Why Icelandair selected the Airbus A321XLR to replace Boeing 757 | Aviation


Icelandic flag carrier Icelandair (FI/ICE) has announced a confirmed order for 13 Airbus A321XLR jets. Whilst the A321XLR is set to be certified in 2024, the first aircraft delivered to Icelandair is expected to enter service in 2029. The carrier has also announced its intention to lease 4 Airbus A321LR aircraft from SMBC Aviation Capital.

Why replace the the Boeing 757-200 with the A321XLR?

The total number of aircraft involved in today’s announcement matches Icelandair’s existing fleet of 17 Boeing 757-200 aircraft. The 757-200 forms the backbone of the fleet, and the investment in Airbus aircraft confirms the A321XLR as the replacement product. Operators have been reluctant to let go of their ageing 757 fleets in recent years due to the lack of a replacement that could match its performance, range and capacity.

The upcoming certification of the A321XLR presents operators with a new generation aircraft that can match the 757’s performance whilst cutting down on fuel burn and CO2 emissions. The A321XLR presents 3 key benefits over the 757.

  1. Range – The A321XLR can fly around 800 nautical miles further than the 757-200.
  2. Capacity – The A321XLR’s maximum passenger capacity in single class configuration is less than the 757, but higher in the two class configuration as is currently used by Icelandair. Icelandair’s 757-200 aircraft currently seat 184 passengers in two classes, whereas the A321XLR fitted with the ‘Airspace Cabin’ will typically seat around 220.
  3. Sustainability – Though figures are not yet available for the A321XLR, the currently available A321LR represents up to a 19% CO2 saving per seat per kilometer compared to a Boeing 757-200 on a similar sector according to data from IBA NetZero.
The Boeing 757 family accounts for 19 out of 48 aircraft in Icelandair’s fleet.
Despite these clear advantages,  it is unlikely that this order was placed out of any affinity for Airbus. 87% of the Icelandair fleet is made up of Boeing aircraft,…

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