Air Canada reportedly in talks to add Airbus A321s as COVID gloom lifts
Air Canada is in talks with Airbus SE about adding long-haul A321neo jets to its fleet of narrow-body Boeing Co. 737s as travel demand rebounds, people familiar with the situation said.
The carrier plans to order 10 to 20 planes, one of the people said. The negotiations are preliminary and may not result in an agreement, according to the people, who asked not to be named to discuss matters that are not public.
While Air Canada was an established operator of Airbus’ original A320 Family, it chose the Boeing Max in the competition among next-generation aircraft. Adding a small fleet of A321neos would provide an extra boost to an Airbus model capable of carrying 220 people in two classes over longer distances than the rival Max 10.
Air Canada is also talking to aircraft lessors about A321 procurement, one of the people said.
An Airbus spokeswoman declined to comment on any discussions the company may have with its customers.
Air Canada referenced the company’s Feb. 18 conference call, when chief executive Michael Rousseau discussed fleet renewal initiatives as the airline emerges from the pandemic. Last May, the CEO said the Airbus A321LR, or long-range, models “potentially have a place in Air Canada’s fleet as we move forward.”
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The carrier has returned to growth mode as borders related to the coronavirus pandemic begin to loosen. It announced on Tuesday that it would relaunch 34 routes across the Atlantic and Pacific.
Air Canada announced last week that it had reinstated a commitment for 12 Airbus A220s, a smaller aircraft originally designed and built by Bombardier Inc. of Canada.
Deliveries were canceled in 2020 after the virus stifled demand and Air Canada struggled to secure pandemic aid from the government. The carrier also cut its Boeing Max contract by a third to 40 and postponed some of those discounts.
In November, Air Canada backtracked, accelerating Max deliveries and reversing two of the A220 cancellations to restore its network.
Currently, the fleet consists of around 170 aircraft, including older A320s and a range of wide-body aircraft dominated by Boeing.
The A321, prized by airlines for its combination of capacity and range, is in short supply with production delays of several years. Airbus’ cancellation of an order from Qatar Airways amid a contract dispute could free up some capacity, although a London judge has ordered the manufacturer to keep the slots for now.