For over 30 years, Airbus and Boeing have created a duopoly for large passenger jet aircraft and cultivated one of the biggest rivalries in the world. The competition between the two giants has pushed the envelope of aviation technology for years.
Bottom Line Up Front
With Airbus vs Boeing, the various aircraft that both companies manufacture are often very similar and tend to outperform its competitor depending on their generation. The comfort of the aircraft depends on the configuration requested by the airline.
Appearance-wise, Boeing aircraft are more pleasant to look at until an A380 shows up. Finally, pilots generally prefer to fly Boeing aircraft because they are less reliant on automation and provide more control feedback.
Main Differences Between Airbus vs Boeing Fleet
- Airbuses have a rounded nose, whereas Boeings have a pointed nose.
- Airbuses have a notched windshield, whereas Boeings have a V-shaped one.
- Airbuses have a longer front landing gear than Boeings.
- The rear landing gear on Airbuses leans backward, whereas Boeings landing gear leans forward.
- Airbuses have a straight tail-end, whereas Boeings have a sloped tail.
- Airbuses use sidestick controls, whereas Boeings use the conventional yoke.
Airbus Industrie GIE, now named Airbus SAS, was founded on December 18, 1970, when the European aerospace industry comprised of Aérospatiale-Matra, DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG (DASA), Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA), and British Aerospace plc (BAe) consolidated.
The company’s main office is in Blagnac, a suburb of Toulouse, France. Toulouse is where the final assembly of all airbus aircraft is carried out. Airbus SAS is worth 88.91 billion in 2022 and is considered the largest aircraft manufacturer. This is thanks to the A320 being the highest-selling airliner in the world.
Airbus introduced its first jetliner, the A300, in 1972. As of 2022, the Airbus fleet consists of 11 families of planes, but only 6 are still in production. As of March 1, 2022, Airbus has received 21,200 orders. 14,129 deliveries have been made, while 7,071 orders are currently unfilled. 88% of all aircraft delivered are still in operation.
The Boeing Company was founded on July 15, 1916, by William Boeing in Seattle, Washington. Boeing has grown by acquiring other aerospace companies. The current corporation was formed on August 4, 1997, after the company merged with its arch-rival McDonnell Douglas.
Since its inception, the company has been headquartered in Seattle. However, after its merger with McDonnell Douglas, it was moved to Chicago, Illinois. Since 2018, Boeing has lost a staggering $111.96 billion in market cap. The company is currently worth 71.41 billion.
Boeing’s 14-year headstart on Airbus has been in the jetliner business since 1958. As of 2022, Boeing has produced ten families of aircraft, 5 of which are no longer in production. As of December 31, 2021, Boeing has received 25,512 orders for its jet airliners. 19,564 have been filled, while 5,948 are yet to be filled.
Boeing had used its 737 platforms for decades to dominate the narrow-body market. However, the crashes of the 737 MAX and the following scandal caused customers to cancel a total of 675 orders. In November 2020, the 737 MAX was cleared to fly after being grounded for one year and seven months.
The company has fallen on hard times after the 737-Max scandal. But, regardless of financial performance, Boeing remains the second-largest producer of commercial jetliners.
Pros and Cons
Throughout their rivalry, both companies have released different families of aircraft and, over time, introduced different variants with little changes to outperform the other. These small changes make comparing every aircraft a tall task. So, let’s divide and compare the aircraft’s main defining trait: body size.
We can create three categories: narrow-body, wide-body, and jumbo-jet. The table below highlights each aircraft competing aircraft.
The easiest model comparison that can be made between the two companies is the Boeing 747 versus the Airbus A380. Both are double-decker, twin-aisle, quad-engine aircraft designed for long-haul routes while reducing the cost per seat.
The Boeing 747, also known as “the queen of the skies,” came into existence because Pan American Airways (Pan Am) wanted to make air travel more accessible to the public and requested Boeing to create a larger aircraft to reduce the seat costs. As of May 2022, it has delivered 1,569 with four aircraft in production. The airliner had an impressive 54-year production run and was a feat of engineering and human ingenuity.
The Airbus A380 was created to combat the dominance of Boeing in the long-haul market and is the largest passenger airliner in the world. The resultant behemoth was a double-decker, twin-aisle, quad-engine jumbo-jet that seated a maximum of 853. Unlike the 747, the A380 has an actual upper deck that travels the length of the fuselage.
Although the A380 held more passengers, had a better range, and could land on smaller runways, it is considered an economic failure. Over its 14-year production run, only 251 units were made, and though it had a sticker price of $445.6 million, the aircraft didn’t turn a profit. Airbus admitted that the program barely broke even and will never recoup its $31.96 billion development cost.
Both companies have multiple aircraft families that go head to head. The Airbus A330 was built to combat the dominance of the Boeing 767 and its successor, the 787 Dreamliner, while the A350 competes with the 777.
Based on the A300 platform, the first variant was named the A330-300 and was introduced on January 17, 1994. The A330 family is the highest-selling wide-body Airbus offers, and as of April 30, 2022, 1,759 orders have been made while 1,535 have been built.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner was introduced on October 26, 2011, and is the successor to the 767. Its dimensions are about the same, and it holds around 200-300 passengers. As of April 2022, Boeing has received 1,485 orders for the 787 line and delivered 1,006.
The extra-long range twin-aisle aircraft for both companies is the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 777. Since 2015, there have been 918 orders for the A350, 480 of which have been delivered.
Unlike the A350, the Boeing 777 platform has been in service since 1995. However, the only aircraft that directly compares to the A350 is the next-generation 777X model. There have been 320 777X orders, but production delays mean that deliveries will only occur in 2025.
The single-aisle category is the most contested because it’s where both companies make the most money. Airbus broke into the market with the A320 in 1988 and became the highest-selling jetliner in 2019, outselling its competitor, the Boeing 737 (orders excluding the 737 original models).
The 737 led the A320 in sales for decades until the A320neo was introduced. The newer A320 was more fuel-efficient and was outperforming the current 737 models. Therefore Boeing rushed the design and production of their competitor, the 737 Max, which resulted in two deadly accidents. The 737 Max was grounded globally, and orders were canceled. In the meantime, Airbus overtook Boeing as the premier supplier of single-aisle airliners.
There isn’t a straightforward answer to which company produces the superior fleet. Boeing has been in the aircraft business for longer and has set the standard for what passengers can expect. Although Airbus is a younger company, it has faced fierce and is the only competition left standing.
Technical specifications and sales numbers alone don’t make an aircraft successful. A prime example is the A380, a marvel of engineering but an economic failure. Similarly, the 737 outsold the A320 for years until bad decisions ruined the aircraft’s reputation.
At the end of it all, personal preference is what matters. Most pilots would pick a Boeing over an Airbus. Because Airbus’ are more computer-controlled, Boeing gives the pilot more control. On the other hand, some passengers might enjoy the unmatched comfort that only an A380 can provide. In contrast, others prefer the redesigned and quieter flight that a 777 offers over the A350.
In the end, it’s all relative.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: How did the Airbus A320 Unseat the Boeing 737?
Answer: The 737 was the best-selling single-aisle jetliner for decades. But the crashes of the 737-Max reduced trust in the aircraft, leading to canceled orders and the loss of potential orders. Which led to these customers purchasing the A320Neo instead.
Question: How Much did the 737-Max Fiasco Cost Boeing?
Answer: The company over $20 billion in legal fees and fines. The company also lost $60 billion from the 1,200 canceled orders. The fallout severely damaged Boeing’s reputation is arguably the most significant blow and cannot be quantified.
Question: Why did the A380 Fail?
Answer: The A380 was a true-double decker and is well-engineered. However, it was released when fuel savings were more important than size and capacity. Plus, the global pandemic made the aircraft unfeasible, leading to its retirement.
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