Airbus (AIB, Toulouse Blagnac) conceded in its first-quarter financial report that the A321-200NX(XLR) will enter into service in early 2024, not in 2023, due to delays in certification.

A source told Reuters the delay is about fire risk concerns concerning the design of the added central fuel tank. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is reportedly considering mandating a relatively substantial redesign of the A321neo's lower fuselage, requiring more durable and heavier materials to address its worries. This could then add between six and 12 months to the certification procedure.

Despite the delays, Airbus insists that the type's maiden flight will take place by the end of June 2022. The manufacturer said it did not expect the redesign to noticeably shorten the type's range, even though Bloomberg had previously reported that this was a possibility.

Airbus's existing A321-200NX(LR) variant has been authorised to fly under the existing A321-200N type certificate as its added fuel tanks are placed in its cargo holds. In contrast, the XLR variant will require an entirely new certificate due to the scope of the redesign and the addition of a new fuel tank in the fuselage.

The European manufacturer said it is on track to increase its A320neo Family production rate from the current 50 per month to 65 per month by mid-2023. By 2025, it intends to increase rate to 75 units per month.

"Airbus will meet the higher production rates by increasing capacity at its existing industrial sites and growing the industrial footprint in Mobile Downtown, US, while investing to ensure that all commercial aircraft assembly sites are A321-capable," the company said.

The ch-aviation fleets advanced module shows that Airbus currently has 5,889 unfilled orders for A320neo Family aircraft, including 495 orders for A321-200NX(XLR)s. The largest customer for the XLR variant is IndiGo Airlines (6E, Delhi Int'l) with 69 on order.