Airbus A220 vs McDonnell Douglas MD-80 – Which Aircraft Is Best?

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Whilst airlines are proud to have the latest and greatest aircraft in their mainline fleet, such as Qatar who boasts no aircraft over 10 years old, many still have fleets of aging regional aircraft. One such workhorse is the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 (Built by a company long ago acquired by Boeing).

Md-80
MD-80 vs A220. Which is better? Photo: Simple Flying

With many airlines looking to modernize their regional aircraft, is the latest offering from Airbus, the A220, a spiritual successor to the MD-80? Let’s find out.

What is the McDonnell Douglas MD-80?

The MD-80 was a regional aircraft design from the Mcdonnell Douglas aerospace company for feeder routes to big hubs. The aircraft would collect passengers from smaller airports then fly them to hubs (like Dallas-Fort Worth) to transfer onto inter-state flights. Over 1,100 of the type were built and the aircraft is a great success story for the industry. 

MD-80
The MD-80 was known for its iconic rear engines. Photo: Wikimedia

Looking at the design and role of the MD-80, you might notice that Airbus’ new Bombardier built A220 fits in its big shoes quite easily but is it actually better?

How do they compare?

Putting these two aircraft together we can see several similarities and vast differences. Have a look below at the MD-81,-82,-83,-88 compared to its rival the A220-300.

VariantMD-81/82/83/88A220-300 
Cockpit crewTwoTwo
1-class seats155Y @32-33″ (max 172)141 @ 32′ (max 160)
Length147 ft 8 in (45.01 m)127 ft 0 in / 38.7 m
Wing107 ft 8 in (32.82 m) span, 1,209 sq ft (112.3 m2) area115 ft 1 in / 35.1 m span, 1,209 sq ft / 112.3 m² area (10.97 AR)
Cabin Width122.5 in / 311.2 cm cabin129.0 in / 3.28 m width
Cargo1,253 cu ft (35.5 m31,116 cu ft / 31.6 m³
MTOW-81: 140,000 lb (63,500 kg)69,853 kg (154,000 lb)
-82: 149,500 lb (67,800 kg)
-83/88: 160,000 lb (72,600 kg)
Cruise speedMach 0.8 (472 kn; 873 km/h)[78]Mach .78 (447 kn; 829 km/h)
Range-81: 1,800 nmi (3,300 km) @ 137 pax3,350 nmi (6,200 km)
-82: 2,050 nmi (3,800 km) @ 155 pax
-83/88: 2,550 nmi (4,720 km) @ 155 pax
Takeoff7,200–8,000 ft (2,200–2,400 m)6,200 ft / 1,890 m
Fuel capacity5,850 US gal (22,100 L) -83/88: 7,000 US gal (26,000 L)21,918 l (5,790 USg) / 39,080 lb (17,726 kg)
Engines (×2)Pratt & Whitney JT8D-200 series2× Pratt & Whitney PW1500G
Thrust (×2)18,500–21,000 lbf (82–93 kN)21,000-23,300 lbf / 93.4-103.6 kN

Passengers

The MD-80 has a larger passenger capacity than the A220 (well, until Airbus builds a hyperthetical A220-500 stretch) with 12 more max passengers than the A220-300. Looking at the length of the aircraft, we can see that this room is put to good use.

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Both aircraft seat passengers in a 3-2 configuration (with a 2-2 configuration for those in first).

MD-80
The business and economy cabin of an MD-80. Photo: Wikimedia

Range

The second major factor airlines consider is range. You might be able to carry more passengers, but the range of the aircraft limits what routes you can fly.

The MD-80 can cover a distance of 2,550 nautical miles at its maximum range. The A220-300, on the other hand, can smash 3,350 nautical miles. This is the difference of 800 nautical miles (1,481 km) is the equivalent of Barcelona to Berlin, or Washington to Miami. This extra range is a game changer and one of the reasons why the A220-300 is so much more flexible for airlines.

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The A220-300 is also cleared for transatlantic journeys.

ETOPS A220
Some of the routes now possible on the A220. Photo: Airbus

Which is better?

There is no denying that the larger capacity of the MD-80 makes it an attractive aircraft, and the main reason why it has been in use for so long. However, in this world of higher fuel prices and demand for longer point to point routes, the A220 comes out on top. We asked our Twitter for followers their thoughts:

What do you think? Let us know in the comments. 

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