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Iberia To Become Launch Airline of Airbus A321XLR For Europe’s IAG After Pilot Dispute at Aer Lingus Derails Plans

Iberia To Become Launch Airline of Airbus A321XLR For Europe’s IAG After Pilot Dispute at Aer Lingus Derails Plans

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Spanish flag carrier is to become the official worldwide launch customer of the new longer-range Airbus A321XLR single-aisle aircraft after the airline’s parent company reallocated deliveries of the first A321XLR from Aer Lingus to the Madrid-based carrier.

International Airlines Groups (IAG) had hoped to make Aer Lingus the launch customer of the longest-range aircraft in the A320 family, but in March, it emerged that the company was threatening to reallocate the planes to Iberia unless Aer Lingus pilots quickly wrapped up the contract talks with the airline.

On Thursday, Iberia CEO Marco Sansavini revealed that IAG had followed through with its threat after negotiations at Aer Lingus stalled.

Iberia is now the official launch customer of the A321XLR, and the airline says it intends to use the aircraft on non-stop transatlantic routes between Madrid and Washington DC and Boston.

IAG has a total of 14 Airbus A321XLR aircraft on order, with Aer Lingus expected to receive six aircraft, while Iberia will get the remaining eight planes. The airline group hopes the plane will allow it to open up new long-range routes at a much lower cost than the widebody aircraft traditionally used for transatlantic flights.

Aer Lingus is expected to use its A321XLR for non-stop flights to Minneapolis-St Paul, while other potential destinations highlighted by IAG include Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, Cincinnati and St Louis.

The airline had, however, warned its pilot’s workgroup that unless contract talks were finalised by April 28, IAG would reallocate its initial delivery slots to Iberia – this was the latest date set by Airbus before the first plane would have to go into the paint workshop to have the appropriate livery applied.

Airbus first announced its intention to work on an even longer-range version of its popular A321neo aircraft in 2018, and the concept was officially launched a year later at the Paris Air Show.

First deliveries of the A321XLR were initially planned for 2023 but manufacturing delays have pushed back the programme to delivery slots in 2024. Last October, Airbus operated its first passenger-proving flight, which took off from Toulouse in France and circled around Europe before returning to the same airport six hours later.

The A321XLR has a maximum range of 4,700 nautical miles and has already won 500 orders from over 20 customers. 

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