On October 31, 2019, the Vietnamese low-cost airline VietJet has announced that it will add 20 Airbus A321XLR aircraft into its fleet with deliveries starting from 2023.
The announcement comes just a couple of days after IndiGo placed an order for the long-range narrow-body aircraft in one of Airbus’ largest aircraft orders to date.
VietJet to Add the A321XLR to Its Fleet in 2023
Currently, VietJet operates an all-Airbus fleet of a total of more than 60 A320ceos, A321ceos, and A321neos.
As part of the new agreement, VietJet placed a firm order for 15 A321XLRs and converted 5 of its previously ordered but not yet delivered A321neo into the extra long-range version of the aircraft. The A321XLRs’ deliveries will start in 2023.
With that, VietJet’s backlog with Airbus is now 126 airframes strong and includes 106 A321neos and 20 A321XLRs.
Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, VietJet’s President and CEO, had the following to say about the order:
Following the signing of this contract, the new A321XLR will be the perfect upgrade to Vietjet’s fleet as we look to grow our international flight network.
Guillaume Faury, Airbus’ CEO, added that:
This order is another strong endorsement of our decision to bring true long range capability to the singe-aisle market with the A321XLR, enabling airlines to extend their networks at the lowest possible cost. Furthermore, we are also pleased to develop further our collaboration with Vietjet in the area of training.
The new order comes amid the 737MAX – of which the airline is also a customer – grounding. VietJet currently has 200 of the Boeing narrow-bodies on order, a number that previous reports indicated that the airline might consider adjusting downward.
As part of the latest deal, in addition to the new aircraft, VietJet also signed an agreement with Airbus Services that will see Airbus put two full-flight simulators at the airline’s training center in Ho Chi Minh as well as provide a variety of training services.
Where Will VietJet Fly Its A321XLRs?
Airbus offers three variants of the new A321 – A321neo, A321LR, and A321XLR. While the standard A321neo which VietJet currently operates has a range of up to about 3,500 nautical miles, the A321XLR has a considerably longer range of up to 4,700 nautical miles.
Taking into account fuel reserves, headwinds, and so on, the actual range of the aircraft is a bit less than the above. Even taking that into account, however, adding the A321XLR into its fleet will give VietJet many potential new destinations to operate to.
Chances are that VietJet will use the A321XLRs to operate flights to Australia. The airline previously announced its intentions to connect Vietnam with Australian cities including Avalon and Brisbane. Adding the A321XLR will put both of those cities as well as the rest of Australia within a non-stop range out of both Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.
Separately, the new aircraft type will also unlock the option of expanding into the Middle East and parts of Europe. While parts of Africa will be within reach as well, there are likely no destinations within the range that would be attractive for VietJet.
From the passenger experience point of view, the A321XLR might not be the most welcome as it will mean seeing narrow-body aircraft on more and more routes. However, at the same time, the aircraft will allow for thinner – more niche routes.
It will also allow for low-cost airlines like IndiGo and VietJet to expand into long-haul flights, offering passengers additional choices and bringing more competition to the market.
As such, I find this to be a great development and I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with VietJet on a long-haul flight (if the extra legroom seat was as affordable as on my Da Nang – Seoul flight in September).