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IAG demotes Aer Lingus from A321XLR launch customer status, Iberia steps in  

Aer Lingus has been demoted from its status as the launch customer for the Airbus A321XLR, as a result of a long-running dispute with its pilots over salaries. The Irish carrier’s parent company, International Airline Group (IAG), has decided that the first of the new aircraft it has on order will instead go to Iberia in Spain. 

In 2019, IAG placed an initial order for 14 of the new extended-range variant of the A321 twinjet, with six intended to go to Aer Lingus and eight to Iberia. IAG’s original plan saw Aer Lingus being allocated launch customer status for the plane, with the Dublin-based company due to take delivery of its first unit in late 2024. However, with the reallocation of delivery slots, Iberia has now snatched the accolade of becoming the global launch customer for the type, with the first plane due to arrive by the end of this year.  

Aer Lingus has been embroiled in a pay dispute with its pilots for several months, with the airline’s management and pilot unions unable to agree on a new pay structure for flight crews. The pilots are reportedly seeking salary increases of more than 20% to remain competitive in the marketplace and to reflect inflation over the years. However, management’s unwillingness to go beyond its offer of 8.5% has resulted in an impasse, which is currently affecting the future growth plans of the airline. 

Aer Lingus management had previously warned the unions that, should they fail to reach an agreement, the airline would be forced to defer its scheduled A321XLR deliveries, resulting in reduced long-haul flying opportunities for flight crews. A deadline of April 29, 2024, has been set by IAG for the parties to reach a settlement. However, no such agreement has been reached.   

“Unfortunately, Aer Lingus was not able to give IAG the cost structure assurances necessary for this investment and so the inaugural A321XLR originally planned for Aer Lingus will be allocated elsewhere in the group,” said an IAG statement.  

Airbus

Iberia has not wasted any time in embracing its newly elevated status. The carrier has already announced the first routes that will see A321XLR service. Following some short-haul flights for crew familiarization, the first aircraft is due to operate on the Transatlantic routes from Madrid (MAD) to Boston (BOS) and Washington (IAD) in the US. However, the specific dates are yet to be revealed by the airline. 

More about the Airbus A321XLR 

The A321XLR was officially launched as the world’s longest-range narrowbody commercial airplane by Airbus in June 2019. It is based on the Airbus A321 family, although offers an extended range over both the A321neo and A321LR variants, both of which are already in service with carriers worldwide. The A321XLR is still awaiting certification from European aviation authorities, although this process is understood to be in its final stages.  

The A321XLR has so far proved to be an attractive proposition for airlines seeking a long-range narrowbody capable of serving point-to-point services. Alongside IAG, other customers in the A321XLR order book include American Airlines, United Airlines, IndiGo, Qantas, JetBlue, and Air Arabia to name just a few.  

Airbus

While the aircraft is being pitched as suitable for the opening up of new, thinner-density long-range markets, it can also be used to replace other types such as the A330, where demand may not require such capacity on certain days of the week.  

Although the first IAG aircraft is now earmarked for Iberia, should the pay dispute Aer Lingus be resolved in short order, the carrier may well still see the A321XLR join its fleet before the end of 2024. It is worth noting that both the first Aer Lingus and Iberia airframes have already been spotted at the Airbus production facility in Finkenwerder, near Hamburg, Germany.  

Video of the first #A321XLR at #Airbus’ Hamburg facility appears to show the aircraft partially painted in #AerLingus’ livery https://t.co/aAoPV0UiOe

— AeroTime (@AviationNews) February 19, 2024

Aer Lingus was expected to use its new A321XLRs to replace the eight A321LRs it already has in service, which are currently used on routes such as Dublin to New York, Boston, and Washington. The older aircraft would then have been freed up to open new markets or to increase frequencies on existing routes.  

However, Iberia does not yet have a narrowbody long-range aircraft in its fleet and the A321XLR will represent the airline’s first foray into this area of operations.   

The post IAG demotes Aer Lingus from A321XLR launch customer status, Iberia steps in   appeared first on AeroTime.

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