Airbus SE will manufacture a new long-range, single-aisle jetliner, the company announced on Monday, creating an opportunity for carriers in markets where demand for international fights may not be enough to fill traditional wide-body planes.
The news is a blow to Boeing, which has delayed its plans to produce a similar aircraft as it strives to get the 737 Max jet back in service after the fleet was grounded following two fatal crashes.
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The Airbus A321XLR, an upgrade on the current A321neo, will begin flying in 2023, two years before Boeing had initially expected to introduce its own midsize plane. It is 30 percent more fuel efficient than jets currently offered by competitors, according to Netherlands-based company, and can fly up to 4,700 miles.
“Airlines will be able to operate a lower-cost single-aisle aircraft on longer and less heavily travelled routes – many of which can now only be served by larger and less efficient wide-body aircraft,” Airbus said in a statement. “This will enable operators to open new world-wide routes such as India to Europe or China to Australia.”
Carriers including JetBlue Airways have already reportedly expressed interest in the A321XLR.
At the Paris Air Show, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the Chicago-based manufacturer is continuing to evaluate whether to move forward with the expected $15 billion investment on its own competing aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration has reportedly informed Boeing it will soon begin flight trials of the software update intended to fix the issues with the Max jet.
Muilenburg acknowledged on Sunday the firm made a “mistake” in how it handled the implementation of a key safety alert that contributed to the crashes.
“We’re going to bring a MAX back up in the air that will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “But we also know it will take time rebuilding the confidence of our customers and the flying public, and this will be a long-term effort.”