American Airlines (AA, Dallas/Fort Worth) intends to deploy incoming A321-200NX(XLR)s on transatlantic routes from Philadelphia Int'l, and possibly also from Boston, Charlotte Int'l, and Chicago O'Hare, according to Vice-President (Network & Schedule Planning) Brian Znotins.

Speaking during a FlightGlobal webinar, he said that American Airlines expects to take delivery of its first A321neo(XLR) in 2023 when Airbus’s new extended long-range single-aisle jetliner is expected to enter service.

"We will be looking to add more nonstops from Philadelphia to secondary European destinations," he said.

The jets will enable American to carry passengers with one-stop between cities that might otherwise require additional stops, or it could offer two daily nonstop flights on routes that would support only one nonstop using a larger aircraft. Znotins' comments tie in with previous statements by American Airlines' president, Robert Isom, that the airline intends to use the A321neo(XLR) to help it grow its East Coast hubs to new destinations in Europe and South America.

However, officially, American Airlines told ch-aviation that it had made no decision at this stage. "As we don’t expect to receive our first Airbus A321XLR until 2023, we haven’t made any decisions on how these aircraft will be used at this time – we can only anticipate where they could be deployed based on today’s environment. Many factors are taken into consideration when determining how aircraft will be deployed on certain routes, and we’ll carefully review all of those details as we get closer to our first delivery," the airline said in a statement emailed to ch-aviation.

American Airlines is one of the launch customers of the A321neo(XLR). The purchase agreement announced at the 2019 Paris Air Show includes the conversion of 30 of American’s existing A321-200neo slots to A321neo(XLR)s and incremental orders for an additional twenty A321neo(XLR)s. The first eight are due for delivery in 2023, with a further 22 in 2024 and 20 in 2025.

The A321neo(XLR) will offer 15% more range than the A321-200NX(LR) variant currently in service – up to 4,700 nm (8,700 km) – which means it could fly from the US East Coast to Europe, e.g. Miami Int'l to London or New York to Rome Fiumicino, in a typical 180-220 seat two-class configuration.

The longer range will be made possible thanks to an increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 101 tonnes, which enables the jet to be fitted with a permanent rear centre tank (carrying up to 13,100 litres of fuel) and an optional forward additional centre tank. The rear centre tank, unique to the new A321neo(XLR), will be located behind the main landing gear bay and will hold more fuel than several additional centre tanks combined could previously hold in the A321 aircraft Family. The aircraft also provides airlines with a 30% lower fuel burn and CO2 emissions per seat compared with previous-generation competitor aircraft.

Together with the A330neo, the A321neo(XLR) is Airbus’s answer to the “middle of the market” (the gap between single-aisle aircraft and the smallest widebodies), and also enables the manufacturer to enhance the product coverage between its A220 and A320 single-aisle families and the widebody A330neo and A350 XWB.

Production of the first A321neo(XLR) has started in Germany with the structural assembly of the centre and rear fuselage. Last month, manufacturing partner Premium AEROTEC delivered the first fully-equipped rear centre tank to Airbus’ major component assembly facility in Hamburg Finkenwerder. Airbus says the equipment assembly phase of the first aircraft is planned for the autumn of 2021, followed by a dedicated period for flight test equipment installation.

According to Airbus' latest order and deliveries data, American Airlines is the largest Airbus operator in the world with 455 aircraft and 233 on the order book. It has a total of eighty-seven A321neos on order (thirty-seven -NXs and fifty -XLRs).