Qantas has become the latest airline to order the Airbus A321XLR, with conversions and new orders covering 36 of the new variant.

The Australian flag carrier said it will convert 26 existing A321neo orders to the XLR, and will add another 10 new orders. This will boost the carrier’s total A320neo-family orders to 109, including 28 A321LRs and 45 A320neos.

Such a move was not a surprise, as Qantas executives had said at the IATA annual meeting in Seoul on June 3 that they were “very interested” in the potential of the XLR and had held conversations with Airbus about the aircraft.

Airbus officially launched the XLR program at the Paris Air Show on June 17.

Qantas said XLR deliveries will begin in its 2024 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2023. The 28 LRs are scheduled to be delivered first, between mid-2020 and mid-2022.

While the LRs have been earmarked for the Jetstar LCC subsidiary, Qantas said the XLRs could potentially be used by any of the group airlines. “We’ll take a decision closer to the time about which parts of the group will use these aircraft, but there is plenty of potential across Qantas and Jetstar,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce. The airline has not yet revealed whether the XLRs are intended for replacement or growth.

Qantas noted the XLR will increase its network options and flexibility, as the aircraft could be used to either open new routes or replace widebodies on existing routes. It could fly routes such as Cairns, Australia-Tokyo or Melbourne-Singapore, which are beyond the range of other narrowbodies, Joyce said. Its range and size “changes the economics of lots of potential routes into Asia to make them not just physically possible but financially attractive.”

Adrian Schofield, adrian.schofield@informa.com