Adding more seats to the Airbus A321NEO will lead to a 5% reduction in fuel burn per seat, Klaus Roewe, senior vice president for the A320NEO program told attendees of the Airbus Innovation Days in Toulouse. Airbus is offering the aircraft in a 236-seat lay-out that includes a new overwing exit. Door three is positioned further aft and door two can be deactivated as an option.

The proposed changes would increase flexibility for how the aircraft is used. Keeping all doors activated and adding the overwing exit will allow airlines to operate the aircraft in the new high density lay-out. On the other hand, Airbus expects the aircraft on longer-haul flights like U.S. transcontinental services, too. With door two deactiviated, it will be easier to install bigger premium cabins including lie-flat seats that are not obstructed by monuments and do not have to be interrupted by a doorway. That option is possible in configurations for 200 seats or less.

Roewe points out that the addition of the extra door frame for the overwing exit does not add extra weight to the aircraft as Airbus has taken compensatory measures to make up for the added structure.

The first A320NEO is planned to enter service in October 2015. Roewe claims that around 400 NEOs will be flying when the first of the competing Boeing 737 MAX is delivered.

While sharklets are going to be standard on the NEO family, the wingtip devices are currently only an option for newly built current generation A320. Airbus is exploring whether to offer them as a retrofit for in-service, aircraft, too. The airframer will have to find ways how to strengthen the structure of already built and in-service wings to accommodate the higher weight outer wing add-ons.