Airbus Thinks Its New A321LR Will Be Able to Replace the 757

The 737 and A320 families have grown a lot since they were launched, both in number of orders and in size. But while they’ve been able to handle most missions an airline might want, there’s always been a niche that they’ve never been able to handle. In fact, that niche of longer-haul segments with lower demand, has been what’s kept the 757 so popular in recent years. But now, Airbus says it has an answer. The A321LR was just launched with an order for 30.

A321LR Tells 757 Goodbye

When the 757 launched, it was designed to be a replacement for the 727. Two efficient engines instead of three meant lower fuel burn and big cost savings. The airplane did well and became a staple on shorter-haul routes pretty much everywhere. But eventually, the 737 and A320 families came to kill it.

Airbus first extended the A320 into the A321 for its first flight in 1994. It was a flop. Like Boeing did with the 757, Airbus got lazy and simply stretched the A320 without trying to improve range. The end result was a bigger airplane but one that couldn’t go very far. Airbus fairly quickly realized its error and started adding on range. Meanwhile, Boeing actually did the same thing on the 737-900. The first one flew in 2001 but it had short range and wasn’t popular.

It didn’t take long for Boeing and Airbus to both see the opportunity. Both of them added fuel tanks and extended range. At the same time, airlines began realizing that this was great on two levels so they started buying in droves.

On one hand, the 737-900ER and the A321 were bigger than the 737-800 and A320 but didn’t add much cost. So the cost per seat? Yeah, it came down a lot. Airlines really liked those economics and started buying big. US Airways and American (pre-merger) went for the A321. United and Alaska went for the 737-900ER. Delta, in true Delta fashion, went with both. (Southwest, which only flew the 737-700, upgauged to the 737-800 but hasn’t gone bigger… yet.) These started to become the most desirable narrowbodies flying.

While they liked the economics of the stretched airplane, there was another benefit. The 737-900ER and the A321 could be replacements for the aging 757 fleet. They were more efficient airplanes and they had commonality with the rest of the narrowbody fleet. It was perfect. The 757s started to disappear on domestic routes that could easily be served by these other airplanes.

But the 757 is a special airplane that has a lot of fantastic capabilities. While it could be replaced on most domestic routes, it couldn’t be replaced everywhere. See, the 757 can carry a full load a long way. That made it perfect for longer routes that didn’t have the demand for a widebody like the 767.

In the US, airlines realized that the 757 was perfect for routes like Hawai’i and short Transatlantic as well as some mid-haul Latin America flights. And there was nothing else that could replace it. Sure, some 737s could make it from the far west coast to Hawai’i but that was about it. And it wasn’t easy. It also wasn’t the bigger 737-900 that could do it. There was no substitute in the same size category for the 757.

When Airbus came out with the A320neo and Boeing the 737MAX, the gap started the close. Airbus can’t get any narrowbodies from the West Coast to Hawai’i today. That changes with the neo. But still, none of these airplanes would be able to carry enough people far enough to replace the 757.

Finally, Airbus has made the decision to try to rectify the situation. The A321LR will be an A321neo with extra fuel tanks in the belly. That will give the airplane almost as many seats as the 757 (almost), and it can fly 4,000nm (give or take). That’s plenty to serve the 757 mission, if it actually works as planned.

People are already tearing into the specs to see if it can actually do what it says. Leehman News is all over this. The A321LR should be able to operate for three quarters the cost of a 757, which is quite the improvement.

But once it rolls off the line, can it actually take ~165 people that far? What if airlines want a higher density layout? And can it carry any cargo? (Probably not.) The first order is from Steven Udvar-Hazy’s leasing company, and he will absolutely punish them if it doesn’t live up to expectations. So chances are, this may be the beginning of the end for the 757. But let’s wait and see before writing the airplane’s obituary.

[Original 757 image via Markus Mainka / Shutterstock.com; Original A321LR image via Airbus S.A.S]

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Bobber
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Bobber

Have to admit, I was really sceptical about transatlantic flights on UA 757’s, but they’ve been great (both on LH to IAD and to EWR). I shall miss the 757 when it does finally croak – got a BusinessFirst JFK-SFO next week coming up, and that’s a lovely cabin.

Pilotaaron1
Guest
Pilotaaron1

I always thought the 757 was a sleek looking airplane. Personally for the reasons you have mentioned with the lack of a comparable type all these years is one reason I think Boeing really messed up on not doing a 757ng. I think there is a lot of opportunity that was missed with that one. Maybe they’ll change their mind, but I doubt it. It looks like all the chips are in the 737-9.

Nick Barnard
Member

But at the time Boeing discontinued the 757 most airlines were in no condition to buy any more, and the long haul routes to Europe were just in their infancy.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

The last 757 was built in 2004. Don’t think long haul to Europe was in its infancy at the time. Perhaps hub-to-smaller-markets?

Nick Barnard
Member

I was saying 757 routes to Europe. So yes the hub to smaller markets bit, and the smaller markets to European hubs bit.

Ben Brooks
Member

Yep – Continental pioneered the use of the 752 to Europe. This was mostly out of necessity as they were scarce in terms of twin-aisle aircraft. Plus, their former CEO Gordon Bethune believed in pushing an aircraft to its operational limits, and flying the smallest aircraft possible to maximize yield and minimize overcapacity. While at Boeing he pushed the 738 design to be able to make NYC-LAX non-stop. He said “you rarely see an airline go out of business because they flew too large of aircraft.” So CO in late 90’s and throughout the 2000’s connected NY-metro to points in… Read more »

George
Guest
George

To paraphrase Lockheed on the C-130-“the only replacement for a 757 is another 757”. Can the 321LR really replace the 757 on long haul-I doubt it. The 757 in many respects is a very remarkable and unique airliner. Name me another plane that can get out of John Wayne with a full load of passengers and freight and fly non-stop to the US east coast. It has the highest thrust to weight ratio of any airliner flying-that’s one reason it could do the John Wayne to east coast flights. it is one of the few airliners that can go from… Read more »

Drew42N
Guest
Drew42N

I have flown on the 757 from John Wayne. Your description was spot on. You did not howver mention the feeling in your body once power is reduced lowering rate of climb (climb out over ocean). To me it was a close to a feeling of weightlessness that I’ve ever experienced.

Yo
Guest
Yo

757 is still an amazing plane with great performance. Nothing beats sitting the back of the plane on a noise reduction take off out of SNA. I really hope this plane does the trick, but cargo space is always needed.

Neil S.
Guest
Neil S.

Agree with George.

Have done two go-arounds at LGA on 757s, and man those things are just right back up in the air.

Also – just was on my first 739ER, from SEA-JFK. It used just about the entire runway. Kinda scary if you’re not prepared for it.

Million Miler
Guest
Million Miler

Agree with Yo.

The deep rumble of the big engines right outside the window, the gear doors snapping shut crossing the fence at the end of the runway, the high angle of attack, followed abruptly by nose level and almost total silence as the engines go to near idle over the subdivisions along the coast, the guy in the seat next to you looking like he is going to wet his pants, nothing like a 757 at John Wayne.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

Looks like I have to schedule a trip to/from SNA. Only been there once and the return was on the devil’s chariot if memory serves right.

Peter Richards
Member

Re: 757 out of Orange County airport ?

Currently who is operating 757’s into and out of
Orange County airport ?

Where do the 757’s go ?

Can I get to Orange County airport by public transportation. ?

Derek Pugh
Member
Derek Pugh

Currently Delta runs 3 757’s to Atlanta from SNA.

Getting to the airport via public transport may be a bit rough.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

By rough are you referring to Southwest? ;)

David SF eastbay
Member
David SF eastbay

My first thought was will the new Airbus be able to make it westbound from Europe in winter with a full load without always having to stop somewhere for fuel on stormy days, or in winter will they have to just sell less seats on every flight to make it nonstop?

I like the 757 and wish they were still being made, even if I still hate flying over large bodies of water on an airplane with only two engines.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

The 757 doesn’t make it often enough to trigger hot debates about the airlines being nuts to use them for those missions on Flyertalk.

noahkimmel
Member
noahkimmel

First, I love the 757. So many great memories on her especially a fantastic flight in BusinessElite on Delta from JFK-SFO. That being said. AvGeeks tend to over-emphasize the market for a “true” 757 replacement. There are not many routes that require the niche performance vs cost savings of the a321 / a321neo / 737-900ER / 737 Max. The current a321 can cover most 757 routes. Just because a route is flown today with a plane that is mostly paid off, doesn’t mean it “has” to be flown or could be profitably flown with more expensive planes. Basically, if a… Read more »

Nick Barnard
Member

Yup.. And the other question is are the airlines using 757s on the Europe routes because those planes are paid off, and they can make money, and its probably cheaper to put a 737 on a route that can handle it..

Dave Starr
Guest

Yes the 739 or the 321neo can indeed replace the 757 on many routes, but in addition to the comments made regarding short runways, like SNA, the real difference between the 757 and the “almost replacements” are two words. Hot and high. Look into the runway requirements for the new Airbus A-321neo 97T at somewhere like Denver on a 100 degree day. Scary. And single engine climb performance in case of an engine failure on climb out? Yu won’t consider any model of the 737 family or any single-wide Airbus a “737 replacement” then. Boeing is missing out by not… Read more »

Nick Barnard
Member

Maybe they’ll sling some more powerful engines onto the NG? That’d help.

Evan
Guest
Evan

If fuel prices continue at current (or lower) levels, the 757 may get a second life.

Delta is looking genius with their MD80/90/B717 strategy. Total cost is way lower on those birds when the cost of fuel is at current levels.

As for the 757 — fuel at $50 will slow retirement and desire to pay up for the 321 or 739. We’ve already seen this with Delta announcing they’ll keep on more 747 in action this summer. That being said, eventually fuel will rise again and the 321LR is still years away, so time will tell.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

does Delta look genious with their refinery, too?

Doug
Guest
Doug

Delta bought the refinery to hedge the crack spread, not the price of crude. So just because the price of crude is low doesn’t mean the refinery is a bad idea.

Eric Morris
Guest
Eric Morris

All this great discussion on range, capacity, and cost per seat yet no one seems to discuss the Export-Import Bank. Yet, if you listen to the US Chamber of Commerce, Boeing, and the Congress-critters on their payroll, er campaign finance cocktail circuit, the Ex-Im Bank is the only thing keeping Boeing and therefore the rest of America out of the bread lines.

Nick Barnard
Member

Meh. Boeing is selling a good deal of airplanes to just US Airlines. And AFAIK other countries offer similar financing facilities for their products.

Besides, perhaps Airbus can use the ExIM bank with planes delivered from their Alabama plant?

southbay flier
Guest
southbay flier

I’ll miss the 757’s. I like turning left to sit up front and I like the numerous galleys which are good for stretching. The Delta 739’s are torture tubes with so many seats crammed into them. I’m expecting the 321’s will be just as miserable.

sigos
Member
sigos

so agree!

SYVJEFF
Member
SYVJEFF

The 757 is a wonderful piece of engineering designed at a time of 3 engines and 3 pilots (referring to the 727). I do get tired of the threads on other travel/avegeek kinda boards of people moaning about Boeing for not continuing manufacture of the 757. The decision was made and time to move on. As another poster noted, for the highest percentage of routes the newer 737s and 321s will get the job done, thus be profitable for the airlines. As a person who is a geeky-avgeek (why I love reading Crankyflier), I am concerned that both the Boeing… Read more »

Nick Barnard
Member

I asked a Boeing engineer this question last night.. He thinks the 787-3 may end up having a small run for this purpose..

JuliaZ
Member
JuliaZ

The Dreamliner is a wonderful airplane and I hope they do that. SEA is my home airport and I always fly Boeing metal if I can (not too hard, since I’m AS MVP).

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

So you want to fly Boeing plastic then? ;)

JuliaZ
Member
JuliaZ

Bring it on! My daughter flew SEA – NAR on a Dreamliner last April and she was blase about it before going through security, but then texted from her seat how much nicer it was than even the 747s she’s flown to LHR. When the flight ended and she emailed me, she attached a whole bunch of photos and raved about how her skin wasn’t so dry, how the lighting was beautiful, and how there seemed to be more cabin room. She’s a million-miler already at 15 and she doesn’t really care about planes. For her to gush like that,… Read more »

Carl
Member
Carl

Kind of ironic that DL builds its international hub at SEA and is heading towards a primarily Airbus long-haul fleet.

hsano
Member
hsano

Hi JuliaZ, by NAR do you mean Nare, Colombia or Tokyo/Narita, which is actually NRT? I was confused by your reference.

A
Guest
A

Since the L1011 has left the skies the 757 has been my favorite bird to fly on. Concur with most of the people here that those things are amazing on takeoff. Last winter was landing in a snowstorm and the captain had to do a go around. The power just cannot be beat in commercial aviation. All that said I have to say that advancement in aircraft has made the airplane landscape pretty vanilla. Miss the the old three holers dearly. As the Mad Dog’s go it’ll just be a landscape of planes of random sizes with 2 jets mounted… Read more »

Yo
Guest
Yo

Favorite thing about the L1011, while rolling down the ramp, that sweet smell of hydraulic fluid. Scared some folk, but I loved it. Did L1011 on BWIA, TWA and ATA, sure do miss that beautiful bird.

JB
Member
JB

I really love the 757, wish they would make an NG version! I remember in the late 80’s my first trip on one was MSP-LAX on NW. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to fly them a lot. I lived in BOS for 4 years, commuting to SFO for work once a month. Most of the UA flights were on this bird, and I always enjoyed the 24 seats up front, plenty of chances for upgrades as a 1K. And if you didn’t get the upgrade, you could count on the second exit row and all that legroom! Once… Read more »

CelticSmackdown
Guest
CelticSmackdown

I loved flying on the 757. I flew it alot from LGA to DTW on Northwest. Nothing beat the takeoff from LGA and getting to cruise altitude within 10 minutes. The power on that airplane was incredible, plus it felt like you were flying in a widebody on the inside. As others have stated, I love the sleek look of the airframe. This was one of the best airframes Boeing ever designed and put into production. It exceeded performance expectations and looked great doing it. Combining those two aspects seems to be a lost art these days. Hopefully the 787… Read more »

JetGirlWorldwide
Guest

As a former flight attendant, I must bid good riddance to the 757. Aisles too narrow; coach configuration too dense; nowhere for customers to go…..it was the one aircraft that elicited the highest number of passenger complaints for lack of legroom, cabin discomfort, and poor air quality. It was much easier to breathe on the older models such as the venerable 727, 737-200, and the DC-10s. Thankfully the 787 Dreamliner has fresh air piped in. As they say….don’t let the (hanger) door hit you in the —!!!.

stan
Guest
stan

the performance characteristics of the 757 are without question, but as a delta flyer i have always been frustrated by the sheer misery of the Y cabin comfort of they maddeningly huge number of 757 configs. the aircraft on the hawaii routes are the worst, i think. it’s a long flight with a cramped, old, dingy cabin. in my opinion, the complaints are justified as the airlines seem to want to cram as many bodies into the 757 as possible to compensate for the extra flight attendant needed over the 737/A320. i once sat next to a delta flight attendant… Read more »

ZuluLima
Guest
ZuluLima

ALL airliners have fresh outside air “piped in”. Most will change the entire cabin air volume in a minute or two. There are jet-fueled turbines called “packs”, usually in the wing/fuselage fairing that do this.

Carl
Member
Carl

Is the market big enough to warrant the special version? If it is, why isn’t Boeing targeting this market?

matt weber
Member
matt weber

I have my doubts about the economics of the A321LR, as well as its performance. One of the things I learned long ago is manufactures like to talk about range and seats. The problem is when you work the numbers, you can either have the range, or you can have the seats, but you cannot have both at the same time (although the 757 comes close). In other words it is unlikely that a fully laden A321LR with 206 seats can actually fly 4000nm. The base OEW for the A321 is about 48 tonnes. The NEO version will probably be… Read more »

ZuluLima
Guest
ZuluLima

You absolutely CAN have both the range and seats (A380 weighs 1.2 million lbs and flies 8000nm. Problem is, for the 757, this makes the frame too heavy and expensive for a narrowbody.

Agree with your assessment of A321LR likely not meeting Airbus marketing hype. This is an A320 which has been stretched to the limit, and is therefore not really optimized for anything but operating at the absolute fringes of its performance.

matt weber
Member
matt weber

Like I said. You cannot have both range and seats. The only really ULTRA long haul A380 operator is QANTAS, and they don’t have anywhere near the number of seats Airbus says you can have. To even get to that situation, QANTAS operates the aircraft with more powerful engines than almost anyone else uses.. At the moment the longest mission the A380 flies is DFW-SYD at 7500nm, and QF takes a payload hit to fly that mission. If you work the numbers, 15 hours is about the limit with 450 pax aboard. Several years ago I ran the numbers for… Read more »

josephdemeo
Member
josephdemeo

I hate the 757..
It has kept me from traveling for the fun.. Especially N/S to the Big Island..
Even ” first class” is a cramped and a parade of coach lav users during cabin service..
If I never fly on one again it will be too soon.
At least the new airbus will be a modern version single isle Greyhound..
Probably quieter at the very least..
Send the 757 to the desert once and for all..!
RIP

Jdm
Santa Monica

RIP

JDM
818 406 7346

>

Carl
Member
Carl

Actually the 752’s have the advantage of a lavatory at the front of the economy cabin, so economy passengers really don’t try to use the forward lavatory. I like the 739 configurations with the mid-cabin lav for that same reason. Unfortunately many carriers aren’t installing a mid-cabin lav (AS!)

From: hello@email.gopostmatic.com [mailto:hello@email.gopostmatic.com]

Sean
Guest

I don’t get why everyone automatically dubs the whole entire fleet 757 as ancient. The small number that will be sticking around the longest for TATL were likely built between 2000-2004, while the rest will be junked or converted to freighters in 5 years (heck, there’s even a late-99 build being chopped up in Russia with only 13k hours!). By comparison, DLH and Delta announced recently they plan on keeping their 1989/90-vintage A320’s around for an indefinite period of period of time; why does anyone ever complain about those? Not knocking the A320’s reliability (far from it), but a 25-year-old… Read more »

sigos
Member
sigos

I so agree with many of these posts! And to quote you “But the 757 is a special airplane that has a lot of fantastic capabilities.” I remember flying on DL out of the then DFW hub down to IAH. We had about 15 people on the plane ,and remember we were clean before hitting the DFW North toll booth. Sitting in the back is the closest thing I can get to the glory days of sitting in the back of a DC-8 or 707(which I was lucky enough to remember). The 757-300 is the DC-8 Super Sixty Series of… Read more »

ZuluLima
Guest
ZuluLima

For those wanting a 757NG, the decision has already been made to do no such thing. Boeing already made a sketchy decision in prolonging the 1960s era 737. The late ’70s-designed 757 has no future as a new-build, even in an NG form. The NSA is scheduled to address the upper end of 737 capacity, along with 757-200 and -300, 767-200 and potentially everything up to 787-8 capacity. Due next decade.

Carl
Member
Carl

What is the NSA?

Nick Barnard
Member

New Single Aisle. E.g. The replacement for the 737.

Carl
Member
Carl

How are off is that? 10 years? Or even more given the MAX? And what mission and sizes is it targeting? Everything the 737 and 757 can do? That runs the risk of being a camel designed by committee. The 737 size and range seem to hit the sweet spot.

Nick Barnard
Member

All of that I’m not sure about. I presume its targeting the 737, and probably the larger end of it so the 737-800/900. From what I understand it’ll probably be a CRFP tube, a la the 787.

El Volar
Guest
El Volar

The question is, is there a big enough demand by the airlines for a 757 replacement by Boeing? I think a 757 MAX would be great! However, at the end of the day it’s still about business.

Uwe
Member
Uwe

“It was a flop” is a rather myopic statement.

A321 sold well enough and had the proper pedigre to grow into longer range demand slots by way of available improved engines and a few running airframe improvements just like the A330 range.

For the NEO range Airbus expects A321 deliveries to grow to 50%.
All without the hassle of designing a completely new airplane around a superanuated cockpit and landing gear ( i.e. the NG and MAX).
The NG was an expensive step and the MAX won’t come in cheap either.)
Airbus showcases that you can design planes to leverage future improvements in core technologies.

hsano
Member
hsano

It sounds like I’m in the minority not being a big fan of the B757. Having flown LAX-BOS (non-stop and connecting) regularly over the last 30+ years, I was really sad when the widebodies (DC-10, L1011) were phased out on many cross-country routes. I understood the economics as the widebodies often flew with low load factors, but I missed the roominess and extra aisle.

When I discovered upgrading using miles and later Complimentary Premier Upgrades, the bonus was that the B757, with 24 F seats, meant more upgrade likelihood.

Carl
Member
Carl

I’m confused by your comment. While it would be nice to have widebodies those days are long gone. Nowadays the 757’s are being replaced by 738’s, 739’s, and A321’s. Generally with smaller F cabins and tighter seating than the 757. The other nice feature of the 757’s was boarding through door 2, and a lav right by that door, so there was less a need of traffic through the F cabin than in most 738’s 739’s and A321’s.