When it comes to airplanes, it is as if you were at a restaurant. There is a list, which shows you all the available dishes, and then, based on what you like, you choose the meal you would like to have. The same applies to airplanes. In this case, the customers (airlines) have a list of aircraft manufacturers and the models they offer. Based on their needs and certain performance characteristics, they choose the aircraft, which they believe will better satisfy their demands. Going back to the restaurant analogy, there will always be a dish that usually has greater sales than others, maybe because of its taste, price, appearance, etc. We can then infer that airlines may have a “favorite aircraft” because of certain characteristics such as maintenance cost, crew training, fuel efficiency, flexibility, etc. Here we will consider which is the most popular commercial airliners and why. We take into account only jet airliners and leave turboprop and reciprocating engine airplanes aside for a moment.
Today, there is a significant discrepancy about who seats at the throne of the most popular airplane. There are two leading candidates: the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320 family (referred to as the A320). Boeing’s top-selling aircraft has been in the market since the late 1960s. Its development was based on the design improvement of Boeing’s 707 and 727. It is a bit smaller and cheaper, but it still has the same capacity as the last two. The 737 has sold about 15 000 units since its production began and has kept the record of the world’s most successful commercial aircraft until a few months ago. The A320 was introduced in the late 1980s as Airbus’ response to the 737. Historically, the 737 has had more orders than the A320, but since the 737 MAX crisis, this began to change. Initially, Airbus recorded about 8000 orders of the A320, but after the MAX crisis, this number increased rapidly to more the 15 000. But why are they so successful? Here are the reasons I consider these airplanes have had so much success:
- Innovative breakthrough: The 737 was introduced a little bit after the first jetliner. Since the late 1950s, people have realized the advantages of jet engines over reciprocating engines for large airplanes regarding performance and fuel efficiency. The 737 considered these engines to produce a very modern aircraft, a characteristic that captured several customers’ attention. The A320 family was introduced in the late 1980’s as Airbus’ response to the 1980s 737, and of course, it included all the available technology at the time so it could be a direct competitor of the 737. Also, both aircraft are economically friendly for airlines.
- Versatility: These airplanes have an incredible operational range in terms of distance. It can travel distances from Los Angeles to San Francisco (about 380 miles) to journeys from Panama City to Toronto (about 2400 miles). We can see here that these aircraft can connect both local and international destinations. These airplanes have become a favorite when it comes to doing regional flights in large countries, connecting big cities, and moving millions of passengers per year. I would dare to say that if you have ever flown on an airplane, the chances that it was a 737 or an A320 family could be as high as 90%.
- Duopoly: There is no doubt that both Airbus and Boeing dominate most of the commercial jetliner market. Although there are other choices, airlines usually go with one of these two brands, making their two most successful models mostly the only two airlines’ options.
The rivalry between these two airplanes will continue for a long time. There is no doubt that both are good airplanes and have earned the hearts of many. This article considered the most popular commercial aircraft fully, as there are tons of ways of categorizing an airplane’s popularity. Still, in terms of sales, these two airplanes fit well in this category, although we could have some honorable mentions such as the Boeing 777 or the Airbus A330 in the widebody category
Until next time, and as always, “We Speak Aviation.”
The article is written by Pilotamireh Social Media Team Member Diego Chaves