Analysis

The Airbus A320neo VS Boeing 737 MAX – What Plane Is Best?

If you travel by air or live by an airport, then most likely you have seen the Boeing 737. It has a long history of being used by nearly every airline in the world, and is Boeing’s bread and butter. It is rivaled by the Airbus A320 program which, according to sales, will quickly overtake Boeing for the coveted title as the world’s most successful commercial aircraft.

Wikipedia

Airbus vs Boeing sales. Source: Wikipedia

Which aircraft will lead into the future greatly depends on the most recent generation of each, specifically the Boeing 737 MAX series and the Airbus A320neo series. How do they compare? Let’s find out.

How will we compare the aircraft?

We will be taking on the role of an airline who is considering either the Boeing 737 MAX family or the A320neo family. We will be looking at profitability and price, rather than focusing on passenger comforts.

Let us address the elephant in the room, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 has been grounded after two serious crashes. Whilst this is an absolute tragedy, we have yet to see many major carriers abandon their orders with Boeing (Such as Southwest who have over 4,000 of the MAX series on order. Thus we will assume that Boeing is able to fix the physical problems with the plane and repair their reputation and that the plane still is a worthy contender for an aircraft to buy.

The Airbus A320neo VS Boeing 737 MAX

We have put all versions into one table, and ranked them by passenger capacity:

PlanePassengersRange
737 MAX 71533,850 nmi
A319neo1603,750 nmi
737 MAX 81783,550 nmi
737 MAX 91933,550 nmi
A320neo1953,500 nmi
737 MAX 102043,300 nmi
A321neo2404,000 nmi

At first glance, it looks there are two distinct rivals; The Boeing 737 MAX 7 vs the A319neo and The Boeing 737 MAX 8/9 vs the A320neo.

Some would assume that the A321neo easily beats off all competition with it vast range and large passenger numbers. However, more passengers means more seats that all need to be sold to make that route profitable. More fuel for longer distances more weight and more costs. The numbers sometimes don’t add up for every airline and it no longer becomes a cost-effective option.

Airbus A320neo in flight

Aero K is awaiting delivery of the Airbus A320 in its fleet. Photo: Airbus.

Airbus A319neo vs Boeing 737 MAX 7

Looking at passengers, we can see that the A319neo carries more than its rival the Boeing 737 MAX 7, but only 7 passengers more? If it was a short flight of only $100 per ticket, that’s only $700 extra revenue. Likewise, the 737 can only fly an extra 100 nmi than the Airbus which, without going into details about fuel efficiency, may imply better operational costs.

We are not convinced that a small number of extra passengers (7) would beat out the better range of the 737 MAX 7.

Winner: Boeing 737 MAX 7

737 MAX Software

American Airlines operates a fleet of 24 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Photo: American Airlines

Airbus A320neo vs Boeing 737 MAX 8/9

This is the main event.

With a top-down perspective, we can see that the Airbus A320neo carries two more passengers than the 737 Max 9, which in turn flies 50 nmi more than the Airbus. This makes a comparison on range or passengers almost inconsequential and really showcases just how tight the competition is.

Looking at the specifics, we can see that the Boeing 737 MAX beats the A320 with a higher max payload (46,040 lb vs 44,100 lb) and a higher thrust power. The 737 MAX 9 can also be reconfigured into a super dense 220 seater variant (or in the case for the MAX 8, a 200 seater which will be the new Ryanair variant). The 737 MAX 8 can also carry more cargo than the Airbus A320, meaning more revenue for the airline. In summary, this means more lifting power, more room, and more flexibility for airlines.

Winner: 737 MAX 8/9

Boeing 737 MAX 8

Boeing 737 MAX 8. Photo: Wikimedia.

Wait, what about costs?

Here is the current list price for each Airbus aircraft:

  • A319neo: US$101.5 million (2018)
  • A320neo: US$110.6 million (2018)
  • A321neo: US$129.5 million (2018)

And for Boeing:

  • MAX 7: US$99.7 million
  • MAX 8: US$121.6M
  • MAX 200: US$124.8M
  • MAX 9: US$128.9M
  • MAX 10: US$134.9M as of 2019

As you can see, the Airbus is actually cheaper (not that airlines ever pay list prices) and Airbus is able to produce more aircraft due to their multiple factories around the round. This means that Airbus will be a dominant player, despite not having the better aircraft on paper.

What do you think of our study? Let us know in the comments below!

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