BMED of the UK, a British Airways franchise partner, today took delivery of the first of seven Airbus A321s on order, as part of an expansion that will lead to a doubling of its fleet.

The Airbus A321 is powered by International Aero Engines V2500s, and seats 149 passengers in a two-class layout.

"This delivery of our first ordered Airbus A321 marks a new phase in the expansion of our fleet, which will double within the next five years," says BMED Chief Executive Officer David Richardson. "The Airbus A320 Family has served BMED and its passengers well, by delivering excellent economy and comfort. Our new aircraft will allow us to provide this service even more widely."

BMED already flies three leased Airbus A320s and three leased A321s on long regional routes from London-Heathrow to Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It achieves an average sector length of some 4.5 hours and aircraft daily utilisations of 11-12 hours - the highest of any Airbus A320 Family airline operator.

"Aircraft earn their keep best when they fly a lot, so BMED is able to achieve outstanding efficiency as well as benefiting from the excellent reliability of the Airbus A320 Family," says Airbus President and CEO Gustav Humbert. “It is great to see Airbus aircraft delivering such value, and we look forward to BMED growing its fleet with even more of them."

The Airbus A320 Family comprises the A318, A319, A320 and A321, and is the fastest-selling airliner range in history. It features a modern all-new design, with features such as wider seats and a more spacious cabin, excellent economy, low maintenance costs, and popular investment appeal.

Firm sales of the Airbus A320 Family now stands at almost 4,300 aircraft, and there are more than 200 customers and operators of them.

Airbus is an EADS joint company with BAE Systems.