First A321neo LR delivered, promising bigger seats, longer range

Bigger seats, larger overhead compartments and a quieter cabin are what passengers can expect when flying on Jetstar’s new aircraft, the Airbus A320neo.

Eleven years after ordering the plane, Jetstar’s first A320neo touched down at Melbourne Airport on Sunday, having made its way from Hamburg, Germany, via Mumbai and Perth.

The jet, an A321neo LR (long range) variant of the A320neo, arrived to a host of Jetstar employees and their families with INXS’s New Sensation blasting throughout the hangar.

The jet’s engines are 15% more fuel efficient than Jetstar’s current A320 fleet, and it is 50% quieter and can fly up to 1,200 kilometers further.

Fuel efficiency is a key selling point for Airbus (“neo” stands for “new engine option”) as airlines seek to reduce emissions and fuel costs amid soaring oil prices.

“Even if the price of oil had not changed, it is essential,” said Jetstar chief executive Gareth Evans. “The biggest challenge for the industry as a whole over the next decade and decades to come is sustainability.

“We have recognized this, as the Qantas Group, with some of the most ambitious targets – 25% reduction in emissions by 2030 and zero emissions by 2050. Neo is part of this journey with diesel fuels. ‘sustainable aviation.

Watch: The construction of Jetstar’s first A321neo LR

Evans said Jetstar made other changes to the neo to reduce weight and fuel costs. There are lightweight kitchen carts and cargo containers, and even airplane paint has been developed to lighten the load. The new paint reduces weight by 50 kilograms and, combined with other changes, removes 170 kilograms from each flight.

“This translates to a saving of 1.2 million kilograms of fuel per year, a reduction of nearly 4,000 tonnes of emissions,” Evans said.

He said Jetstar was operating about the same number of flights as before COVID, amid growing passenger demand.

“We’re trying to manage supply, demand and obviously the impact of the fuel bill, so we’ve cut some capacity,” he said. Reducing the number of available seats increases the charges on other flights, making them more profitable.

The A321neo LR is the widest single-aisle aircraft on the market, with Jetstar’s 232 economy seats on board offering seat pitch (legroom) of 74 centimeters and a width of 45.7 centimeters. It’s the same legroom as on other Jetstar domestic jets, but a slightly wider space.

Passengers will also have 40% more space in the luggage compartments, seat-integrated device holders and continuous entertainment.

Unlike the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners, there will be no business class.

“These aircraft will primarily fly domestically,” Evans said. “It’s a plane that will be able to move between the two networks [international and domestic]but at the same time, we made sure to have good seat spacing and elements that improve customer comfort.”

The aircraft will first deploy on the Melbourne-Cairns route in early September, before rolling out to other domestic routes and select international destinations, including Bali.

Jetstar has ordered 38 A321neos. The first 18 are due to arrive within the next two years, followed by 20 longer-range versions by 2029. Airbus has received 8,100 orders from more than 130 customers worldwide for the plane. About half of the A321neo fleet will be based in Melbourne, Evans said.

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