Airbus Planes Are Now The Most Heavily Flown In The World

A lot has changed in the world of aviation over the past 10 years. Passenger traffic has increased, we’ve got many new airports, and the types of aircraft we’re flying most commonly have changed significantly.

United 737 and A320
The Airbus A320 has overtaken its rival the Boeing 737 during the past 10 years. Photo: Bill Larkins via Flickr

Boeing is no longer the most heavily flown aircraft manufacturer in the world, and there’s only one other manufacturer which could have stolen the title.

As reported by OAG, it’s been a good decade for Airbus. Compared to Boeing, Airbus, in its current form at least, is a relative newcomer to commercial passenger aviation. The Boeing 737 is the most popular passenger airliner in history, entering service way back in 1967. Since then, more than 10,500 have been produced.

By comparison, the A320, Airbus’s competitor to the Boeing 737, didn’t enter service until 1988. At just over 9,000 units produced, the A320 is still behind the 737, but not by much.

Passenger flight numbers

Back in 2010, the 737 was still top of the rankings for commercial aircraft based upon the number of scheduled flights. With 7,533,126 passenger flights, the aircraft led the Airbus A320 family (also including the A318, A319, and A321), which amassed 6,577,349 by comparison.

Just like they do today, the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 made up the vast majority of passenger flights overall. The third-placed type back in 2010 was the Canadair Regional Jet, which had just 2,676,118 passenger flights by comparison.

Canadair Regional Jet
In 2010 the Canadair Regional Jet was the third most popular passenger jet. Photo: Dean Morley via Flickr

The picture has changed significantly since then. The A320 family now leads the 737 in terms of passenger flights. In 2019 the A320 family recorded 12,762,758 passenger flights. It has now overtaken the 737, which flew 10,478,659 by comparison.

Flying time

Back in 2010, the picture for airborne hours by type was similar. The 737 was the market leader with 921,308,722 minutes of flying time. Meanwhile, the A320 family was second with 853,238,299 minutes of flying time.

Moving forward to 2019, the Airbus A320 family has also overtaken the Boeing 737 in terms of flying time. With 1,772,333,624 minutes in the air, the A320 family is once again placed above the 737, which has a total 1,507,650,968.

While the A320 family has overtaken the 737 in terms of both passenger flights and time in the air, what’s arguably even more impressive is Airbus’s individual growth over this time. Passenger flights and flying time for the A320 family are both almost double what they were 10 years ago.

Airbus A320
The Airbus A320 is now the most popular passenger jet. Photo: Janusz Jakubowski via Flickr

This highly impressive rate of expansion shows just what a good decade it’s been for Airbus’s commercial aviation arm. The market share of the top two aircraft types – the A320 family and the 737 – is now even larger than the competitors.

Will the gap between the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737 only get bigger?

Going forward it looks like the Boeing 737 MAX scandal might be good news for Airbus. If it can capitalize on the negative sentiment towards the latest version of the Boeing 737, we may well see an even larger gap between the two different types (or manufacturers) at the end of the 2020s.