Frontier Airlines CEO: Transatlantic A321XLR Routes 'Definitely In Consideration’

Credit: Airbus

With 18 Airbus A321XLR aircraft slated to be delivered to Frontier Airlines, the US ULCC is considering entering the transatlantic market, and has not ruled out long-haul flights to South America.

The A321XLR, which completed its first flight in June and is scheduled to enter service in 2024, will be the longest-range single-aisle aircraft produced in decades and the farthest-flying narrowbody in the current global fleet. With a range of 4,700 nm, it will be able to fly 30% farther than the baseline A321neo and 700 nm more than the A321LR variant currently in service.

Denver (DEN)-based Frontier flies extensively domestically with a growing near-international network, but the carrier—an all-A320 family aircraft operator—does not currently have aircraft with the range to cross the Atlantic. That will change in 2026, when the airline starts taking delivery of its A321XLR aircraft.

The A321XLR “will enable us to fly to Europe, Hawaii and deeper into South America,” Frontier CEO Barry Biffle told the Routes World 2022 conference in Las Vegas this week.

Flying transatlantic is “definitely in consideration,” he added.

Biffle said that during Routes World he had spoken to a representative from Ireland’s Shannon Airport (SNN) who was “hitting me up because he knows we've got the XLR coming.”

Service to SNN “would be of interest,” Biffle added, while emphasizing no decisions have been made regarding potential transatlantic routes.

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When asked by Routes whether Frontier would consider going beyond its current single-class configuration to add premium seating for long-haul flights, he said the airline has “been studying that,” but has not made any decisions regarding its A321XLR configuration.

“Everybody wants more” leg room and amenities, Biffle added. “The question is, are they willing to pay more? It's a square footage game. There's so much square footage on the plane. And what's the best configuration to generate the most revenue? … It’s not taboo for me to have a premium product, but we've got to look at it.”

Regardless of cabin layout, Frontier is actively exploring potential international options with the A321XLR. Biffle noted he made a recent visit to Airbus headquarters, where he discussed route possibilities.

“I was in Toulouse three weeks ago and we were going through what the range enabled you to do from various cities in the northeast United States,” Biffle said. “Effectively you'd be able to go from Philadelphia (PHL) to everything in the UK, Scotland and Ireland and, of course, you can get into mainland Europe.”

He added: “From Miami (MIA), you can pretty much reach just about anywhere in South America. It also enables us to do other interesting things. You can fly from the [US] west coast to the Caribbean.”

While the carrier considers future long-haul possibilities, it remains focused on its near-international flying connecting US markets to warm-weather leisure destinations. “We're looking to grow our near-international a lot more,” Biffle said. “We've invested considerably in Jamaica, Cancun (CUN) and the Caribbean generally. We just recently announced Denver to Montego Bay (MBJ), for example.”

Aaron Karp

Aaron Karp is a Contributing Editor to the Aviation Week Network.