Qantas’ First A321XLRs Won’t Have Lie-Flat Business Seats

Qantas A321XLR livery
Qantas will operate a large fleet of Airbus A321XLR jets from 2024. Image: Airbus.

Last week, Qantas announced a huge order of brand new Airbus aircraft. The showpiece of the announcement was the new Airbus A350-1000s which will fly Qantas’ non-stop “Project Sunrise” flights from Sydney to London and New York. But Qantas also announced a large order of Airbus A321XLR and A220 aircraft which will ultimately replace the ageing Boeing 737 and 717 fleets over the coming decade.

Although it’s a narrow-body aircraft, the Airbus A321XLR (“XLR” stands for Extra Long Range) has an impressive range of 8,700km. That’s around 3,000km further than the Boeing 737-800. Qantas says that this will make it possible to deploy Airbus A321XLRs not just on domestic routes, but also on short-haul international routes to places like the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia.

Qantas graphic showing the indicative range of an A321XLR from various Australian cities
Qantas graphic showing the indicative range of an A321XLR from various Australian cities. Source: Qantas.

The first Airbus A321XLRs will be delivered to Qantas in late 2024. This means that in less than 3 years, Qantas could theoretically be flying narrow-body aircraft on routes like Perth-Auckland, Sydney-Rarotonga, Melbourne-Singapore or even Brisbane-Tokyo. But will these planes be configured for long-haul flights?

The Qantas Airbus A321XLR seating configuration

While we don’t yet know which exact types of seats will be installed, we do already know how the first A321XLRs arriving in late 2024 will be configured.

Qantas says that its first A321XLRs will be delivered with 20 Business and 180 Economy seats, giving a total seat count of 200 seats. (This is 26 more seats than the Boeing 737-800, which is 5 metres shorter than the A321XLR.)

Qantas has also said that there will be no reduction in space between seats, compared to the Boeing 737-800. The Economy Class seat pitch on Qantas’ Boeing 737-800 is 30 inches, while in Business each row of seats takes up 37 inches of space.

Based on the number of seats on board and the length of the cabin, it’s clear that Qantas must be planning to install five rows of reclining Business Class seats on its new A321XLR aircraft in a 2-2 configuration. Behind the Business cabin, there will be 30 rows of Economy Class seating in a standard 3-3 configuration.

It’s likely that these aircraft would offer in-flight wifi connectivity and seatback in-flight entertainment screens, as is currently the case on Qantas’ newer Boeing 737-800s.

With this configuration, these aircraft will likely be used primarily on domestic flights – and perhaps to short-haul overseas destinations like New Zealand. But this configuration would not be suitable for longer flights into Asia. It also wouldn’t really be ideal for overnight domestic flights on routes like Perth-Sydney, where Business passengers value a lie-flat bed.

A mid-haul A321XLR sub-fleet is a possibility

Even though the first tranche of Airbus A321XLR deliveries will primarily be used on domestic routes, that doesn’t mean Qantas won’t eventually use these fuel-efficient and highly capable aircraft on mid-haul international routes.

In addition to the 20 confirmed orders announced last week, the Qantas Group has purchase right options to acquire up to 94 more narrow-body Airbus jets over the next decade. So, Qantas will likely end up with many more than just 20 of these popular aircraft in its fleet.

Australian Frequent Flyer understands that Qantas is considering eventually operating a second sub-fleet of Airbus A321XLR aircraft configured for longer flights to Asian destinations such as Jakarta or Manila. These aircraft could also be used on longer domestic routes currently served by Airbus A330s, such as trans-continental flights.

This sub-fleet would have lie-flat Business seats installed in a 1-1 layout. These seats could look something like the Mint seats installed on JetBlue’s new A321LRs, which are used on the New York-London route.

JetBlue's trans-Atlantic A321LR Mint Suites are configured in a 1-1 layout
JetBlue’s trans-Atlantic A321LR Mint Suites are configured in a 1-1 layout. Photo: JetBlue.

Narrow-body aircraft traditionally haven’t had lie-flat Business seats, due to being predominantly used for shorter flights. But this is becoming more common as airlines start to take advantage of the longer range offered by modern jets like the A321LR and A321XLR.

 

You can leave a comment or discuss this topic on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]

Community Comments

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I wonder if they will have two FAs doing J meal services with the seat increase. Even with 12 meals to serve, sometimes 3F doesn’t get fed and watered until top of descent on triangle routes.

The other alternative is of course that QF will simply enhance domestic business class catering so that 20 boxes of party pies can be delivered by the CSM in the available time.

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I wonder if they will have two FAs doing J meal services with the seat increase. Even with 12 meals to serve, sometimes 3F doesn’t get fed and watered until top of descent on triangle routes.

The other alternative is of course that QF will simply enhance domestic business class catering so that 20 boxes of party pies can be delivered by the CSM in the available time.

Based on the 1 to 50 rule. Then there should be 5 cabin crew.

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Based on the 1 to 50 rule. Then there should be 5 cabin crew

Didn't they say 200 passengers? I assume this number is strategically chosen to still require only 4 crew, the same way that many US airlines run A320's with exactly 150 seats and 3 crew.

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Didn't they say 200 passengers? I assume this number is strategically chosen to still require only 4 crew, the same way that many US airlines run A320's with exactly 150 seats and 3 crew.

I thought Australian rules still require a minimum of 1 cabin crew per 36 pax?

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While there may be two versions, it's sad that the initial ones don't have lie-flat business class seating.

Mattg may not have experienced these from Oz, but Philippine Airlines has 12 such seats on its longer range A321s that presently fly from MEL five days a week and from SYD on three of the five weekly scheduled days.

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If you have ever flown American Airlines A321T transcontinental USA JFK-SFO/LAX vv with 1-1 First Flatbeds, 2-2 Business Flatbeds and economy, with Flagship First Lounge and Dining room (now almost gone however since COVID) you wil lunderstand Qantas is doing its usual short changing of its customers. An XLR aircraft and no Business Flatbed? Thats positively Third World, which is why many of us wil lfly Virgin SAustralia for cheaper fares, better service, and less seats in Business which on Qnatas are filled with on-duty crew and also off-duty crew on cheap fares. It really is a no-brainer to avoid Qantas. And now wit hVA's United and Qatar (that was a mightly slap in the face for Joyce from The Emir of Qatar, owner Qatar Airways and its Excecutive Officer Al Baker. Sorry Qantas but once bitten, many times/forever shy

While there may be two versions, it's sad that the initial ones don't have lie-flat business class seating.

Mattg may not have experienced these from Oz, but Philippine Airlines has 12 such seats on its longer range A321s that presently fly from MEL five days a week and from SYD on three of the five weekly scheduled days.

And yet Kwantas hasn't announced flatbeds I understand we live in the Antipodes but at least try and offer a world-class service (from call centre to website to airport checkin to lounge to boarding to on board to embarkation to baggage collection - Qantas fails miserably on most of these , not marginally , but totally

Didn't they say 200 passengers? I assume this number is strategically chosen to still require only 4 crew, the same way that many US airlines run A320's with exactly 150 seats and 3 crew.

Maybe you haven't flow American Airlines A321T (transcontinental ) JFK-SFO/LAX vv Dont talk about Delta, we also have United Polaris 757, 789 and 787-10 transcon In the US market Delta is like Qantas, aka a bragging obviously low cost carrier charging 5 Star prices, perfect for those from the South of USA

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If you have ever flown American Airlines A321T transcontinental USA JFK-SFO/LAX vv with 1-1 First Flatbeds, 2-2 Business Flatbeds and economy, with Flagship First Lounge and Dining room (now almost gone however since COVID) you wil lunderstand Qantas is doing its usual short changing of its customers. An XLR aircraft and no Business Flatbed? Thats positively Third World, which is why many of us wil lfly Virgin SAustralia for cheaper fares, better service, and less seats in Business which on Qnatas are filled with on-duty crew and also off-duty crew on cheap fares. It really is a no-brainer to avoid Qantas. And now wit hVA's United and Qatar (that was a mightly slap in the face for Joyce from The Emir of Qatar, owner Qatar Airways and its Excecutive Officer Al Baker. Sorry Qantas but once bitten, many times/forever shy

It's a 737-800 replacement program - most will be used on domestic.

AA has 17 aircraft in transcon config - the other 255 are in standard config. And that's not counting the A319 & A320s - which there are another 181 aircraft. So of the A32X family, less than 4% have lie flat beds.

I think your comments are premature (though it's pretty clear your beef is not about the seat config)

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Who would have guessed that QF would do the bare minimum with the fleet for J....

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American Airlines

Qantas

United

Qatar

Virgin SAustralia

LOL
Looking at the above list, I get the impression its more about not liking one particular airline....

Don't like a particular airline - fly with another. I suspect no one is going to care.
Best Fare of Day is usually a very reasonable option...

Reply 1 Like

If you have ever flown American Airlines A321T transcontinental USA JFK-SFO/LAX vv with 1-1 First Flatbeds, 2-2 Business Flatbeds and economy, with Flagship First Lounge and Dining room (now almost gone however since COVID) you wil lunderstand Qantas is doing its usual short changing of its customers. An XLR aircraft and no Business Flatbed? Thats positively Third World, which is why many of us wil lfly Virgin SAustralia for cheaper fares, better service, and less seats in Business which on Qnatas are filled with on-duty crew and also off-duty crew on cheap fares. It really is a no-brainer to avoid Qantas. And now wit hVA's United and Qatar (that was a mightly slap in the face for Joyce from The Emir of Qatar, owner Qatar Airways and its Excecutive Officer Al Baker. Sorry Qantas but once bitten, many times/forever shy

Which cabins / routes does VA have lie flat seats on ?

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