By Benjamin Katz
Airbus SE is studying options to extend the range of its A321 narrow-body plane ahead of a decision by Boeing Co. on whether to push ahead with a competing model, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The A321, which already has a long-range variant that can fly 4,000 nautical miles, could get additional fuel tanks that would allow it to fly even further, said the person, who asked not to be named as the discussions are at an early stage. Reuters reported earlier on the deliberations for a new, so-called “A321XLR” model.
Airbus has captured a large chunk of the global market for smaller jets capable of flying long-distance routes such as between secondary airports on either side of the Atlantic. Any move by the European company to develop an even longer-range version will depend partly on whether Boeing opts to go ahead with a new midmarket plane, dubbed the 797, which could be available to airlines by the middle of the next decade.
Teams of Boeing workers have been refining plans for a new 797 jet, which would seat between 220 and 270 passengers and fly about 5,000 nautical miles. This would put pressure on its rival to defend the A321 market share.
“We are continuously looking at ways to advance our product line,” a spokesman for Airbus said by email, denying that there is any pressure to do so. The aircraft has “lots of potential.”