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Airbus A321 Neo LR - The New Go-to for Green Transatlantic Travel?

With the steady rise in narrowbody aircraft flying across the pond, is the Airbus A321neo LR the new 'go-to' transatlantic narrowbody aircraft for the environmentally and money conscious traveller and operator?

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Image: Airbus


In recent weeks, North America's JetBlue launched its first transatlantic route from New York, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to London Heathrow (LHR) operating its two Airbus A321 Neo LR's (Registrations: N4022J & N4048J) delivered new to the airline in April and June 2021 respectively. Although the idea of using a narrowbody on transatlantic routes isn't exactly new, the JetBlue flights represent a first for the ultra-low-cost market in North America.


The route was only previously achievable in the narrowbody class with the likes of the British Airways BAW001 Airbus A319 flight from London City airport (LCY) to John F Kennedy International (JFK) in a premium, low density, business class only flight. Whereas the Airbus A321 Neo LR, with its maximum range of 4,000 nautical miles, can easily operate the across the transatlantic corridor and has the added flexibility to serve the equally lucrative short haul high demand routes. The upcoming A321 NEO XLR will further extend this to 4,700 nautical miles


The Jet Blue Airbus A321 Neo LR represents up to a -19% saving per seat per Km in CO2 compared to a Boeing 757-200 on a similar sector

The Airbus A321 Neo LR operated by Jet Blue (138 seats) represents a significant cost per seat and, as a direct result, CO2 per seat mile benefit when compared to previous generation competing aircraft on long sector routes. According to data from our InsightIQ Carbon Emissions Calculator 'CEC', the Airbus A321 Neo LR operated by JetBlue represents up to a -19% saving per seat per Km in CO2 when compared to a Boeing 757-200 operating a similar sector length. An A321 LR in a more dense seat configuration would make this saving even more notable.


Key trunk routes served by narrowbody aircraft on transatlantic sectors


Driven by the InsightIQ flights data module, the map above shows the key trunk routes served by the narrowbody aircraft class between North America and Western Europe. In 2021, the operator with the most numerous Narrowbody flights is Icelandair, serving many destinations in the United States. It is no surprise that the 757-200 is the preeminent aircraft operating between North America and Iceland with a commanding 63% of all flights operated by the type. With the likes of Icelandair, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines commanding 43.8%, 34.56% and 21.6% of all flights from North America to Iceland. Within the remaining mix of aircraft, Icelandair operate their Boeing 737 MAX 8 & 9's, however the Seattle route is largely unfeasible due to the range limitations of the MAX.


Removing the Iceland from the roster of destinations changes the picture a considerable amount; TAP Air Portugal, Aer Lingus and Azores Airlines are the top operators flying the transatlantic route, and unsurprisingly are all operating the A321 Neo or A321 Neo LR with a total aggregated CO2 per seat km of 60.57 g/km according to InsightIQ CEC.


As an asset, the Airbus A321 Neo LR serves to fill the void from where the ageing 757-200 & -300 and in some respects the 767 family will undoubtedly create as they begin to retire in the near future.


According to InsightIQ fleet data, the average age of passenger configured 757 family aircraft is 26 years old, with a large section of the fleet now ripe for P2F conversions in the ever-growing freighter market, with many looking to the 757 family as a good compromise due to the lack of feedstock for the A321 CEO which has been driven by the growth in the e-commerce markets in recent years. The A321 Neo LR's versatility is another benefit of the type. The aircraft could be seen as a more liquid asset in years to come and less volatile when compared to widebodies, which have been notoriously difficult to place when coming off lease with considerable exposure to the market.


IBA's InsightIQ analysis platform flexibly illustrates multiple asset, fleet and market positions, actual and potential, to inform client choices and identify acquisition opportunities. Immediate access to crucial aircraft, engine, lease rate and fleet data eases appreciation of historic and future aircraft concentrations and operator profiles.

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