Airbus says the A321XLR will enter service 2023. Boeing is targeting 2025 (despite what the skeptics say). This isn’t a winner take all market. They can coexist. Airbus is getting a head start, while Boeing continues developing prelaunch.
There isn't a chance in the entire universe that Boeing gets a ground-up, brand new composite aircraft family up and flying / certified 2 years after Airbus sends out a modified A32X family member. If anyone buys into such a thing, Boeing will be facing ungodly amounts of $$$ in penalties (AGAIN!) I just have to assume that if there's any brains involved in the decisions over at Boeing, that they'd rather put resources into a replacement 737 than this market which is pretty much already locked-down by AB. In my opinion, Boeing won't have an answer for the XLR any sooner than 6+ years from now (in any way/shape/form). The current 737 design is obviously completely out of the question at this point.
Airbus has the PERFECT platform for such a market; with minimal modifications and maximum commonality, they're going to bring an aircraft to service in a short period of time. It's also a low-risk project requiring minimal investment, which will demand a PREMIUM price tag - profit margins on this thing should be amazing for Airbus.
I agree Airbus will demand a premium price tag. Weight upgrades are usually quite an upcharge from lower MTOW planes. How long will those margins last?
What I challenge is whether the A321 is the word PERFECT platform for a 220K lbs MTOW plane. The airplane will have the range for Transatlantic, but how efficient will the wing be compared to a new composite design? The A321 wing is already undersized. Is the engine optimized for this mission? Does the wing trailing edge flap configuration to preserve thrust requirements result in other compromises such as engine out climb performance, etc? There are always compromises with upgrading existing designs. I challenge the word PERFECT.
I believe there is a market for both an NMA and A321XLR, but I expect some people will repeat the normal comebacks that Boeing can’t deliver on time in 2025, Boeing can’t built a widebody at narrowbody economics despite them saying they can, and technology innovation ended in 1988, etc.
Yup, the flexibility of that MTOW change is what really makes the XLW a gem, and Airbus knows this - that's why they launched it and that's why airlines are already buying it (even in the face of the recently-launched LR!) In reality, it's represents minimal changes for the production, maintenance, certification, and training of the platform though. It's basically an (additional) gold mine for Airbus from the same package.
No - it isn't "perfect" from an overall engineering perspective, but it is perfect for airlines requiring a niche aircraft at a decent price-point (all $$ factors included ie MX and training / ops) with a fairly quick delivery time frame.
Also - in my opinion, it doesn't matter how efficient the wing will be. You have absolutely zero alternatives except an all-new aircraft, which isn't going to happen (not for this specific NB / long-range market). Your EIS for any alternative is WAY OUT there, if it ever happens at all. Meanwhile many of these airlines need the capacity ASAP, and others have really pushed their NB TATL fleet to the max lifetime-wise.
Having said that, I don't think it's horribly inefficient anyways.. isn't it something like 20+% cheaper CASM than a 757? Airlines will be happy with that - especially when faced with an alternative of a high-risk aircraft that might never get built, or may face huge delays and still present operators with much larger initial investments, as well as higher maintenance and training costs due to lack of commonality.