Iberia (IB, Madrid Barajas) will be the global launch operator of the A321-200NY(XLR), the airline confirmed to ch-aviation following parent IAG International Airlines Group’s decision to withdraw the opportunity from sister carrier Aer Lingus (EI, Dublin International).

While Iberia does not yet have a projected delivery date, once it does, it will deploy the long-haul narrowbody to serve Boston and Washington Dulles from Madrid Barajas. The A321neo(XLR) will have have 14 seats in business and 168 in economy.

IAG ordered fourteen A321neo(XLR)s in 2019, six of which were initially destined for Aer Lingus and eight for Iberia. The Irish carrier was the original launch operator, with the first aircraft, msn 11348, reportedly due to become EI-XLR on delivery. However, a pay dispute between Aer Lingus and the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) compelled IAG to adjust its fleet investments based on commercial feasibility.

Iberia's first possible A321neo(XLR), msn 11504, currently sports the airline's decals on its tail and wings.

The ongoing certification process

While Airbus projected the XLR's entry into service in 2024, it has not yet obtained a type certificate for the new aircraft model, which has 496 firm orders globally.

Moreover, on April 29, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a notice of proposed special conditions for the A321neo(XLR) containing additional safety standards for the type’s integral rear centre tank (RCT), in particular the safety performance of the fuel-tank skin or structure in case of a post-crash fire.

“Due to its unusual configuration, the A321neo(XLR) integral RCT will also not incorporate the insulation that usually lines the fuselage skin of a modern transport category airplane. Therefore, the FAA has issued [...] a set of special conditions to address that novel or unusual aspect [...]. Those special conditions [...] require that the lower half of the fuselage [...] resist penetration from an external fuel-fed fire, in order to ensure that the design provides the same level of passenger protection from such fires, ” the authority said.

Comments for the proposed special conditions close on June 21, 2024.