Any remaining (and misguided) hopes that a 737 MAX variant could fully replace the last of the 757s expected to retire over the coming decade appears to have vanished. Icelandair will instead pivot to the Airbus A321LR/XLR family for the next generation of its fleet. The carrier signed a Memorandum of Understanding to acquire a dozen XLRs, with options on 13 more.
We have decided that the capable and fuel-efficient Airbus aircraft, A321XLR and A321LR, will become the successors of the Boeing 757 we are gradually retiring… The excellent Airbus aircraft will not only allow us to further develop our proven business model around transatlantic flights but also open opportunities for future growth by entering new and exciting markets.– Bogi Nils Bogason, President & CEO of Icelandair
Icelandair expects the A321XLRs to seat approximately 190 passengers. This is an increase from the 183 it carries on its 757s today. The company’s 737 MAX aircraft fly with 160-178 seats on board.
In addition to the increased seating capacity, the A321XLR also comes with increased range compared to the 757s. The A321LRs can meet the needs of the current 757 route map. The XLRs add another 700 nautical miles to the range, allowing the carrier to serve longer routes, including some limited to the 767 today.
As recently as mid-2022 Icelandair expanded its MAX fleet. The airline now operates 18 of the type. But between the seating capacity and range limitations, the MAX never stood a chance at fully replacing the 757s. For years Boeing teased potential “Middle of Market” or “NMA” designs to replace the 757. Mired in challenges around the 737 MAX grounding, as well as 787 production faults and 777X program delays, however, Boeing ultimately skipped the required investment to bring that new aircraft design to life.
The new XLRs will be delivered from 2029. Prior to that, however, Icelandair expects to acquire A321LRs on lease, with four joining the fleet in 2025. The airline currently has 21 757s and five 767s registered, though not all are currently flying.
And the MAX will continue to fly for Icelandair. The carrier expects to continue mixed fleet operations from 2025 when the first Airbus aircraft join the fleet. But it is also not too hard to see the mixed fleet shift to a fully Airbus operation a decade or so hence, as the XLRs become the dominant type in the fleet. Indeed, the carrier notes “further additions” to the A321LR fleet can be expected following the 2025 induction.
A favor to ask while you're here...
Did you enjoy the content? Or learn something useful? Or generally just think this is the type of story you'd like to see more of? Consider supporting the site through a donation (any amount helps). It helps keep me independent and avoiding the credit card schlock.
Leave a Reply