Airbus will give the market more concrete guidance on the proposed A321XLR in 2019, an aircraft Airbus Commercial Aircraft president Guillaume Faury said can “change the industry.”

“We will be more precise next year,” Faury, who will become group CEO in April 2019, said on the sidelines of the first delivery of an A330-900 to TAP Air Portugal in Toulouse, France. “We have not been shy to say that we want to develop the [A321LR].”

A further upgrade of the A321neo could give the aircraft longer range “and close the gap completely between the single-aisles and widebody aircraft,” he said.

Airbus has been considering an even longer-range version of the A321neo for some time as a competitor to Boeing’s new mid-market aircraft (NMA), which many expect will be launched at the 2019 Paris Air Show. Airbus’ strategy focuses on making the market for the NMA as small as possible by adding capabilities to the A321neo and offering the A330neo at aggressive prices.

According to industry sources, Airbus might add a larger center fuel tank to the A321LR to extend the range from 4,000 nm to more than 4,500 nm. Several configurations have been considered, including a more substantial upgrade with a composite wing, the sources said, but Avolon CEO Domhnal Slattery said he believes Airbus “will focus on the least complicated option.” The Irish lessor and US lessor CIT Aerospace have ordered a total of 69 A320neos and one A321neo. Twenty-one aircraft have been delivered and Avolon has the flexibility to upgrade to other versions.

Airbus has held “high-level talks” about the A321XLR with Avolon, Slattery said.

“Airbus does not need to launch an aircraft” to compete with NMA, he said. He is convinced that Airbus will launch the XLR independently of what Boeing does on NMA because “it is the right thing to do.”

Jens Flottau, jens.flottau@aviationweek.com