Figuring seat counts A320 v 737 families

Airbus and Boeing use different seating assumptions when comparing each others’ airplanes. As one of the charts in a previous post shows, Boeing’s assumptions tend to favor Boeing. Airbus assigns more seats to its airplanes than does Boeing and fewer seats to the Boeing airplanes.

Below is a chart of “real” configurations and the average. This data is from Several airlines have multiple configurations and we’ve averaged them for purposes of this table.

We were surprised by the low average of the 737-900/900ER but the sampling is small and Turkish skews it. Eliminating Turkish gives an average of 170 seats for the 737-900(ER).

If you eliminate American Airlines for the A321 (102 seats is correct), the A321 average is 189.

A320 A321 737-800 737-900
Airbus Assumption 153 189 157 175
Boeing Assumption 150 183 162 180
              Actual Configurations
1 Aeromexico 160
2 Air China 158 185 163
3 Air New Zealand 169
4 AirAsia 170
5 AirBerlin 210 180
6 AirCanada 146 175
7 Alaska 158 176
8 American 102 154
9 Asiana 143
10 British Air 157 186
11 Delta 150 160
12 Lufthansa 150 190
13 Malaysia 163
14 Ryanair 189
15 SAS 198 186
16 Southwest 175
17 Turkish 143 180 157 151
18 United 141 156 170
19 US Airways 150 187
20 Virgin America 143
Average 152 179 167 166

21 Comments on “Figuring seat counts A320 v 737 families

  1. Interesting. Think there’s an error with the American A321 figure though, skewing that average down.

      • Sorry, had forgotten that ;-). Taking that one out to leave more normal configs gives an average of 186, smack in the middle of the Boeing and Airbus assumptions.

  2. Also, any chance of running a weighted average (ie taking into account number of airframes each airline operates) pls?

  3. Not sure this is the best methodology either. I would argue Ryanair and SAS are skewing 737-800 averages upwards (in Ryanair case craming absolute maximum allowed). I would argue that the best comparison for the seat difference is probably provided by the (few) operators that operate both 737 and A320 models.

  4. I think Lionair is the biggest 737-900ER operator, 213 seats.

    Two or single class makes a big difference..

    I think cabin length would be a useful variable because both are 6 abreast.

    Ignoring the payload differences under the floor doesn’t seem realistic.

    • Theoretically, the A320 can load way more cargo than a B737. However, only few airlines actually ask for that. For many, the A320 is simply more aircraft then they need. The “cargo load factor” (means the utilization of the cargo hold in terms of volume) is usually below 50%, some carriers have even less. Horrendous baggage fees are contributing to this trend.

  5. Perhaps just using the maximum allowable pax load, according to the certification for max evacuation in 90 seconds is the best definer. The OEMs only have suggested seating, each airline can do something different, but none can exceed the max evacuation capability.

    • And that totally ignores the real life use of the a/c. A380 is I think at 850pax based on cert? (Keesje?) – should we use that number when estimating CASM?

  6. Small correction, Lufthansa refittet their single aisle fleet with Recora Slimline seats, they now give 168 Seats for the A320 and 200 Seats for their A321. They use the same seat for coach and business – with just blocking the middle seat for Business.

    For reference:

    They have fittet actually 205 Seats to their A321, but block the middle seat middle seat by a hard installed tray table – for rows 4-8 they have 10 seats they can block for business or use as coach. I would assume the 200 is used to stay within the FA limit.

    As Ryanair is mentioned, you should also list Easyjet with 180Seats in their A320

  7. I agree that while this is interesting, it tells us more about the airlines rather than the planes. It’s obvious that you can either have a very dense or a very generous configuration in either plane. The best comparison would normally be airlines operating both types, but even then it is not always clear if they have the same standards (e.g. Turkish seems to have varying approaches to NB J)

  8. Lufthansa operates the A320 with 168 seats and the A321 with 200 seats. They have variable business class, so sometimes they do not sell the middle seats of the forward rows.
    An interesting comparison can be made at Air Berlin, which operates B737-800 and A320.
    They have 174 seats in the A320, and 184 in the B737-800.

  9. BA also flies the old BMI A321s with 154 seats (23J, 131Y). And a very nice experience that is. Nicer in fact than their long-haul J seats. But again, it would screw comparisons. Turkish has some nice (but not as nice as BA by a long shot) J seats on their newer 737s, which probably drags down the average seat numbers.

  10. Rounding off to the nearest 3 as Boeing does and Airbus does for it’s own aircraft, I’d say:

  11. Does it mean that the seating advantage of 6 to 12 seats for the 737-800 is confirmed?

  12. Cabin length of the 737-800 seems 29.97 m
    Cabin length of the A320 seems 27.38m

    A seatrow takes about 32 inch, so a two row /12 seat difference seems seems a reasonable assumption.

      • That equation is to simple for Lufthansa.
        “Lufthansa Cargo does not only offer space on its own freighters, but also has access to the cargo capacities of more than 300 Lufthansa passenger aircraft (including Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and SunExpress )”
        All Lufthansa 737 will be phased out by 2016 and replaced with NEOs (100 on order).

  13. I propose taking the respective airline (a/l) fleet numbers into account in order to arrive at a “weighted average”:
    ([number of a/l A fleet type] * [seat count of a/l A fleet type] + [number of a/l B fleet type] * [seat count of a/l B A320s] …) / (total number of fleet type of all a/l’s taken into account)
    This way, the “real average” seat count becomes obvious with exotic configurations having little impact.
    Generic example:
    a/l A – 100 738s, 180 seats each.
    a/l B – 100 738s, 170 seats each.
    a/l C – 10 738s, 100 seats each.
    Using arithmetic average, you arrive at 150 seats
    (= (180 + 170 + 10)/3).
    The weighted averags results in about 171.4 seats
    (= (100*180 + 100*170 + 10*100)/(100 + 100 + 10)).
    It’s up to you to decide which number appears to be more relevant.

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