Jan 18, 2013

Airbus to pack more seats into its A321neo

The remorseless quest to stuff increasingly large people into increasingly tighter space in airliners continues at Airbus, and Boeing can't fail to get on board with a similar move.

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

If the Airbus announcement about fitting more seats into its single aisle A321NEO jet is correct, you won’t feel a thing.

Those of us who are more than around 180 cms tall may take some convincing, but the bean counters will no doubt be thrilled by getting up to 236 seats to sell in a jet that currently maxes out at 220 passengers.

This is how Airbus breaks the news:

Airbus is offering airlines brand new options for configuring the generous floor space offered by the A321neo. These allow more flexibility and thus increase the number of seats at the same comfort standard. In addition, the maximum exit limit is raised beyond 220 seats. These new cabin options capitalize on recent innovations in cabin monuments and seat design which allow airlines more efficient use of cabin space without compromising passenger comfort. The new cabin options will enter into service in the second half of 2017.

The first new option consists of an additional over-wing exit door which raises the current maximum exit limit so operators can make even more use of the available cabin floor space.  When this new option is combined with the Space-Flexaft cabin configuration, the A321neo can accommodate up to 236 seats, 16 seats more than today’s maximum seating, which leads to a reduction in seat mile costs of five percent.

In conjunction with the additional over-wing exit door, a second new option is available whereby the forward exit is de-activated. This creates a seamless, undivided forward cabin allowing additional seats and even more flexibility in multi-class seat arrangements. This option will be of particular use in longer range markets where high comfort standards are needed in Premium class. 

The natural competitor to the A321 now and in NEO guise is the 737-900ER and the forthcoming 737 MAX 9.  But it could be that by some calculations, the natural competitor to both would be a well maintained second hand Boeing 757, an airliner only flown in domestic service in this country as a long thing misery tube as an alternative jet during the domestic pilot dispute of 1989.

Hawaiian Airlines recently ordered 16-25 of the A321NEOs, however it says it will only fly them with 190 passengers in a two class configuration. The A321NEO is also a significant part of the American Airlines future re-fleeting plans, a carrier which is coincidentally a major user of Boeing 757s.


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6 thoughts on “Airbus to pack more seats into its A321neo

  1. TT

    Looking forward to view the emergency evaculation test video with 236 pax (and hope that no one would get serious injury…)

    More seriously, I don’t quite get the second option: de-activate forward exit? Does Airbus mean the exit before row 1, or the exit around row 8? It’s a pity that with such configuration, all 220 pax need to exit via single aerobridge rather than using dual aerobridges (obviously if the airport offer dual aerobridges gate.)

  2. Ben Sandilands

    Yup. The Airbus statement is misleading. I have seen a diagram which was too low resolution to publish which makes it clear they are offering a deactivated second set of doors from the front.

    From a recent flight on an AF 321 where I walked through the forward cabin and sat in second or third row of the second part that would yield either a row of seats with no windows but slightly improved legroom, or more space to have an amenable premium cabin, but there are some fixtures around that set of doors which from memory would need to be rendered more easily removable to offer real flexibility to airlines. I can’t recall ever using that second set of doors as a passenger.

  3. Frequent Traveller

    TwinAisleFeeders’ forward cabin design for H21QR does away with exit doors 2L/2R. The result is a “seamless, undivided forward cabin allowing additional seats”, boosting H21QR capacity to 189 pax @ 28″ super-slimline, or 9 more pax with SpaceFlex lavatories in the tailcone plus some rows @ 27″ – to an astounding 198 pax [1+3+1], coming up directly shoulder-to-shoulder compared with A321 [3+3] @ 32″ pitch. But as we shorten the pitch, we render back more freedom of space in the transversal dimension, removing lateral promiscuity from the “Travel Experience” picture with an EMF (Excuse-Me Factor) brought down to 1/2 (one half) in H21QR vs 6 in A321. The superiority of the TwinAisle design became obvious to the extent that Airbus now remorselessly propose to avail themselves of the TwinAisleFeeders solution, however without giving back anything in compensation to the unfortunate passengers …

  4. Frequent Traveller

    The A320 [Type B – double Type III – Type B] EE solution gives a theoretical EE pax count of max 215 pax, but Airbus came out short of the (very challenging !) Emergency Evacuation demo for this type (was it in 1987 ?) and got JAA/FAA blessing for only 180 pax. So as NOT to repeat this mischief with A321, Airbus designed this stretched type with 4 x Type B doors, passing the EE demo with a regulatory ‘OK’ for 220 pax (in 1992 ?), with doors 2L/2R and 3L/3R located just before/just aft of the wingbox. However, this overkill EE design solution factually disoptimises the seat count flexibility in the fwd cabin for A321 : when compressing pitch, no extra rows are gained. To address this cabin design default is what Airbus is after here, misappropriating TwinAiseFeeders’ design without even a ‘thank you’ ! Besides, TT’s remark above is right : good luck to Airbus with their EE demo in 2017 ! Or Airbus intends to swap Type B doors 1L/1R and 4L/4R today for Type A in 2017 ?

  5. LongTimeObserver

    AB now claiming 156 kneecap-crushing seats on the A319neo aka A319nko (“No Kneecap Option”):

  6. Frequent Traveller

    The foregoing comments hereabove c/o Plane Talking have been reformatted into a dedicated protest Pamphlet published today @ the TwinAisleFeeders website; it is also available through Actualités Aéronautiques, see here :, or through Flyprat, see here :

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