If you are flying on a narrowbody, it is likely either a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A320. Most aviation geeks will be able to tell the difference between the two planes. However, other travelers may be a bit lost when it comes to identifying the type of aircraft they are flying on. Here’s how to tell what plane you’re on when you’re at the gate.
The nose shape
One of the biggest differences between the Boeing 737 and an Airbus A320 is the shape of the nose of the aircraft. The two have different designs that can lead to easier identification. For example, the Boeing 737 has a much sharper nose– almost in the shape of a triangle when looked at from the side perspective. You can see this in the above image of a Boeing 737-900ER. When it comes to an A320, however, the A320 has a nose that is more round. In a sense, the 737 is a bit sleeker in shape while the A320 is rounder in shape.
The cockpit windows on a Boeing 737 are more angular. There is a downward cut just after the nose. This cut is absent from Airbus A320 families.
The A320, meanwhile, is more round. Both designs adhere to the overall shape of the aircraft.
What if I’m at the gate?
If you’re at the gate, your view is likely a bit obstructed to notice most of the features on the aircraft. However, the bulbous shape of the aircraft can help passengers identify that the aircraft is an A320.
If you have a keen eye, you’ll also be able to notice that the Airbus A321 has higher ground clearance and rounder engines. Meanwhile, the Boeing 737 sits lower to the ground and has engines that seem to have been flattened from the bottom.
On the inside
In economy class, both aircraft are outfitted in a 3-3 configuration. Unless you closely examine the safety card or search for Boeing Sky Interior markers, it is not as easy to tell which aircraft you are on by the seating configuration.
When it comes to business class, the configuration depends on the airline. Most carriers outside of Europe operate business class as a separate cabin with different seats. This is usually in a 2-2 configuration. However, in Europe, the 3-3 configuration is maintained but the middle seat is blocked for comfort purposes.
When you book a flight, the aircraft type is usually indicated during booking. Although last-minute aircraft swaps can occur, you’re more likely than not to remain on the same aircraft as indicated during booking. Furthermore, not all airlines operate both the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 family of aircraft.
The Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 are the most popular narrowbody aircraft out there. Hopefully, now, infrequent fliers will be able to tell the difference between the two!