Airbus is making further progress in placing its two models addressing the middle of the market segment with commitments from several airlines in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Cebu Pacific placed an order for 16 A330-900s and ten A321XLRs, the longest range version of the A321neo. The carrier will be the highest-density operator of the A330neo. The airline plans to fly the aircraft in a 460-seat single-class layout. Because Airbus has rearranged the cabin Cebu can fit in 30 extra seats compared to the A330-300s it currently flies. “We are operating in one of the most slot constraint environments in Asia,” Cebu chief financial officer Andrew Huang said. “We deployed the A330s on routes that we had not envisioned,” he added pointing at short three-hour sectors such as the Manila-Hongkong routes.

The A330-900s will mainly be used to replace the -300s and grow capacity in existing markets over time. The first of the aircraft will arrive in 2021, helping Airbus to fill production. Cebu plans to fly the A330neo on routes to Tokyo-Narita or Osaka and Shanghai, a route that the airline has only recently opened. The airline also serves longer-haul markets like Dubai, Sydney and Melbourne.

Cebu is the second A321XLR customer revealed since the official June 17 launch of the program and following Air Lease Corporation (ALC). Mike Szucs, chief executive advisor, hopes it will be able to get to a 240-seat configuration for the aircraft, just short of the 244-seat maximum. Cebu plans to use the XLR on international routes originating in markets outside of Manila.

Separately, International Airlines Group (IAG) agreed to a firm order for 14 A321XLRs. The company will place eight of the aircraft with its subsidiary Iberia, six will fly for Aer Lingus. None are going to low-cost operator Level. Airbus said the aircraft will enable Aer Lingus to launch new routes beyond the U.S. East Coast and into Canada. Iberia plans to operate to new transatlantic destinations and increase frequencies in existing markets.

Saudi Arabian Airlines meanwhile increased its A320neo family order from 35 to 65 aircraft. 15 of the additional aircraft are of the new A321XLR variant. Saudia is expanding capacity fast partly as it takes advantage of the new terminal at Jeddah International Airport which is planned to be fully operational in September. The opening is challenging. “For an airline which operated only eight flights per hour in Jeddah … to go to a three times daily departure/arrival wave system with up to 35 departures and landings within two hours will be a big change," said Jaan Albrecht, Saudia's CEO. 

Air Asia converted an order for 253 A320neos to the larger A321neo. It now holds firm commitments for 353 of the aircraft turning the airline into the model’s biggest customer. The deal did not involve A321XLRs.