The Boeing 747 jumbo jet, which began flying half a century ago, opened so many destinations that it became known as the aircraft that shrunk the world. Now, a rival manufacturer wants to shrink the planes.
On Monday, Airbus announced plans to build an expanded version of its single-use A321 jet, a bet to expand what its slimmer aircraft can do, and that travelers and airlines will heat to fly a narrow-legged plane on trips that can be longer than eight hours.
The new Airbus A321
The aircraft marks a change for Airbus and commercial air change for less , nimbler fly. Airbus earlier this year announced that it will complete the production of the A380, the world's largest passenger ship, as the demand for the 500 passenger aircraft faltered and the airlines' appetite for leaner aircraft rose.
Airbus's announcement comes as main competitor, Boeing, is hobbled by the crisis of two fatalities of its 737 Max aircraft, aircraft that have been grounded worldwide since mid-March. Boeing has mulled a brand new twin-passage aircraft that would be smaller than its 787s but larger than its 737s.
Airbus claims that its aircraft could service airlines wishing to fill it with 180 to 220 passengers in two cabins, but would not have the expense of operating a wide body plan, which would have more seats to fill. The company expects the planes to be delivered in 2023. "You can use a narrow-body, one-way, long-distance plan, and you can connect cities that have no opportunity to connect with a good business case," said Airbus CEO. Guillaume Faury to CNBC in an interview Monday after the announcement.  Faury said he was not worried that the controversy over Boeing's regulatory approval process for the 737 Max could bring more control over Airbus's new aircraft.
"It may be good news," he said. "This is the way to increase safety levels."
Airbus A321XLR could fit into the airlines' aging rafts such as the Boeing 757, another one-way plan used on both the transatlantic and transcontinental routes. Airlines have used one-way plans for medium to long distance routes, including the Norwegian Air Shuttle. Wow Air, a low cost Icelandic airline that collapsed in March, used Airbus A321s.
It is unclear how the airlines would equip single-airbus Airbus aircraft, but Gary Leff, who writes View from the Wing blog on air travel and rewards programs, says travelers can find more crowded homes than on widebody jets due to weight restrictions on table.
Airlines sacrifice reach when they give weight, so the luxury business-class suites could be difficult to replicate on the narrowbody plane.
Carriers may also choose to add more seats on board in relation to previous aircraft.
"When you have a fresh canvas to work with, it's an opportunity for airlines to continue their cabins," he said.
– CNBCs Phil LeBeau contributed to this article.