Last week, Charlotte got two special visitors. From the outside, they just looked like regular planes with some fancy colors – One of them being completely white, the other one in a nice, sky-coloured blue. But these planes had an interesting journey behind them that gives a bit of an insight, what is in the works for our airport.
Jeddah – Shannon – Charlotte was the routing of the La Compagnie plane, a A321Neo Long Range variant. Jeddah – Stansted – Charlotte was the routing for the all-white Titan Airways plane. In the future, these long-range narrow body planes will serving smaller, secondary markets also on transatlantic routes. They are fuel efficient, and with additional tanks capable of going the distance into the European main land.
Especially with the delivery issues of Boeing, and their 787 super-efficient widebody plane, airlines are seeking for alternatives to fulfil their growth demand. Some airlines retires big parts of their ageing fleet during Corona – And some of these retirements are now slowing the potential growth during this summer of 2022. Charlotte, for example, will still have several European destinations less than it had before the pandemic. And just last week, American Airlines announced that they would not start up their long-planned Seattle to London service (amongst others) due to plane shortage.
The A321neo LongRange or XtraLongRange (XLR) will help this situation in the future, freeing up wide body capacity where the comfort and long range of a widebody may not be needed. It may, however, also allow to fly to smaller destinations – And with 50 A321neo on order, American Airlines seems to have big plans, just like its competitors JetBlue, Delta and United.
SAS and TAP Air Portugal are the first ones that show us, how the flight experience on these tiny planes will be. With a more premium – heavy configuration and a real lay-flat business class seat, the differences are getting more and more marginal. But it has yet to be seen, what the big US Carriers will interpret for this new way to travel. We can only hope for the best.
The La Compagnie plane, by the way, features an all-business class configuration with 76 seats, comparable to the current Lufthansa Business Class – a 2-2 configuration, fully lay-flat. Certainly much more relaxed than the 186 passengers that could fit into the Titan Airways plane…