Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Airbus A320 family vs the Boeing 737 family: Who’s got the muscle?

Maybe a drama fit for the Godflyer, The Airbus A320 family and the Boeing 737 family are two airplane series vying for the same market:  The short to medium haul category. While the first aircraft is a “produit” of a European consortium, the latter is probably the anthem of the Boeing Company. As of today, which one of these two has a stronger grip on the Indian market?

Family first, numbers later.

The Boeing 737 family took off on the 9th of April, 1967, as the 737-100. Gradually, the aircraft grew, in technology and in size, to give birth to members Boeing 737-200/300/400/500/600/700/800/900. There have been variants within each member, and gradually the later members replacing the technologically outdated older members. Only the -600/700/800/900 members are in production, as the “New Generation” Boeing 737s.

No airplane has sold more than the Boeing 737 family has. As Boeing states, “The 737 family has won orders for more than 6,000 airplanes, which is more airplanes than The Boeing Company's biggest competitor [which we must read as Airbus] has won for its entire product line since it began business.”. Infact, data updated on the 23rd of May tell a greater story: There have been orders for 8337 Boeing 737 aircraft (since the program began), of which 6262 airplanes have been delivered. That’s an average of 194 aircraft ordered per year, counted from the first delivery.

Challenging the dominance of the Boeing 737 family, the Airbus A320 family took wings on the 22nd of February, 1987, with the Airbus A320, the first member of the family that has the same name as the family itself. The A320 family spun off new members: the longer A321, the shorter A319, and the shortest: A318. The Airbus A320 family heralded a new era of airplane control technology, with the implementation of the “fly by wire” technology for the first time, in a commercial airliner.

The Airbus A320 family has been, and is, Airbus’s best selling aircraft family. According to data presented by Airbus as on May 30th, a total of 6,546 A320 family aircraft have been ordered, of which 4,254 aircraft have been delivered. That’s an average of 297 aircraft ordered, per year, counted from the first delivery.

An insert here, based on a comment left by Andy (who flies the B757 /767) : The Boeing 737 NG (Boeing 737-600/700/800/900) series , which delivered its first of type (737-700) to Southwest Airlines on the 17th of December, 1997, has got an average order of 368.4 aircraft per year, counted from its first delivery.

Categorically, the Boeing 737-600 competes directly with the A318; the Boeing 737-700 competes directly with the A319; the Boeing 737-800 competes directly with the A320, and the Boeing 737-900 competes directly with the A321, based on the accompanying table.

Typical Passengers
Typical Range
Airbus A318
2780km- 3705km (HGW)
Boeing 737-600
2480km - 5648km (HGW)
Airbus A319
3391km - 6845km (HGW)
Boeing 737-700
2852km- 6037km (HGW)
Airbus A320
4843km - 5676km (HGW)
Boeing 737-800
3585km -5445km (HGW)
Airbus A321
4352km - 4907km
Boeing 737-900
3815km - 5083km (HGW)
HGW : High Gross Weight Version

Indian Scenario

There are no A318 or Boeing 737-600 in India. That leaves us with the A319/A320 and A321 to compete with the Boeing 737-700/800 and 900.

Boeing Aircraft
Airbus Aircraft
Aircraft data taken from DGCA, 28th May, 2010

Thus, in India,

There are 55% more A319 than Boeing 737-700.
There are 11% more A320 than Boeing 737-800.
There are 600% more A321 than Boeing 737-900.
There are 39% more Airbus A320 family aircraft than the Boeing 737 family aircraft

Airbus, hands down, has won the hearts of operators.

Operator’s keep:
NACIL (the merged entity of Air India, Indian Airlines, and Alliance Air), has 24 A319 aircraft (shown taking off to the right, landing gear up), while Kingfisher has only 4.

NACIL has 44 A320 aircraft (shown landing to the left, landing gear down), while both Kingfisher and Indigo, separately, have 24. Go Air lags with 8 aircraft.

NACIL has 20 A321 aircraft (shown landing to the right, landing gear down), while Kingfisher has only 8.

NACIL operates 68.75% of the Airbus A320 family aircraft that fly in India.

A win-by-wire for Airbus?

Capt AR, who flies the Airbus A330, and instructor on type had to say, "For one I believe A for Airbus and B for Boeing !!"

Countering that statement is Capt Andy's, "It's Boeing or I'm not going!"


Data : 
DGCA, Boeing, Airbus
Photos are copyright of the respective photographers as mentioned at the bottom bar.


  1. nice stats...u forgot to mention about the load alleviation function in which the aircraft uses the onboard accelerometers that sense vertical G loading, and deploys the ailerons in symmetry to compensate and thus limit the load to 1.0G. thus giving a smoother ride!! cool right...and ya the boeing 787 stil plans to have one by calling it "cutting edge".

  2. Hey Karan! Thanks for the info, though this article was strictly on the market. As i have understood, the load alleviation function is used to relieve stresses on the wings, by limiting the bending moment that the wing experiences under heavy loading or turbulence, using the principles that you have mentioned (ailerons) and also by the use of spoilers. This function was initially introduced, but then removed...only to be re-installed for the Airbus A320 High Gross Weight version. Maybe the stress relieving function has the effect of smoothing the ride!

    Thanks Karan!

  3. From Maintenance Angle...Spares are more Expensive for an A320 series than a B737NG.

  4. I admire,respect and fear the "Scare Bus"

  5. Airbus spares are more expensive and you'll need a lot more of them. Ask any experienced mechanic and they'll tell you why they love the Airbus. It's because they break down with tremendous regularity and guarantee that mechanics will always be in great demand.

    I have another issue with the statistical model used for this comparison. You've started the Boeing date from the first delivery of the 737-100 even though you're not comparing 737-100's, 200's, 300's, 400's or even 500's. You're comparing NG's and as such should start your date with the first delivery of that iteration of this most venerable of Boeing aircraft which was in 1996.

    I'd like to see you compare safety records of the two aircraft as well. Although the 737 family has been involved in more total accidents than the A320 family (which operationally is little different from the 330, and aside from two extra APU's on the wing not much different from the 340 either), when you compare accident statistics per aircraft delivered I'll take the Boeing once again.

    You also haven't talked about purchase price, which is a prime consideration for any airline, but most especially young airlines that are trying to stretch their dollars as far as they can go. An Airbus is less expensive to acquire than a comparable Boeing and the old adage "you get what you pay for" is certainly appropriate for this discussion.

    Finally lets talk about the life limits of the airframe and major components. Airbus is a disposable airplane, current airframe limit is 60,000 hours or 48,000 cycles. Boeing keeps going and going and going. The cycle limit is 75,000. The A-320 is good for only 64% of the life of a B-737.

    It's Boeing or I'm not going!

  6. A is for Airbus. It means Awful. Flying characteristics sound wonderful, but the 330 always seems to shake laterally during finals as if it was flying through some tornado.
    B is for Boeing. It means "Best". Very harmonized, redundant, efficient...

  7. Airbus A320 family continues to be the passengers most favorite narrow body aircraft. The 737 does not offer the space and comfort the A320 does. Airbus is selling more A320s because they have built the better plane. The quality put into the A32X product is outstanding and generally looked over by Americans who would rather live in a false world where everything their country produces is the best. Most mechanics I've heard from and read articles from state that the A320 spends more time in service then in the hanger, as opposed to the 737NGs. Here in Canada, people will only choose WestJet over Air Canada because of the service. If they had a choice between WestJets no-shoulder space 737s or Air Canada's wide cabin A320s, well it's barely a choice.

    If it's not Airbus, I'm making a fuss