December 10, 2012
Airbus is studying whether it should offer a 236-seat version of the Airbus A321, industry sources tell Aviation Week. The high-density configuration would be possible using the latest slim seats with the literature bag above, rather than below, the seatback table. Seats also would have to be placed in a 28-in. pitch configuration throughout the cabin. No fuselage stretch or other modifications, such as additional emergency exits, would be needed.
Airbus says it has “no firm plans” to raise A321 capacity further.
According to the manufacturer, the aircraft currently can be operated in a 220-seat configuration at maximum capacity. By comparison, Boeing’s 737-900 can accommodate up to 215 passengers in a single-class layout.
A 236-seat aircraft would be much larger than models typically operated by low-cost carriers. In the mainline scheduled role, the aircraft would hit operational issues, such as long boarding times through a single boarding bridge that would not enable quick turnarounds. But the aircraft could be of interest to charter and scheduled airlines looking for a Boeing 757 replacement, provided boarding and debarking can occur through two doors. Also, with the introduction of the A321NEO, the A321’s range will increase from the current nominal 3,200 nm with maximum passenger load to 3,700 nm, making longer sectors from Central Europe to the Canary Islands or similar missions more feasible.