The Unreleased Airbus A322

Daniel Fowkes
08 Apr 2024
· Aircraft 
· Analysis 
Airbus A321XLR

Airbus’ persistent development of its A320 family has seen the release of several stretches, enhanced variants and more. However, towards the latter stages of the 2010s and into the early 2020s, the manufacturer studied a stretch of the A321, dubbed the A322.

What started as merely an aircraft has become a pivotal part of numerous airline fleets. This series’ ongoing enhancements have opened up new horizons for customers, offering them fresh possibilities for deployment.

Boeing’s decision not to proceed with its middle-of-the-market airliner following its persistent troubles, which occurred in the late 2010s and early 2020s and arguably continue today, presented new opportunities for Airbus.

The Airbus A322

The Airbus A322 is a prospective aircraft type that the European plane maker has been considering for quite some time. As Airbus strategised its next move in an industry that demands constant innovation, the A322 emerged as a potential extension of the A321.

In 2021, Bloomberg reported interest in repeating the success of adding new efficient engines to the A320 body by introducing new wings on a new aircraft that would see a composite wing bring affordable and accessible travel with the ability to up-scale production to high rates long into the future.

Sue Partridge, the leader of the Wing Of Tomorrow program, said that a new era of wings was approaching, and just like the 777X folding wingtips, the next era of aircraft Airbus would see changes. This can be reaffirmed through new studies at Airbus and other manufacturers that explore initiatives such as the Truss braced wing design and many others.

Speculated A322 Specifications

Despite Airbus’ interest, nothing significant was ever revealed regarding specifications, and Airbus was naturally pretty tight-lipped about a study that wasn’t guaranteed to be released.

What was at least speculated was just how many additional seats might be available. This is not confirmed, but according to further analysts, as many as four extra rows of seating could’ve been available on the aircraft.

As a result, this would’ve offered opportunities in either economy or upper class, depending on how an airline configures the aircraft type.

What Happened To The A322?

So, what happened to this prospective A322? Similar to other studies, it faded into the sunset with no further mentions. While you cannot rule out something such as an A322 long into the future, as there may be an appetite, the belief is that the A321XLR is the peak of what is required in that series for airline customers.

If there were any larger capacity requirements, the European manufacturer would ideally send their customers to the larger aircraft in its diverse portfolio, such as the A330neo or, if they need more, even the A350.

Offering Other Aircraft To Airlines

Despite no A322, Airbus has been able to pounce on interest in the middle of the market sector by continuing to develop and redefine what it means to fly a single-aisle aircraft.

With the upcoming debut of the A321XLR, customers can deploy their aircraft on almost 9-hour flights and reach new markets without needing a widebody.

This XLR extends upon the success and enhancements seen with the A321LR, and while it has had its delays, it promises a lot and generally those new opportunities.

A Wrong Decision?

Can the decision not to move forward with an A322 be deemed wrong? While typically posed in forums, day-to-day life, and between analysts, these questions are always tricky to answer as there are multiple angles to explore.

If Airbus pitched the aircraft to customers and didn’t receive enough firm interest to proceed, then not moving ahead can be quickly deemed the right decision. Equally, that doesn’t, as briefly touched on, mean the aircraft won’t be required someday in the future, and the studies undertaken during this period could help develop future aircraft in the single-aisle market, too.

A lot regarding the A322 would ride on the continued development of new technology, too, and it seemed apparent from the beginning that such an A322 wouldn’t be just a standard extension.

The A322 was pitched as having new features, such as the development of its wings. As technology progresses and the industry continues adapting, such a plane could be required.

Still, for now, at least, the A322 has seen talk quieten as Airbus focuses on moving towards more sustainable flying, getting the A321XLR out to customers and continuing to assert its dominance in other sectors.

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