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!

26 comments
  1. The A320neo and 737 MAX are effectively equivalent. The slightly better range of the 737 MAX 7 vs the A319neo for example, will not matter to many airlines. It’s purely a matter of brand preference of the airline hence it is impossible to say which aircraft is better.

  2. “Airbus will be a dominant player, despite not having the better aircraft”, Seems like a Boeing paid article.
    Comparison are shallow and bias. 7 extra passangers vs 100nmi extra range and the winner is the extra range. I am very certain that the A319neo can trade off 7 extra passangers and fly more than 100nmi further. Hence, the conclusion of “We are not convinced that a small number of extra passengers (7) would beat out the better range of the 737 MAX 7” is totally bias and inaccurate.

    1. Every experts and airplane enthusiasts will know that this article is written from a Boeing fanboy. Efficiency and comfort of 320 neo series are unbeaten to this date.
      So I recommend the awful writer of this article to learn the basics.

      1. Hi Ramakrishnan. I am always accused of preferring one aircraft over another. Personally, I love the A380, 777X, A220 and A330-800.

  3. In addition, the higher bypass ratio and lower core speed on the LEAP1A engines suggest that the engines consumes slighly less fuel compared to the LEAP1B engines on the B737max. Coupled with the lower thrust requirements on the A319neo/A320neo, it is very clear that Airbus has the better and more efficient aircraft, contradicting to the conclusion of the article that Boeing has the better aircraft. Clearly a Boeing bias article.

  4. Maintenance costs, especially over time? Then there will be pax preference. The 37 is now an antique basic structure — it really shows when it comes to cabin noise, where the A320 family wins hands down. There are no doubt more real airline world comparisons that I can’t recall off the top of my head …

  5. I don’t think I’ll be flying on a boeing plane anymore – I’ll be going airbus. Stricter regulations mean safer flying. It would be stupid to trust boeing with the US cutting funding for the FAA and cutting corners on safety. Winner – airbus.

  6. The A320 can fly without additional (bugging) software, has more sensors and a higher safety. It was designed like to be a new plane, not a artificial remake of a 60’s plane with not fitting engines.

  7. Simple Flying,
    MORE LIKE
    Simple Minds – who also do not proof read their work or do any research.

    4000 planes on order – yeah thats right – look out Emirates, British and American: Southwest is taking over the world!!!!

  8. This article is not a “study” it is merely a biased opinion. If either of these tragedies had occurred in the First World Boeing/FAA would have grounded this defective series immediately. This failure to take the lead has damaged both entities reputations immeasurably and hints at financial greed above all else. Airlines will be forced to consider the implications of this saga on their profitability in coming years. I would not be surprised to see many more orders cancelled.

  9. A correct comparison should show fuel consumption and emissions per seat.
    No airline operates an aircraft at the max possible range (50nm more) on 99% of their routes!
    As in a previous comment, 7 passengers less equals 700kg less load giving the Airbus an additional 40 minutes range at 470kt = 300nm!

  10. Which aircraft can automatically fly into the ground without any chance of a recovery?

    Boeing 737 Max has a special feature called MCAS that trims the aircraft automatically without any chance of recovery into the ground.

    Winner: 737 Max

  11. This is really a really a distortion of the facts. One major issue is the 737 was never intended to be stretched to the fuselage length of the longest variants and for the larger diameter of the current high bypass ratio engines as a result the undercarriage is too short. Although this makes hold baggage loading/unloading easier has caused issues including serious tail scrapes, debris ingestion by the engines and was a factor in the two recent Max 8 crashes. Airline corporate culture is a major factor in which aircraft manufacturer they buy from evn more so in the USA where the not invented here syndrome still has some sway. To airlines staying in with one manufacturer is well inside their comfort zone. Boeing messed up by not keeping the 757 in production and further developing it as a result the 737 has had to plug the gap. The A320 family were design from the ground up to use modern electronics and materials, the 737 Max still has a fuselage carry over from the 1950’s KC135 and B707

  12. Boeing and his Max planes: hundreds of dead people, because his fail software (previously warned by the pilots).
    Airbus and his Neo planes: 0
    it’s embarrassing to compare with airbus.

  13. What a terrible idea to publish this stupid comparison. Show some respect to the victims and their families of the two B737 crashes.

  14. According to Wikipedia in the last two years more A320 series aircraft are in service then Boeing 737s. The order backlog for the A320 is more than a thousand aircraft ahead of the 737. The two recent 737 Max disasters look like they could expose Boeing to a whole world of hurt, with the loss of orders the least of their problems. If the way MCAS was implemented, and presented to the FAA for accreditation, passes for ‘safety’ at Boeing then they either need to change their culture or the world’s airlines will eventually consign them to history.

  15. If you simply look at a comparison from a PASSENGER viewpoint the Airbus family wins hands down. The fuselage is that bit wider and the seats are wider !! Flights of 2 to 3 hours maximum is bearable but why anyone would even think of flying long haul in a 737 is beyond me.
    From a company which has deisigned the brilliant 777 and 787 Boeing were utterly greedy in trying to overstretch their 737MAX with such tragic consequences, and in so doing broke every failsafe rule in the book. If they need a long haul single aisle plane then bring back a re-engined 757.

  16. You guys write better articles than this – the timing seems odd given that your “winner” is currently grounded. My real concern with B737 Max is the attention is on a piece of software rather than the design of the aircraft. The engines are too big and in the wrong position of a 1960’s airframe. Boeing knew they needed a new airframe but profit and competitive pressure pushed them in the Max direction! Start again Boeing you are better than the Max!

  17. Continuing Nicholas’s analysis:

    Operating Cost:
    A320neo operating cost per flight hour: $ 6000 (estimate)
    A320neo flight hours per day: 9 (est.)
    A320neo daily operating cost: $ 54000 (est.)
    737 MAX operating cost per flight hour: $ 6000 (estimate)
    737 MAX flight hours per day: 0
    737 MAX daily operating cost: $ 0
    Winner: 737 MAX

    Accident Risk:
    A320neo fatal accident risk: 0.1 per 1 million flights (estimate)
    A320neo flights per day: 5 (est.)
    A320neo fatal accident risk per plane & day: 0,0000005 (est.)
    737 MAX fatal accident risk: 4 per 1 million flights (demonstrated)
    737 MAX flights per day: 0
    737 MAX fatal accident risk per plane & day: 0,0000000
    Winner: 737 MAX

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