Air Travel: Trouble in Iran, New Aircraft Orders

A rendering of JetBlue's new A321XLR aircraft // Photo by Airbus

Security concerns in Iranian airspace and a number of new aircraft orders lead this week’s air travel news. 

This week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered a halt to all flights operating over the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman “due to heightened military activity and political tensions that might place commercial flights at risk.” The order came one day after Iran reportedly shot down a U.S. surveillance drone. 

The same evening as the FAA order, United Airlines canceled its flight between Newark and Mumbai, India, which had operated through Iranian airspace. United said that guests who had been booked on the return Mumbai to Newark flight would be rebooked on alternate flights, although they will experience a longer flight time due to a change in the flight path. 

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In product update news, a number of airlines ordered new aircraft this week. American Airlines ordered 50 of Airbus’ newest aircraft type, the A321XLR. The airline said that the aircraft, which can fly more than 4,700 nautical miles, would help it grow its East Coast hubs to new destinations in Europe and South America

American also completed installation of updated wi-fi on its entire long-term mainline narrowbody fleet of more than 700 aircraft, which the airline says will provide more bandwidth and faster connection speeds. Every satellite-equipped aircraft can now also stream live TV, giving customers complimentary access to 12 channels on their personal devices. 

JetBlue also announced it will be getting the new, ultra-long-range Airbus aircraft. The airline opted to convert 13 of the aircraft in its existing Airbus A321neo order book to the XLR version, with delivery scheduled to begin in 2023. JetBlue said that the aircraft would support its expansion into Europe, offering the capability to fly to more European destinations from Boston and New York while also adding fuel efficiency. 

JetBlue also announced it is exercising its option to add 10 additional A220-300 aircraft to its order with delivery beginning in 2025. That move is aimed at supporting its network strategy in the Americas, JetBlue said. 

Finally, Frontier Airlines announced its intent to convert 18 Airbus A320neo aircraft on order to 18 Airbus A321SLR aircraft. The airline said the aircraft would allow it to grow in new and existing markets.

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