Whilst it is cool to talk about giant aircraft that can carry 1000 passengers, or fly around the entire world, the real bread and butter for the aircraft industry comes from short range short haul domestic aircraft. Specifically, a plane that can carry 150-200 passengers, with a range of 3,000-4,000 nautical miles.
We all know their names, and most of us will have flown on them many times before. The Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. Both aircraft families are in prolific use around the world, flying thousands of hours every day. Between them, they make up the backbone of the world travel industry. If you are going to fly, particularly short- or medium-haul, you’re probably going to be flying on one of these aircraft.
Boeing was the first to market with the 737 series, driving it to become the best selling commercial aircraft of all time. Airbus wanted a slice of the action too, and produced their own version, the A320. Sales have been neck and neck ever since.
But out of Airbus and Boeing, who builds the best one? Let’s find out!
How will we compare each aircraft?
Naturally, there are plenty of variants of each to choose from, and if we were to just compare one series with another, we might find ourselves with a less than complete picture. So we will try our best to match up each aircraft. Airbus only entered the market to compete with the 2nd Generation of Boeing 737s onwards, so we’ll focus on that series and onwards.
Additionally, as we all know the Boeing 737 MAX family is currently under investigation, so we will handle its inclusion carefully. Obviously, this current issue would affect performance (as a planes primary purpose is to get you to the destination safely) but for now, we’ll assume Boeing is able to fix these problems and allow the aircraft to continue production.
The Boeing 737 vs The Airbus A320
There are far more variants of the Boeing 737 than the A320, and to compare them all to each other would not make much sense.
|First Generation||737-100||118||1,540 nmi|
|Second Generation||737-300||140||2,255 nmi|
|Third Generation||737-600||130||3,235 nmi|
|Fourth Generation||737 MAX 7||153||3,850 nmi|
|737 MAX 8||178||3,550 nmi|
|737 MAX 9||193||3,550 nmi|
|737 MAX 10||204||3,300 nmi|
Below are the statistics for the Airbus A320 family. The A321 is not actually designed to compete with the 737 (but rather the 757), but as it is built on the same frame and is the same ‘type’ aircraft, we have included it for reference.
For a frame of reference:
- The A320 was designed to compete with the 2nd Generation 737
- Third generation 737 to compete with the A320
- A320neo to compete with the third generation 737
- The fourth generation to compete with the A320neo
Looking at passenger numbers (in a one class configuration), we can see that the A320 has been very consistent with around 190 passengers right from the start. This is more than any of the 2nd generation Boeing 737 aircraft could handle, and was only with the third generation that Boeing was able to offer a larger aircraft.
In the MAX vs NEO debate, we can see that the A320neo offers 195 seats vs the 737 MAX 9 with 193. There is a variant of the 737 MAX family that can hold over 200 passengers, and we may soon be flying on it with Ryanair.
For raw passenger capacity, it appears that the 737 family is out competed by the A320 family.
Generally, an airplane manufacturer has to strike a balance between passengers and range. More passengers means a smaller fuel tank and more weight, thus less range. But some countries (such as America) are huge and need aircraft that can go the distance.
Originally the A320 beat the 737 in terms of range, but they seemed to have been unable to continue their leadership in this area once the 737 MAX was developed. Nearly every variant of the 737 MAX has a longer range than the A320neo, giving Boeing a well-deserved victory in this category.
Which aircraft is more popular with airlines?
The above is such an interesting question, as both Airbus and Boeing can technically claim equal first place. Boeing has the most sold commercial aircraft of all time, whilst Airbus have brought us the most popular aircraft right now.
Both aircraft are equally matched in price and it’s likely that each has been chosen by an airline down to discounts and whether or not there is a personal relationship. It is likely that in the US, airlines will favor Boeing and in Europe, airlines will lean towards Airbus.
To define which is better comes down to personal choice. We know that they are matched equally (with Airbus going the capacity route, and Boeing going the range route) and matched in price ($100 million, not that airlines pay anything remotely close to that). In a nutshell, whichever you like to fly more on is the best.
Well until the A220-500 comes out!
Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments. As a reminder, Simple Flying does not prefer either Airbus or Boeing.