United Airlines has placed a firm order for 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft as it begins to phase out older models and launches an expansion of transatlantic routes from its key US hubs in Newark/New York and Washington D.C. United plans to take delivery of the first A321XLR in 2024 and expects to begin international service with the aircraft in 2025. The deal is worth about US$7 billion before discounts.
“The new Airbus A321XLR aircraft is an ideal one-for-one replacement for the older, less-efficient aircraft currently operating between some of the most vital cities in our intercontinental network,” said Andrew Nocella, United’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer. “In addition to strengthening our ability to fly more efficiently, the A321XLR opens potential new destinations to further develop our route network and provide customers with more options to travel the globe.”
The A321XLR will be operated by the same crews, powered by the same engines and have the same cabin as the A321neo, with more than 90 percent commonality. Combining the A321neo’s two rear centre fuel tanks into one adds fuel capacity and reduces structural weight. Other significant changes include structural reinforcements and modified landing gears for the increased MTOW, increased braking capability, higher tire speed, and additional flap and slat configurations. At the end of October 2019, the A320neo family had accumulated more than 7,000 firm orders from over 110 customers worldwide.
New communications appointments
Meanwhile, Airbus also announced it was shuffling its communications department with new heads for most divisions. “In order to support its newly-created Communications & Corporate Affairs function, which will go live on 1 January 2020, Airbus has appointed a new communications leadership team who will work together to bring the next chapter of the company to life while ensuring business proximity, reinforcing audience centricity and growing digital, editorial and visual content capabilities,” the company said in making the announcement.
Maggie Bergsma, currently head of communications for ATR, was named head of communications for commercial aircraft. In the new communications leadership team she will join Yves Barillé, head of communications for helicopters, and Dirk Erat, head of communications for defence and space. Philipp Encz was named head of creative core, a newly-created role in which he will lead Airbus’ creative content teams and oversee group-wide internal and external communication activities. Encz joins from Siemens where he acted as head of financial and corporate media relations. Bergsma, Envz, Erat and Barille will report directly to Julie Kitcher, executive vice president for communications and corporate affairs and member of the Airbus Executive Committee.
Guillaume Steuer was appointed head of external communications, reporting to Encz and managing Airbus’ media relations, web and social media activities. He will rely on Stefan Schaffrath, head of external communications for commercial aircraft, and Martin Agüera, head of external communications for defence and space, to boost dialogue with Airbus’ external audiences and strengthen the company’s brand and reputation worldwide.