Airbus A220 vs Boeing 737 – Which Plane Is Best? 14

The Boeing 737 is the worlds most successful plane. If you have flown anywhere it is more than likely you have been on the world most widely used jet, with over 12,000 being ordered over the last fifty years.

There are thirteen different models and currently, Boeing produces a new one every 10 days.

Ryanair B737
Ryanair operates a fleet of 444 B737 aircraft, with 150 more on order. Photo: Ryanair

But it looks like another contender has come to take Boeing’s crown, the Airbus A220.

Startup
The possible new look of the skies of tomorrow, with the A220 in flight.

Airbus previously rolled out a competitor to the Boeing 737, the Airbus A320, and has had plenty of success in the market. However, this new jet could sneak in and cause a major upset against the industry giant.

Just like in our previous articles where we prove which is better, the Boeing 777x vs Airbus A350 and 787 Dreamliner or Long Haul Airbus A350, we are looking for either a clear winner or how each jet has a distinct performance over the other in various categories.

Why are we comparing these two planes?

The new Airbus A220-300 is new on the market and incorporates other design principles not found in other Airbus planes. As it comes from Bombardier in Canada (Previously called the CS series, but now in a 49% joint venture partnership with Airbus it has a new name), they have different expertise, materials, technology and more.

Plus, as icing on the cake, Boeing previously tried to embargo the A220 from being sold to carriers. It required legal help from Airbus to get it through to their customers. Now for this underdog, it’s personal.

bombardier
The Bombardier CS-300 Series

How are they selling?

Recently, Delta revealed its first A220-100 and how it will have another 90 in the skies over the next five years. This has also followed reports of JetBlue placing a large order and Moxy, the new startup from the ex-founder of JetBlue, placing an order. So far, over 400 have been ordered.

Delta
The CEO of Delta welcomes the new craft to the Delta Fleet.

The Boeing 737 absolutely destroys those numbers with over 12,000 orders.

Which two planes will be tested?

Naturally, there are 13 different 737 models, and 2 (and a half) A220 models. In the principle of fairness, we will be looking at the most popular Boeing 737-800 vs the A220-300, based on having almost equivalent passenger numbers.

There is, of course, bigger and small variations of both, from smaller 737’s to bigger A220-500’s.

We will be comparing them to several different items found in the list below. We will take the perspective of an Airline looking for the most band for their buck. This means whilst an airline might have a cool feature (Like the big windows on an A220) it does not directly lead to more profit thus will not be included.

Let’s get to it!

A220-300 under construction

Boeing 737 vs Airbus A220

Model737-800A220-300
Cockpit crewTwoTwo
Seating, 2-class160130
Seating, 1-class175160
Overall length102–138 ft (31–42 m)127 ft 0 in / 38.7 m
Wing112 ft 7 in (34.32 m)115 ft 1 in / 35.1 m
Overall height41 ft (12 m)37 ft 8 in / 11.5 m
Fuselage
148 inches (3.8 m)12 ft 2 in / 3.7 m
Cabin width139.2 inches (3.54 m)129.0 in / 3.28 m
Fuel capacity[194]20,100L17,213 L
Cargo capacity
882–1,373 cu ft, 25.0–38.9 m31,116 cu ft / 31.6 m³
Speed (Cruise)Mach 0.82 (473 kn; 876 km/h)Mach .78 (447 kn; 829 km/h) typical
Takeoff Runway2,290–2,650 m6,200 ft / 1,890 m
Range2,060–2,375 nmi / 3,815–4,398 km3,300 nmi / 6,112 km
Engines (2×)CFM56-3 seriesPratt & Whitney PW1500G
Maximum thrust[194]20,000–23,500 / lbf 89–105 kN21,000-23,300 lbf / 93.4-103.6 kN

Passenger Seating: It seems that the Boeing 737 can just fit in a few more passengers than the Airbus 220. More paying passengers, more revenue. Winner: Boeing 737

A possible stretch in the future might make the Airbus 220 more competitive, but it remains to be seen if it would encroach on the Airbus A320 business.

The A220 seat configuration. The above for the smaller CS-100 / A220-100.

Cabin Size: The Boeing 737 has a bigger cabin than the A220, and can fit more passengers and cargo on board. the A220 is five seats across and the 737 is six seats across. It’s only 10 inches wider and thus room enough to get a win. Winner: Boeing 737

Seat Size: Surprisingly, there are reports that the newer 737’s have smaller seats than the A220. In an effort to cram as many people on board the 737 as possible, the A220 comes out ahead, with 1 inch wider seats, and up to 2 inches more in pitch (In Economy). However, this is up to the airline and it’s not fair to rate a plane based on their fit out. After all, we hear Ryanair is still chasing after those stand-up seats. Draw

Cargo Capacity: The Boeing 737 has more cargo capacity on board due to being a bigger plane. This is fairly tight, however, there is a clear winner. Winner: Boeing 737

Speed and Cruise: Turns out, the bigger plane can actually fly significantly faster. We did not expect this going in but the Airbus is rather slower than the Boeing 737. Fast speed means more turnarounds and more flights in a day. Winner: Boeing 737

Range: But, here is where Airbus A220 takes the fight back. The Airbus has a range of almost 2,000 more kilometers than the Boeing 737. This means hundreds of more routes and way more versatility when it comes to route planning.

In fact, it’s because of this large range that some new airlines are using this jet to build a new flight business model! Winner: Airbus A220

cancelled Norwegian routes
Norwegian Boeing 737 Max cabin.

Takeoff Runway: The smaller plane requires a shorter runway. This is no surprise but does mean the Airbus can fly to more airports than the Boeing 737.

A220-100 windows
Extra large windows with multiple windows per row let the light flood into the cabin on the A220.

Let’s talk about Fuel Efficiency

You may have noticed that the Airbus A220 carries far less fuel than the Boeing 737 and that the range of the Airbus is significantly more. This is evidence that the Airbus A220 is far more fuel efficient, and thus may actually be far cheaper to run than any Boeing 737.

This would make Airlines far more attracted in buying the A220 over the Boeing 737 as the price of fuel goes up.

What about cost?

Now, if we were an airline and wanted to buy one of these jets, which is the better deal?

Boeing 737: Between $51.5 million and $87 million US, on average
A220 / CS300: $89.5 million US

The Boeing 737 is significantly cheaper, that you can actually buy two (with discounts) for the price of one A220. That may instantly negate any fuel savings made by an airline. This is simply because Boeing has a mass production line that produces hundreds of these planes a year. Airbus and Bombardier would need a similar setup (And similar orders) to even compete with their A220.

O'Leary & Boeing
Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary poses with the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Ray Conner, after signing a contract for new aircraft. Photo: Boeing

Which is the better plane?

As with all answers to this question, it depends what you want the jet for. If you are flying larger amounts of passengers rapidly and need a reliable and versatile jet, that has a proven record and is cheaper to buy, then the Boeing 737 is the way to go.

However, many airlines actually lease planes and may not care about how much it costs, but which is cheaper to run. This is the A220, with its bigger range and fuel efficiency makes it an excellent contender for the Boeing 737 killer.

If Airbus and Bombardier could make a CS-500 / A220-500 version that could seat 160-200 passengers, and get the price low enough, then Boeing would be very worried indeed.

Post Script: Why not compare Boeing 737 MAX 8 vs Airbus A220/CS300

Many commentators have written in asking why don’t we compare a new plane (A220-300) with Boeing 737 Max 8. After all, the Boeing 737 Max 8 has the advantage of new technology, new engineering and has an equal astonishing large amount of orders (Over 4,000 for the 737 Max varieties).

However, the above princibles still very much apply. The newer 737 Max 8 can hold up to 210 passengers, flies a little further in range than the A220 (In the order of a few hundred kilometers) but requires 7,000 more liters of fuel to do so. It’s a bigger plane and would be more appropriate to rival the A320 rather than the A220. The A22 0 is cheaper to run… but the newer Boeing 737 max 8 may have enough extra passengers on board to justify the extra fuel.

What do you think? Do you like the 737 or the A220? Let us know in the comments.

14 Comments

  1. The A220 is not a competitor to the 737. While it does compete with the 737-7, the A320 remains the 737’s primary competitor. It is a totally unfair comparison. Also, I can say that while the 737 is better for the airlines the A220 is far more comfortable and offers a much better experience for the passenger.

    1. I totally agree Airbus is in a bit of a problem with having both the A220 and the A320 on the books. They both operate well against the 737 line up.

  2. These metrics aren’t there greatest. For example, comparing cargo size just based on more = better is meaningless when they’re different class planes. Also, there’s no planned A220-500 right now.

    1. And honestly, as much as I’d like to see one, I don’t think there will be an A220-500. It competes too much with the Airbus A320 range…
      But then you hear the rumors about the new Boeing plane with Embraer and anything is possible.

  3. The A220 can fly at the same speed and altitudes as the 737, mach .82 and 41,000 feet. Comparing the B737 to the A220 is like comparing an old blackberry phone with an Iphone X. Yes they both make calls and send texts, but the iphone X is much more advanced, of course it is going to cost more because it can do so much more. The B737 was designed in the 60’s and while it has been updated it still retains many of the same characteristics from its original design. The A220 is a clean slate design so has incorporated all the newest technologies into the most advanced narrowbody aircraft today. If your only concern is the selling price than get the cheapest thing that will fit your bill otherwise the A220 is the clear winner.

  4. Looks like you got your model statistics from the wrong column in Wikipedia. Also, the -800 is the old version of the 737, with the new version, the Max-8, with even better economics & comfort.

    1. We actually got them from the correct source. Yes, I think another look with Max 8 might be in order, but I think the outcome will be the same.

  5. What a ridiculous article. Nothing more than click bait. These two planes don’t compete. When you list the spec of the 737 you list a range of lengths etc. Are you comparing one plane or the family?

    Total rubbish.

  6. You are not comparing apples with apples, Nicolas. The hashtag#Boeing hashtag#B737Max8 should be compared with the hashtag#Airbus hashtag#A320Neo. The true comparison would be between the hashtag#A220-300 and the hashtag#B737Max7!

  7. You are not comparing apples with apples, Nicolas. The Boeing B737Max8 should be compared with the Airbus A320Neo. The true comparison would be between the A220-300 and the B737Max7!

  8. Absolute click bait nonsense article. Apples, oranges. Kiwis even. The writer doesn’t have a clue about commercial or operational considerations or metrics. Waste of my time and I’m wasting even more time writing this.

  9. Apples-to-apples: A220-300 competes/compares to B737Max7. In that comparison, the A220-300 wins hands down, comfort, economics, technology, period.

  10. This comparison is possibly one of the worst you can ever imagine people writing: more passengers = better? why don’t you compare A220s with 747s to start with when you are not comparing apples with apples right from the beginning

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