The COMAC C919 vs Airbus A320 – An Aircraft Comparison

The COMAC C919 is China’s answer to the Airbus A320, but how does it compare to its European counterpart?

The COMAC C919 vs the Airbus A320. Photo: Simple Flying

How will we be comparing the aircraft?

Just a few days ago COMAC (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China) tested its sixth and final prototype C919. The aircraft flew for two hours around COMAC’s test center at Pudong Airport near Shanghai. This last prototype will be testing lightning, cabin layouts, engine noise, and passenger experiences. From here COMAC is all set to get the aircraft certified in 2021 and begin deliveries.

In a previous article, we compared the Boeing 737 to the COMAC C919, but you can’t talk about Boeing without mentioning its friendly competitor Airbus. If COMAC truly intends its C919 to outsell the Boeing 737, then it needs to outsell the A320 as well.

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As there are two types of the A320 (depending on the engine option) I thought it would be interesting to see how the C919 compared to both.

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C919
The C919 is China’s answer to the A320/737 Photo: COMAC

COMAC C919 vs Airbus A320

C919A320A320neo
Passengers168 (1-class) / 158 (2-class)164 (1-class) / 150 (2-class)195 (1-class) / 165 (2-class)
Length38.9 m / 127.6 ft37.57 m / 123 ft 3 in37.57 m / 123 ft 3 in
Wingspan35.8 m / 117.5 ft35.8 m / 117 ft 5 in35.80 m / 117 ft 5 in
Height11.95 m / 39.2 ft11.76 m / 38 ft 7 in11.76 m / 38 ft 7 in
Weight42,100 kg / 92,815 lb42.6 t / 93,900 lb44.3 t / 97,700 lb
Range4,075 km / 2,200 nm6,112 km / 3,300 nmi6,500 km / 3,500 nmi

Passengers

COMAC has designed the C919 to seat a useful range of passengers for airlines, catering to the 158 to 168 capacity range. This places it above the original A320 but not as big as the A320neo which can comfortably seat 165 passengers in two classes (around the maximum of the C919).

Winner: Airbus

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Bamboo airways A320neo interior
The standard 3-3 cabin configuration of an A320. Photo: Bamboo Airways

Range

Looking at the range of the two aircraft lines we can see that Airbus has a 1000 nautical miles advantage over the C919. The range of the Airbus aircraft series is so significantly more than the C919 that we can’t mark it down to better engines or sharklets (like the difference between the A320 and A320neo), but rather entire engineering choices.

Looking at the fuel capacity:

  • C919 – 19,560 L
  • A320 – 26,730 L

As we can see, Airbus also carries far more fuel than the C919. These design choices give airlines the confidence that their A320 fleet will be able to fly any route they choose.

However, I also do have to mention there are plans for an ‘extended range’ version of the C919 that can fly up to 2999 nautical miles. The range is still below the Airbus, but enough to be noted.

Winner: Airbus

ANA Holdings A320neo
The A320 is very versatile for airlines. Photo: Airbus

Normally we would compare the two types of aircraft by price. If one is significantly cheaper than another then it would make financial sense for some airlines to buy. However, I have been unable to find a list price for the C919 at this time and the aircraft is only on order from Chinese airlines (which in turn are owned by the government) making any figure dubious.

Aircraft specifications aside, there are also plenty of other issues that might make the C919 unpopular, such as training required, lack of maintenance or support outside of China, spare part availability and confidence in an unknown type & brand.

The bottom line is that the Airbus A320 series, both NEO and original, outcompete the C919. However, Airbus should not rest on its laurels, as COMAC is a hungry beast and could easily make up several of the advantages that Airbus holds dear. Likely COMAC will refine the C919 and improve its range, and with a possible stretch, easily push that capacity up to the A320neo.

What do you think? Which is best? Let us know in the comments!

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durr

Nobody outside of China (and the tiny undeveloped nations its bought) will buy this terrible plane

Guest commentator

Everybody is jealous of China and will use anything and everything to run China down.
But make no mistake about it, China is a giant and will brush off all challenges and emerge stronger. No power on earth can stop China.

Gerry S

Not much of a comparison. C919 is already outdated. It would have been state of the art ten years ago. Now it's behind the times playing catch up and still not in service. Technology moves fast. C919 is way behind.

Ronnie

Thanks for the interesting article. I would have liked some stats on seat pitch and width, overhead luggage space and facilities as well. I’m sure the C919 will do splendidly in China and make a big impact on 737 and A320 sales. The C920 and the C921 should be very… Read more »

Robert

To Guest commentator
This is An Aircraft Comparison between the COMAC C919 vs Airbus A320.
Do you have comments about that regards?

Jerry C

Building C919/C929 is like China’s space program: the real value is the learning process of building reliable, mission-critical products on a par with western world. As long as the program helps train many engineers and create many jobs, than it’s totally worthwhile. If the program makes money, than it’s a… Read more »

Brad

I checked the distances from China, and the C919 is designed for the domestic market. It has the range to go from one end of China to the other.

Remy

I wish Comac the very best with their new plane. The big problem to compete with the Airbus A320 is the relatively limited range. The A320 has around 1.000 miles more range. On the other hand, 7 of the 8 largest airlines in China are state owned, so the government… Read more »

Dave London

Interesting that the range of the C919 is far less than the A320/320neo. If as has been said this is sufficient for internal Chinese flights it could be a good starting product to fully test the operation of the type before making a move to export the plane. The C919… Read more »

JDCooper

The inter-Asian market alone will probably be enough to ensure success of the aircraft. Think the Chinese govt won’t subsidize COMAC?
Does anyone remember how the Big 3 auto makers treated Datsun when they entered the market? Competition will make Boeing and Airbus better if they pay attention to history.

Gerry S

@GuestCommentator: We get your affiliation. What do you think about the aircraft, however?

Moaz Abid

Well, let’s see, when airbus was founded, and they launched the a300, people didn’t think airbus would survive and they won’t get that many orders. But today look, Airbus overtook their american rivals and produce even better aircraft and outshining boeing. People think there won’t be any competition from newcomers,… Read more »

Gerry S

Sukoi SJ cannot be considered a flop at this time Moaz. Teething problems will go away.

Ian

The C919 will be used extensively by the Chinese carriers as that will be the direction they will be required to go. The C919 won’t sell in Western markets as has been mentioned in other ‘comments’ owing primarily to the logistics of supporting operations. Issues with spares, support & test… Read more »

John H

Goes to show that you dont actually do any fact checking.

The max A320 pax numbers in an all ecomomy fit is 180.