebodies on a pure point-to-point basis. It is also prompting new business models, such as LCCs, to challenge the dominance of legacy airlines on long haul routes.
A recent analysis by CAPA – Centre for Aviation, ‘Airbus A321neoLR: the longest range narrowbody, for now‘, highlights that more than half of the A321neoLRs ordered or in service (including La Compagnie’s premium arrangement) have a single cabin configuration, indicating a low cost/hybrid business model.
As the report says: “The flexibility of the new generation offers an array of possibilities for airline network planners – and, equally, a target for airport business development professionals. The combinations of frequency, configuration and range (where for example range can be challenged by the need to allow space for cargo) become much greater now that unit seat costs in smaller aircraft can become so competitive.”