We see more low cost airlines ordering them in the future. A few months after Cebu Pacific placed an order for 16 Airbus A330-900NEO and 10 Airbus A321XLR, AirAsia X followed suit with an order of 12 additional Airbus A330-900NEO and 30 A321XLR. More than added capacity, both can fly longer distances. The A330-900NEO can fly non-stop from Manila to United States West Coast while A321XLR can now fly straight from Kuala Lumpur to Australia.
As the demand for airlines with lower fares are on the rise, airlines have been on their toes really searching for aircraft that will address their needs, wide-body aircraft that are not so expensive but have long range, and narrow-body aircraft that can fly long distances with a higher capacity. Aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing have been working hard to address the needs of our airlines, especially our low cost carriers which are on the rise nowadays and these are:
Boeing's answer was the 737 Max 10 and the 787-10, except presently, the 737 Max aircraft are still grounded due to two deadly crashes which involved the Max. Airbus on the other hand had the A321NEO and a longer range derivative, the A321NEO LR. They also had a re-engined Airbus A330 called the A330-900NEO, which stands for New Engine Option.
The Airbus A330-900NEO is actually a very flexible aircraft with about 15% lower fuel burn than the present A330-300. For our low cost airlines, they are perfect for medium to long haul routes. Before, low cost airlines like AirAsia X had to take in both A330-300 and A340-300 where the latter was used to serve long haul routes or flights beyond 10 hours straight. The A330NEO exclusively uses Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 turbofans producing 72,834lbf of take-off thrust. It has an MTOW (Minimum Take-Off Weight) 251T. It can fit 440 passengers on an all-economy class configuration but Cebu Pacific was able to stretch this to 460.
Problem is that the Airbus A340-300 was getting old and is indeed a gas-guzzler as it makes use of 4 engines. The A350-900 on the other hand is too expensive. The A330-900NEO then bridged the gap between the A330-300 and A350-900, which will now allow low cost airlines to purchase an aircraft lower the price tag of an A350 but with a range of 13,334km.
We see the Airbus A321XLR as an aircraft that will compliment the A330-900NEO of low cost airlines. Before, low cost airlines had to utilize wide-body aircraft for medium haul flights since single-aisle aircraft like the Airbus A320 did not have the range capability. The Airbus A321XLR now allows low cost carriers to serve longer routes using narrow-body aircraft while being able to take in more passengers.
The A321XLR is a longer range derivative of the A321NEO LR. It is equipped with a permanent Rear Center Tank which will give it its longer range, a strengthened landing gear for a 101T MTOW (Minimum Take-Off Weight), and an optimised wing-trailing edge flap. XLR actually means eXtra Long Range.
Cebu Pacific was one of those first airlines who ordered the Airbus A321XLR during the Paris Air Show 2019 and the airline is planning to put in 240 seats in the aircraft. It is still unsure how AirAsia X will configure their A321XLR but we predict they will have a 2-class configuration to differentiate it from its mother company AirAsia.
Cebu Pacific's reasons of ordering the A330-900NEO and A321XLR at the same time are due to the present airport congestion and to be able to serve longer routes from the Philippines like Australia, India, and Sapporo Japan utilizing both wide-body and narrow-body aircraft. The new aircraft will give them better range which will allow Cebu Pacific to connect to Oceania and India from other hubs in the Philippines which do not need wide-body operations.
As for AirAsia X, they have always wanted to expand their operations to Europe reintroducing the long-haul low-cost model which somehow did not do well. Their only long-haul flight is Kuala Lumpur to Honolulu, Hawaii. They used to fly Kuala Lumpur to London route but was eventually removed. So we will see if things will change with the A330-900NEO in their arsenal.
We do see more low-cost airlines around the region like JetStar operate the A330-900NEO and A321XLR in the future. During the 2019 Paris Air Show, Qantas placed an order of 36 A321XLR. It was said that both Qantas and JetStar will make use of the aircraft but no specific allocation has been announced.
As for Boeing, the supposedly 797 NMA (New Midsize Aircraft) was supposed to be the answer for the needs of the Asia-Pacific region's low cost airlines but until now, there is no mention of the aircraft. The Boeing 737 Max still faces grounding issues and is unlikely to be attractive in the next few months or years for Asian LCCs. Though some do already operate the Boeing 787 like Scoot, the arrival of the A330NEO won the hearts of the airlines like Cebu Pacific and AirAsia X versus the 787-10.
Unless Boeing comes out with an aircraft that will replace their 757, we do see the combination of the A330-900NEO and A321XLR as a top choice of Asian low-cost airlines.