Over the past decade or so we’ve become used to 1 to 4 or even 5 hour flights being affordable for most pockets. Long haul travel, however, such as from Europe to the USA, Middle East, Asia or Australia, is still comparatively expensive. If you’re not reasonably well off, paying several hundred pounds for a flight requires some consideration, especially if a whole family wants to fly together. That trip to Florida tends to be achievable once every several years rather than annually.
The latest technology in the world of aircraft design, however, means that in the near future that will be expected to change. Airbus’s new A321LR model this week took to the skies on its maiden voyage, the craft taking off from a Hamburg factory for a 3-hour flight over the North Sea. The new model is similar to the A320s used by low cost European airlines such as EasyJet and, like them, has a single aisle with rows of seats to the left and right.
However, the new craft is much wider, meaning it can carry enough passengers to make longer flights commercially viable. It can also travel up to 4000 nautical miles, bringing Transatlantic routes and, for example, London to the Middle East, a possibility.
The latest aeronautical engineering technology has meant that planes are becoming more fuel efficient and a long haul route flown by the A321LR (LR stands for long range) will be 27% cheaper than a comparable flight using a Boeing 757.
Increased price competition on transatlantic routes, driven by airlines such as Norwegian and WOW airlines entering the market has already brought costs down for passengers in recent times. If EasyJet, RyanAir and the other major European budget airlines also enter the longer haul space due to acquiring the new Airbus model, as well as overheads being reduced it would also be a much more competitive space generally.
Airbus’s ‘Airspace by Airbus’ cabin design will also be used on the new planes, improving overall passenger comfort. The new cabin layouts feature increased overhead storage space and an extra inch of space per seat at shoulder level, achieved by cleverly maximizing space. New toilet and window designs and ‘LED mood lighting’ add to the overall effect.
Another 100 hours of flight time are required before Airbus can receive approval to start selling the new plane. Irish carrier Aer Lingus and Norwegian have already placed respective orders of 8 and 30 craft. US airline JetBlue is also said to be weighing up an order.