PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus won safety approval for the longest-range version of its A321neo jet as European and U.S. safety regulators both gave the green light to the A321LR, the planemaker said on Tuesday.
The announcement came as the original launch customer of the transatlantic-hopping jet, Primera Air, announced it was halting operations, leaving thousands of people stranded.
In April, Airbus had described Primera as the launch airline for the jet, which aims to extend the range of the best-selling A321neo to 4,000 nautical miles by adding a third optional extra fuel tank inside the cargo bay.
Airbus now plans to deliver the first A321LR aircraft to Israeli airline ARKIA, a spokesman said.
Industry sources said Primera had asked for its own first aircraft, to be rented from a leasing company, to be delayed as its financial difficulties mounted, leaving ARKIA first in line.
Airbus and Boeing have been adding more range to their single-aisle aircraft as airlines seek to open up new transatlantic or other routes using efficient narrowbody jets.
Airbus is working on a 4,500-nautical mile version dubbed A321XLR to try to head off plans by Boeing for a larger-cabin model wedged between single-aisle jets like the A321 and wide-body jets like the Boeing 787 or Airbus A330.
The chief executive of Norwegian Air (NWC.OL) said in June he was interested in the possible A321XLR version.
Reporting by Tim Hepher, editing by Louise Heavens