Fuel burn A320 v 737

While on our SAS flight from Longyearbyen to Oslo, we browsed the SAS magazine airplane descriptions and it contained fuel burn per seat in litres for each fleet type.

SAS operates the 319/320/321 and 737-600/700/800. Seating is as follows:

A319: 141

737-700: 141

A320: 168

738: 186

SAS reports a mere 0.001 difference in fuel burn per seat per kilometer in litres in favor of Boeing in each case–despite the 738 having 18 more seats, in which case the difference could be expected to be much greater.

We found the data to be quite illuminating.

Fuel burn per seat per km, in litres:

A319: 0.033

737-700: 0.032

A320: 0.029

738: 0.028

62 comments on “Fuel burn A320 v 737

    • So between that 3.5% advantage in fuel burn per seat, the higher revenue generation potential, and the considerably lower maintenance cost, we have the explanation why the 737 has been wiping the floor in terms of sales and consistently and massively outsold and continues to outsell the A320 series, a situation that will only get worse for Airbus when the MAX comes.

      Oh, wait…

      So between that 3.5% advantage in fuel burn per seat, the higher revenue generation potential, and the considerably lower maintenance cost, we must conclude that the only explanation why the 737 has not been wiping the floor in terms of sales and consistently and massively outsold and will continue to outsell the A320 series, a situation that will only get worse for Airbus when the MAX comes, is that Airbus is giving away the A320 for next to nothing, an explanation that is proven by Airbus being a constant financial drag on its parent company EADS which has been hemorrhaging money since forever.

      Oh, wait…

    • Looking at the number of digits/ accuracy and the usual statistical margin of the numbers Scott quoted, this conclusion is a total red herring. But it worked ;) everybody jumped on.

  1. SAS Cargo has no freighter aircraft. The freight is delivered on passenger aircraft. Therefore the figures above are twisted against an aircraft with more cargo on board.

      • Air cargo is moved inside of containers. I therefore doubt that much cargo is carried on a B737 compared to an A320 at SAS. Additional cargo makes the A320 heavier and raises fuel burn. Just looking at fuel burn per seat won’t tell the whole truth.

        3 % better fuel burn could be related to about 450 kg more weight carried (~ 3 % of 186 pax at 80 kg per pax). 80 kg is also the weight of one LD 3-45 container. With two containers for luggage and one for cargo I reach 240 kg.
        Max fuel capacity for a B737 is about 26,000 l. 3% are 780 l / 200 gallon. At $4 per gallon the difference is $800. How many cargo SAS has to carry to to offset the difference?

  2. Did SAS ensured that both aircraft carried the same weight on board? Surely the 737 with more seats carried more Cargo load and also more Pax weight. These figures are not to be taken on face value.

    • Umm… more pax weight doesn’t matter if you calculate the fuel burn per seat. I could equally argue that as the bigger plane the 738 for example is likely to fly more empty seats around, skewing the comparison to the A320. But I won’t, since that would be idle speculation with no fact to base it on.

      For more cargo, there seems to be pure speculation here that the 737 always carries more cargo than the A320. Does it? If so, can you provide some numbers?

      These are real operational numbers. I am surprised that people who don’t like them feel the need to stretch to call them into question.

  3. Other things that one could consider before getting into analysing the numbers are average stage lengths, comparative load factors, engine types, etc. Or one could just take the numbers as they are, and conclude that the difference is so small for an airline in the real world not to matter. Which is where I stand.

  4. Uwe :
    Have you been admitted to the bar in a certain hellish place ;-?

    The only bar I want to be admitted to is the one in St. Stephen’s Club, Queen Anne’s Gate .

  5. It is quite a good study from the same company, it indicates clearly that B737 is more economical to be operated from fuel consumption per seat per one kilometer. There are also other advantages for B737 but a question may be raised here. How do you explain that the backlog order for B737 series still dragging and dragging behind A320 series order book level.

    • residual value, maintenance cost, passenger appeal, landing fees, crew training, cargo capacity and handling, a/c pricing, delivery slots, stage length optimization…

      not saying all or any of these are the reason, just naming a few options that could weight more heavily on an airlines mind than a 3.5% fuel burn differential at max range.

  6. If you project that 0.001 fuel burn advantage, for the B-737NGs, out over a year, say 1,000,000 km per airplane, that translates to about 1,000 liters per year. Not a lot, but still saved money and fuel.

  7. I suspect the Copenhagen based A320s are flying longer routes on average, compared with the Oslo and Stockholm 737s. The domestic shuttles eg between Oslo and Bergen or Stockholm and Gothenburg. There are hardly any domestic flights that are worth doing in Denmark. On the other hand SAS flies several longer distance regional flights, eg to Tel Aviv, from its Copenhagen hub.

    This would accord with data I have seen, which gives the 737 a slight fuel burn advantage on short flights while the A320 wins narrowly on longer segments. I expect the relative long segment advantage of the A320 to increase in the NEO/MAX world. That’s because winglets/sharklets only have a significant benefit on longer ranges (the 737 already has them; the A320 is just introducing them now); and because the larger fan of the A320 engine adds weight (reduces takeoff efficiency) in exchange for propulsion efficiency (benefits cruise).

    Basically, the existing 737s and A320s are evenly matched, with the 737 marginally ahead on short ranges. The 737MAX and A320NEO will be evenly matched on short ranges; the A320NEO will pull well ahead of the 737MAX on long ranges. Fortunately for Boeing, most planes fly short ranges.

    • Forgot to mention. SAS, I believe, are leasing their A320s as stopgap until they get NEO replacements, starting in 2016. I think they are really only interested in the NEO version, for longer segments.

    • CFM56 -5 and -7 differences in engine weight are negligible ( below 10kg).
      Across the familiy matches Airbus has (significantly? 3..500m) better runway performance.

  8. mhalblaub :
    Air cargo is moved inside of containers. I therefore doubt that much cargo is carried on a B737 compared to an A320 at SAS. Additional cargo makes the A320 heavier and raises fuel burn. Just looking at fuel burn per seat won’t tell the whole truth.
    3 % better fuel burn could be related to about 450 kg more weight carried (~ 3 % of 186 pax at 80 kg per pax). 80 kg is also the weight of one LD 3-45 container. With two containers for luggage and one for cargo I reach 240 kg.
    Max fuel capacity for a B737 is about 26,000 l. 3% are 780 l / 200 gallon. At $4 per gallon the difference is $800. How many cargo SAS has to carry to to offset the difference?

    I dunno. Too much speculation for my liking. Look at the Svalbard pictures, with Scott deplaning a 737. I seriously doubt that this went to Svalbard without cargo.

    • I wasn’t talking about luggage. I was talking about extra cargo. I guess cargo to Svalbard with a population of about 2,500 people is relative low.

      Question to the experts: How many time is saved using containers instead of manual loading? I’m not talking about the time just used to put the luggage on board. I’m interested in total man hours used from luggage check-in to baggage claim.

      • I dunno (again). Given that there is jack on the island other than Polar Bears, coal, snow, and walruses, I would have thought there’s a decent amount of cargo going in, in proportion to the population.

  9. Guys – Before an airline makes a fleet decision – they employ specialist consulting houses that have real world inputs into MRO and fuel costs. We on the outside will see the figures through the sales (orders placed) being recorded.

    Even if Airbus or Boeing drops prices to push a sale – at the end of the day they exist to make profits – so if A or B can produce planes at low cost more kudos to them if they can use this to get sales.

    Have a look at the orders trajectories over the last 3 years and it will tell you which of the two narrow-bodies provide the best value.

  10. kc135topboom :
    Don’t forget, the empty weight of the A-320 is significantly heavier than the empty weight of the B-737-800.

    Per seat, yes. Absolute weight, I seriously doubt that. OEW that is given by Boeing for the 738 is 45t. While Airbus does not give an OEW, it gives a maintenance configuration light weight number for the A320, of 41 – 42t.

  11. None of SAS’s A320s have winglets. The SAS 737 fleet starting getting them from 2007.

    So 737 winglet to A320 winglet fuel burn = equal on a per seat basis.

  12. Andreas :

    kc135topboom :
    Don’t forget, the empty weight of the A-320 is significantly heavier than the empty weight of the B-737-800.

    Per seat, yes. Absolute weight, I seriously doubt that. OEW that is given by Boeing for the 738 is 45t. While Airbus does not give an OEW, it gives a maintenance configuration light weight number for the A320, of 41 – 42t.

    Rev26 and earlier of the A320 ACAP manual lists the aircraft OEW 41,244kg / 41,345kg and the Dec2010 B737 ACAP manual lists 41,413kg so in either case the B737 is heavier in absolute terms.

    JP Fleets lists their B737-8s at 186 seats @ 31in pitch and all econ, and their A320s at 180 seats @ 31in pitch, so theres a slight update needed there.

    That gives 230kg OEW per seat for the A320 and 223kg per seat for the B738 giving the B738 an approx 3% per seat advantage on OEW.

  13. “despite the 738 having 18 more seats, in which case the difference could be expected to be much greater” Why? Presumably the 18 additional seats also means the weight of more passengers and their baggage no? Isn’t the entire point of fuel burn per seat per unit of distance supposed to be to factor-out differences in number of seats?

  14. It looks like even Dick is talking about the possibility of Boeing’s single aisle market share could be tumbling down below the 40 percent level a decade hence.

    3. 737 MAX is Boeing’s biggest risk. Unlike Airbus, Boeing went sole-source on the MAX. That would be fine under normal circumstances, but these aren’t normal circumstances. This engine battle features two extremely divergent technological approaches. With all the uncertainty about which approach will prevail (and about execution risks for each approach), airlines may want a choice. The result: Airbus’s Neo continued to outperform MAX at Le Bourget, keeping market shares at 60-40. What if Boeing’s single aisle share stays at 40%, or even dips to 35%?

    http://www.richardaboulafia.com/shownote.asp?id=380

  15. Shocker! If the gap was anywhere as wide as Boeing has been saying, the 737 should have majority of the market share, whatever discount Airbus might offer.

    • Normally a less economical aircraft will look worst on shorter distances than on longer ones because take-off and landing is where a lot a fuel is burned. But the penalty can be “amortized” over a long flight. Short flights make bad airplanes look worst. That is why regional jets are used on long routes and turboprops are favoured for short flights. The time spent in cruise versus the time spent climbing and descending is a critical ratio. The higher the ratio the better the fuel burn.

      • So the A380 is a real bad aircraft?

        My simple question was if an airline uses the same aircraft, not the same type of aircraft, quite the same aircraft with quite the same empty fuel weight on a short route or a long route. Will the fuel burn per pax be different?

        • The A380 is certainly not a bad aircraft. But you would lose a lot of the benefits on short distances, like say New York to Boston.

  16. rsal :
    It is quite a good study from the same company, it indicates clearly that B737 is more economical to be operated from fuel consumption per seat per one kilometer. There are also other advantages for B737 but a question may be raised here. How do you explain that the backlog order for B737 series still dragging and dragging behind A320 series order book level.

    I feel Airbus is able offer planes at rock bottom prices due to its support from several European countries and when airlines order new replacement models of the same type, the airlines are already set up for Airbus aircraft, both in parts,training,manuals and all the other support factors that will make a switch to another manufacturer more expensive.
    The bottom line on price is what steers some airlines to Airbus. When you consider that the 737 design dates back to the 60′s and the A320 back to 1988 and they are very close in fuel consumption, that’s a testimony to the good design of the 737 frame.

    Just my take on it.

    </blockquote

    • Boeing is also able to offer planes at rock bottom prices and it does so on a regular basis, as it has been amply demonstrated here before. So you can drop that line, it’s getting old and tired. As to the “testimony to the good design of the 737 frame” you need to know that it is simply due to a “grand-father clause” that makes the 737 lighter than the A320. The latter does not benefit from that “grand-father” clause. In other words the A320 is being penalized for being more modern.

      By the way, you can also drop the “due to its support from several European countries”. We have herd that one before and it is also getting old and tired. But it wont go away anytime soon because it is the kind of excuse that is still used by those who don’t accept the fact that the A320 has supplanted the 737 in the marketplace. Boeing could have easily responded to the challenge with the NSA but decided instead to stick to the hugely successful 737. But there is one thing that Boeing did not realize when it made that stupid move: the 737 is long past its best-before date.

  17. Guys, these figures were created by using the flight manual or some performance software. They do not reflect the actual operational conditions. Therefore I wouldn’t read too much into the figures. If you want better numbers, take actual flight manuals. There are not that hard to obtain. I could make a comparison, but I don’t have a blog.

  18. Schorsch :
    There are not that hard to obtain. I could make a comparison, but I don’t have a blog.

    If you have a very reliable aircraft performance source based on the actual In Flight Performance information (“the Book”) and if you have a very reliable OEW based on the actual Weight an Balance Manual and if you are willing to disclose your source, I would be willing to post your analysis for two benchmark missions of 800 nm and 1,500 nm in my blog.

    Just let me know whenever your analysis is ready. Thank you.

  19. The A320′s CFM56s have bigger fans then the 737′s CFM56s.

    The bigger the fan the better the sfc of the engine. If the smaller fans were better overall, the A320 would have them too.

    The difference will grow. An up to 236 seats A321 NEO with 81 inch GTF’s has no competition in per seat efficiency, noise foot print, cargo capability, cabin comfort, payload-range and sales figures show.

  20. Andreas :I dunno (again). Given that there is jack on the island other than Polar Bears, coal, snow, and walruses, I would have thought there’s a decent amount of cargo going in, in proportion to the population.

    Yes, but air freight is not cheap. Shipping by boats, while still not cheap, is much more economical and I can guess there are regular runs to the island. I would imagine, and I am also speculating, that anything that comes through via air cargo is of an urgent nature.

  21. Any kind of fuel-burn figures can be published, but the Airbus A320 is a better deal and the sales figures show airlines prefer the A320 over the Boeing 737 (http://www.pdxlight.com/neomax.htm). So…what’s it really matter what fuel figures are published? I mean, Boeing blinked and did not build the NSA and, as a result, they have probably forever lost the leadership position in the narrow-body market. Airbus is now “King” of this market – and will be for a very-long time.

    • I guess that would mean Boeing is the WB: “King of this market – and will be for a very-long time.” using your logic?

      Why don’t we have another look at the 60/40 NB market split at the end of the year or so, when Ryanair, IFLC and several other prominent customers order their future A320/737NG replacements… ;)

  22. Normand Hamel :
    Boeing is also able to offer planes at rock bottom prices and it does so on a regular basis, as it has been amply demonstrated here before. So you can drop that line, it’s getting old and tired. As to the “testimony to the good design of the 737 frame” you need to know that it is simply due to a “grand-father clause” that makes the 737 lighter than the A320. The latter does not benefit from that “grand-father” clause. In other words the A320 is being penalized for being more modern.
    By the way, you can also drop the “due to its support from several European countries”. We have herd that one before and it is also getting old and tired. But it wont go away anytime soon because it is the kind of excuse that is still used by those who don’t accept the fact that the A320 has supplanted the 737 in the marketplace. Boeing could have easily responded to the challenge with the NSA but decided instead to stick to the hugely successful 737. But there is one thing that Boeing did not realize when it made that stupid move: the 737 is long past its best-before date.

    No need to get touchy, the fact that a plane from the 60′s can compete with a plane from the late 80′s is still a good thing. Boeing has walked away from some airline deals and Airbus came following along with a lower price. Boeing waited too long on deciding on a narrow body replacement and dragged their feet on the launch of the 737MAX also. Had they launched the MAX much earlier, the orders for both would have been split about 50-50. Now the MAX will have an EAS much later and slots are many years later than the NEO.
    I hope they won’t wait too long on the 777X launch as it should be a good seller and hopefully the 787 lesson has been learned, no long dragged out postponing of the EAS as was the case on the 787 which in turn gave Airbus a slew of orders for the A330 since it was the only game in town in that seat range.

    • cheapgreek :
      Boeing waited too long on deciding on a narrow body replacement and dragged their feet on the launch of the 737MAX also.

      cheapgreek :
      I hope they won’t wait too long on the 777X launch as it should be a good seller and hopefully the 787 lesson has been learned, no long dragged out postponing of the EAS as was the case on the 787 which in turn gave Airbus a slew of orders for the A330 since it was the only game in town in that seat range.

      In a highly competitive world, when you stand still you fall behind.

      • Andreas :
        Name one deal Boeing walked away from?

        I’m guessing he or she was referring to Frontier or Jetblue(can’t remember which) where Boeing was said to have acted arrogantly and disinterested in negotiations which then made the airline look at Airbus. Of course describing this as “walking away from” would be stretching things.

  23. Observer :
    Why don’t we have another look at the 60/40 NB market split at the end of the year or so, when Ryanair, IFLC and several other prominent customers order their future A320/737NG replacements…

    Fair point, and I think that the current sales advantage is pretty identical to the earlier available slots on the A320 (two years of production are around 1,000 frames @ 42frames/month, current sales advantage NEO>MAX is 900 frames). So it’s a case of wait and see still.

  24. Hello guys

    We should compare NEO+CEO / NG+MAX fo market share, because comparing NEO / MAX only we introduce a bias due to early NEO availability

    Weightwise, THY’s A320-200 (150PAX)are 200 kg lighter than 737-800WSFP (151PAX). A320 being without CLS (so bulk loading only).
    I’m pretty sure that A320NEO will be lighter than B737-8MAX
    http://avia.superforum.fr/t1235p120-neo-vs-max#38520
    737-MAX was once 1550 kg lighter than A320NEO, and at PAS13 Boeing said now it’s only 710 kg lighter… so …. we’ll see

  25. Andreas :
    Name one deal Boeing walked away from?

    cheapgreek :

    Andreas :
    Name one deal Boeing walked away from?

    Jetblue and Spirit.

    cheapgreek :

    Andreas :
    Name one deal Boeing walked away from?

    Jetblue and Spirit.

    Normand Hamel :

    cheapgreek :
    Boeing waited too long on deciding on a narrow body replacement and dragged their feet on the launch of the 737MAX also.

    cheapgreek :
    I hope they won’t wait too long on the 777X launch as it should be a good seller and hopefully the 787 lesson has been learned, no long dragged out postponing of the EAS as was the case on the 787 which in turn gave Airbus a slew of orders for the A330 since it was the only game in town in that seat range.

    In a highly competitive world, when you stand still you fall behind.

    Something we both agree on.

Leave a Reply: Note Reader Comment Rules

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s