Airbus will reveal details next month on how it plans to boost the number of seats on its  A320 and A321 aircraft. 

The manufacturer plans to raise seating on the A320 from 180 to 186 seats. The A321 maximum capacity will go from the current 220 seats to 240, Airbus Chief Operating Officer Customers John Leahy said at the Berlin Air Show (ILA).

Aviation Week earlier reported about the plans. Back in April, Airbus only said that the 186 limit was “one of the things we are looking at amongst others.” However, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) confirmed that “the process for this significant modification has started.”

Leahy admitted in Berlin that the A320 has had some disadvantages in sales campaigns with low-cost carriers because of the 180-seat limit. By comparison, the competing Boeing 737-800 seats a maximum of 189 passengers.

The move was triggered by Airbus’ win of the Vueling fleet order last August. The low-cost carrier, a subsidiary of International Airlines Group (IAG), placed a firm order for 30 A320s and 32 A320neos. The deal also included options for 58 more aircraft that could go to Vueling and an additional 100 A320neos that could end up at any of the IAG Group’s carriers -– Vueling, British Airways or Iberia. The aircraft on firm order are to be delivered between 2015 and 2020.

According to industry sources, one key element for Airbus to be able to win the Vueling order was the promise to fit 186 seats in the cabin. Airbus has done some significant interior redesign work and has more planned. 

Many airlines have either already installed or are in the process of installing slim backrest seats that allow the airlines to reduce pitch and gain space for several more seat rows . 

Also, as part of the Spaceflex concept, airlines can opt to move the rear lavatories to immediately in front of the rear pressure bulkhead if they accept a smaller galley, which allows  the installation of another row of seats.

— Jens Flottau, jens.flottau@aviationweek.co.uk