American Airlines shows off Airbus A321XLR, talks plans for the jet

It’s still not entirely clear when American Airlines might receive or launch its first Airbus A321XLR aircraft — a single-aisle jet that promises to give it (and its competitors) new flexibility to fly to Europe.

Already, though, the Fort Worth-based carrier is signaling how it plans to first deploy the new aircraft, which will be equipped with its new Flagship business class and a premium economy cabin.

Once delivered and ready to fly, American plans to start the new jet on “premium transcontinental” routes, a top official for the carrier shared this week.

American also released the clearest images of the cabin’s interior that we’ve seen yet. It features new lie-flat private suites, a premium economy cabin and 4K screens throughout the main cabin.

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Starting transcontinental

Currently, American flies its popular A321T on its top transcontinental routes, including New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) as well as between LAX and Boston Logan International Airport (BOS).

American’s Airbus A321T. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

The swanky four-cabin, narrow-body Airbus offers Flagship First and Business class, plus premium economy and a heavy dose of extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra seats.

But, as TPG has reported in recent years, American plans to eventually phase out those A321Ts (along with Flagship First on those aircraft and on its larger Boeing 777-300ER).

Out with the A321T, in with the XLR

As expected, though, the A321Ts will get a premium-heavy replacement: American plans to phase the new A321XLRS in right as the A321Ts are phased out, according to Kimberly Cisek, American’s vice president of customer experience.

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“We’ll start to transition the A321T into the A321XLR. So, this will probably be one of the first routes that the aircraft flies, is our transcon, as we start to transition [the A321T] out],” Cisek explained during remarks at the 2024 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany.

Kimberly Cisek, American Airlines vice president of customer experience, speaks at the 2024 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany. SEAN CUDAHY/THE POINTS GUY

Long-term, though, American — and other carriers — have overseas visions for the jet, too.

A ‘game changer’ of an aircraft

The “XLR” in the A321XLR stands for “Extra Long Range.”

With a range of 4,700 nautical miles boasted by Airbus, the jet’s fuel efficiency makes it a candidate for international routes — including transatlantic flights between parts of the U.S. and Europe.

It’s an enticing prospect for airlines and, potentially, travelers, too.

“We expect to see some interesting developments coming forward as these new long-range aircraft … come into service,” industry analyst Max Kingsley-Jones, of consultancy Ascend by Cirium, said during remarks in Hamburg Wednesday.

Network flexibility

Specifically, the combination of the A321XLR’s range and its lower passenger counts (compared to the twin-aisle jets that are more common on overseas flights) should allow airlines to expand their route maps.

It could mean more flights to smaller European cities or routes to Europe from smaller U.S. cities.

The XLR could also help airlines maintain service on certain lower-demand international routes — allowing them to switch to smaller plans during off-peak months (like winter) when carriers might otherwise pause service to avoid losing money flying empty seats.

Steven Udvar-Hazy, executive chairman of Air Lease Corporation, spoke to the flexibility these aircraft offer during an industry conference last fall.

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“For four or five months of the year, it might be profitable to operate a 787-9 or an A350 on a certain city pair. But in the low season, to operate a 190, 200-seat XLR is probably more efficient … more economical,” Udvar-Hazy said in November. “Maybe you can fly to Bordeaux or Nice and bypass congested hubs and have direct flights from the [U.S.] East Coast.”

American: New and different routes coming

Similar options may well be on the table at American — though Cisek was quick to deflect questions on specific network plans in the works.

“This will support our network, allowing us to fly places where we wouldn’t have flown a wide-body [jet] before,” Cisek said Tuesday in Germany.

“We will not only be able to expand seasonal routes to year-round routes,” Cisek said. “But we’ll also be able to fly to new, popular destinations we wouldn’t have been able to do before.”

Before that can happen, though, American needs the XLR delivered — as do its competitors awaiting the jet.

A 2019 rendering of an American A321XLR. AIRBUS

Hundreds of jets on order

Airbus plans to deliver its first A321XLR during the third quarter of 2024, the aircraft manufacturer reiterated to TPG Wednesday.

In all, the Toulouse, France-based plane-maker has orders for 541 XLRs from 25 customers, including United Airlines, JetBlue Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Iberia and LATAM Airlines.

For its part, American first committed to the XLR in 2019, placing an order for 50 of the long-range jets.

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American’s A321XLR interior

As part of her remarks Tuesday, Cisek shared images of its spiffy new interior, which are far more detailed than what TPG shared in 2022 after the airline first released renderings of the plane’s interior.


The aircraft is expected to offer 20 of its new Flagship suites. Laid out in 1-1 configuration facing the aisle, each suite will have sliding privacy doors — a first for American.

The renderings American shared clearly show lie-flat beds, high-quality entertainment screens, wireless charging for personal devices and a storage area that doubles as a nightstand.

It will also offer 12 premium economy recliners with privacy headrests, leg and footrests, and a pocket for wireless phone charging.

American’s branding will be prominent throughout the cabin, including on each headrest. In the main cabin, passengers will find 4K screens and seats with a new, lighter blue covering.

You can get a sense of the general ambience of A321XLR from this demonstrator Airbus had on hand in Hamburg; it features its signature “Airspace” cabin, though specific elements (like the seats and branding) will be unique to American.


“We have brought a wide-body experience to a narrow-body aircraft,” Cisek said. “Our Flagship experience has helped influence how we designed this overall product.”

When will American’s A321XLRs start flying?

The lingering question, of course, is when these jets might take flight. American has already delayed the rollout of its Flagship suites on new Boeing 787 Dreamliner deliveries due to production delays.

“It’s a little early to share dates,” Cisek said of the XLR. “We’re working with Airbus, as well as our suppliers, and we’ll have a date to share with you soon.”

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