United Airlines announced an order for 50 long-range Airbus A321XLR jets last week. The development is being viewed as a huge victory for Airbus. Of course, it's also being viewed as something of a defeat for Boeing. Chicago-based United Airlines will be using the 50 new planes to replace planes in its current fleet of aging Boeing 757-200 aircraft. The new planes should be ready for international service starting at some point in 2024. United intends to use its upcoming long-range Airbus jets for flights between Europe and hubs on the East Coast.
It's not surprising that United has chosen to update its fleet using Airbus jets instead of going with Boeing. United has been struggling to keep routes running in the face of the mass grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX. The 737 MAX has been grounded across the industry ever since a pair of high-profile crashes caused airlines to pull the plane from their itineraries last spring.
Of course, the official word regarding why United has chosen to opt for Airbus models completely skirts any mention of Boeing's current issues. United is simply stating that Boeing doesn't currently have an aircraft that meets its very specific operational needs. The reality is that Boeing is currently too saddled by the controversy surrounding its 737 MAX planes to focus any energy on designing middle-market planes that meet current industry demands.
The A321XLR from Airbus offers the longest range of any single-aisle airliner. In addition, the model's design boasts a fuel burn rate per seat that is lower than the aircraft that precede it. United Airlines was no doubt attracted to this model due to the fact that it blends single-aisle economics with the comfort offered by a wide-body design.