Airbus critiques the Boeing 737 MAX 200

With the formal launch by Boeing of the 737 MAX 200, the 200-seat high density version of the 737-8 with an order for 100+100 from Ryanair, Airbus was quick to launch its own critique on the airplane.

Kiran Rao, Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing for Airbus, was quick to take aim at the advertised seating capacity of the MAX 200 and at the 197 seats Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary says will be in the carrier’s configuration.

In an interview with Leeham News and Comment, Rao said that Boeing has to eliminate too many galley carts, even at reduced food and beverage options, to adequately service passengers. One cart is needed for every 40 passengers.

“The galley on the 189 seat A320 has eight trolleys (carts),” Rao told us. “The 200 seater 737 has only five trolleys. We have spent time optimizing our design as all our customers needed galley space. Up to 30% of low cost carrier revenue comes from ancillary revenue. You don’t get a free meal or drink on an LCC but you can buy one and the margin on sales is greater than the margin selling seats. Hence LCCs need galley space and our A320 with 189 seats is the optimum use of space.”

As we noted last week, the MAX 200, at 200 seats, requires an additional flight attendant. At 199 seats, the additional attendant (and its cost) is not required. O’Leary said his Max 200s would be configured with 197 seats. Rao believes Ryanair ultimately will have to configure for 194 seats because of the trolley requirement to efficiently service the passengers for the ancillary revenue that is the staple of Ryanair’s business model.

O’Leary said the average seat pitch will be 30 inches. Rao disagrees.

Our estimates for Ryanair's claimed 30-inch average seat pitch in a 197-seat Boeing 737 MAX 200.

Our estimates for Ryanair’s claimed 30-inch average seat pitch in a 197-seat Boeing 737 MAX 200.

“At 200 seats the vast majority of seats are at 28 inch pitch. Even at 194 the seat pitch is 28, as the lost seats are replaced with galley,” he says. “For the A320 at 189 seats, the majority of seats between Door 1 and mid cabin exit are at 30 in pitch. Behind the mid- cabin we are also at 28 in pitch.” He also says that the narrower 17.2 inch wide seat on the 737, compared with the 18-inch wide seat on the A320, had to be offset by seat pitch, which is now more cramped.

Rao doesn’t stop there.

“The MAX 200 max weighs 300 kg more than the 737-8, [resulting in a] 0.3% increase in fuel burn. Will Boeing make the [MAX 200] modification standard? That means 70% of customers will carry 300kg they don’t need. If it’s not standard, 30% of the customers have a sub-fleet.”

Rao also claimed the MAX 200 won’t have enough overhead bin space for the increased passenger capacity, though we might point out that since nearly all LCCs charge for checked baggage, this may not be viewed as a negative.

“The overhead bins on the 737 are already too small,” Rao said. “With 200 passengers, I would not like to be the cabin crew trying to solve the space puzzle.”

Rao said that the A320 189-seat configuration is retrofitable and available now. The MAX 200 is not retrofitable and not available until 2019.

Rao also claims the MAX 200 makes the 737-9 “redundant.”

“The 737-9 is stuck at 215 seats with poor performance and a small customer base,” he says. “The 200 seat 737-8 makes the 215 seat 737-9 redundant. Hence the 737 family will be reduced to one member,” calling the 737-7 a “non-seller.” (There are 55 orders to two customers.) “The A321…goes up to 240 seats vs 189 seats on the A320. There is no aircraft in the world that beats the seat mile cost of a 240 seat A321neo.

“In summary, the nine seat delta today between the 737-8 and the A320 will be reduced to five seats. Our fuel efficiency will make the five seat delta insufficient to cover the delta costs. Hence the A320neo will lead the market for the next decade,” Rao says. “The A321neo is an order of magnitude better than the 737-9…and the sales figures prove it. Boeing is not well positioned in the Single Aisle market.”

20 Comments on “Airbus critiques the Boeing 737 MAX 200

  1. Strong words… the 737 max 200 shows how you can squeeze the max out of a airframe designed 50 years ago 🙂

    I don’t think that little nook in the aft can be called a ‘galley’ at all :p

    • I’ve flown a couple of times with FR. 1..2 hour flights.
      They appear to not service passengers.
      i.e. a couple of coffees, a softdrink or two, sweepstake tickets and maybe a single newspaper from what I could see.

  2. Hello Scott,
    Very nice !
    737-MAX9 and 737-900ER is certified up to 220 PAX
    Read in last week Avweek that a floor reinforcement now certified did allow to carry such loads (220 PAX) and the TCDS already mention 220PAX exit limit.

    Also in aviation week :
    [quote]Although trip costs will take a slight hit of around 1% compared to the standard 737-8, the MAX 200 “will have 5% better operating costs,” says Boeing Commercial Airplanes Vice Chairman and CEO Ray Conner. “We have the opportunity, depending on configuration, to lower operating costs by 20% (compared to the current 737-800), so it’s a big deal for our operators, and in particular for low cost carriers around the world.”[/quote]

    Boeing trip cost increase is higher than Airbus.
    It means that you have to sell 1 or 2 more seat per flight for break even….

    Bonne journée

    • 200 pax.
      What will that do to range and TO performance ?
      200 pax plus baggage ~= 22t ? 15t for fuel max?

  3. The lack of galley space may be inconvenient for FR’s operation as they need to service the galley in each turnaround. Possible they can use volume usually used for ovens and coffee makers for other purposes. What is the most profitable on such a flight: a cup of coffee, a cold sandwich or booze for the bachelor trip group.

    Mr Rao’s comments fit his job description, which is “Sales & Marketing”. The A321 at 240 seats may be the most efficient, but it will also be the least comfortable in terms of seat pitch (and having similar issues with overhead bin capacity).

  4. This is a race to the bottom. In all of this squeezing – the passenger gets the hind tit.

    The duopoly has a simple sales strategy – Boeing to appeal to airlines (great seat mile costs). Airbus to appeal to passengers (more bums on seats due to additional appeal). When the two starts mixing it, it gets confusing.

  5. Looking at the total 737 vs A320 NB battle, Boeing is in a situation that justifies product enhancements, PR one liners and opportunistic tactics.

    How many seats exactly will fit in the -7,8,9, operational trade-offs, airline configurations, retrofits etc. are details to be discussed with individual airlines. The extra 737-“200” options are a good addition to the MAX series anyway.

  6. So what’s Airbus’s complaint? That Boeing put in too may seats and too few galleys? That’s what the costomer asked for.

    • Jack is right. Ryanair, and probably other undisclosed airlines, pushed Boeing to make the 200 PAX configuration available. It really is a race to the bottom for the LCCs but it really is a customer driven race. Boeing and Airbus are simply catering to the market. Also to be fair, Rao is doing his job, which is to downplay the +11 PAX increase Boeing is implementing on the 737-8, mitigating the 189 PAX A320neo configuration. Additionally, Rao’s comment about maintaining 30″ pitch is disingenuous since the A320neo 189 PAX configuration uses 28″ pitch.

    • Airbus’s complaint?

      IMU that seat pitch as advertised “30 inches” does not fit the physical arrangement : a 50/50 mix of 30″ and 28″ pitch seating. Average <29".
      i.e. false advertising and nothing about "too tight". RTFA 😉

  7. 15 x exit row pitch
    27 x 3 at 30 (81)
    12 x 3 at 28 + 5 rear (41)
    20 x 3 at 28 in middle (60)

    Depends on what exit row pitch is I guess. I would presume they can redesign the galley carts to hold more or the packaging of the food/booze to be smaller?

    Anyway…”Lies, damn lies, and marketing”


  8. “the 737 family will be reduced to one member” Probably true for single class carriers. For multi class carriers, the 737 will primarily be the MAX 9. Alaska, United, and Delta fly the 900ER with about 180 seats, I believe most of their orders will be for the MAX 9. American may eventually come to the same conclusion and realize that the extra seats on the MAX 9 are all gravy and switch over too.

  9. Not sure 737 operators will switch to premairy 737-900’s. Because most have A321s or will have them like AA, DL and probably United too. The -8/-800 seems the right size for the 737. No runway restrictions and 2 seatrows larger then the A320.

    If Airbus ever decides to build a 3-4 meters stretch of the A320 (200 seats at average 30 inches, but still 3-4 meters shorter then the A321), the NSA will be pulled forward several years.

  10. Interesting comments. While he did provide numbers to back up his claims, Scott have you done an independent analysis in regards to something to the things claimed? I’d like to see some fact checking.
    Also, is there anything stopping Boeing from giving the max200 treatment to the MAX9 too?

    • The seat chart is our own analysis, and that was the key point. As for economic claims, we will be undertaking this in the future.

      As for the Max 9, it’s already certified to 220 (or 215) seats and there probably isn’t a lot more room in it to do any more. Field performance already suffers so adding any more seats–if it were possible–would further degrade performance.

      • I think the Zodiac aft galley complex (+6 seats) can be ordered/ retrofitted to all 737s, so also for the -9. Payload/ range will take a hit, but thats an airline trade-off.

  11. When I get more then one reason and they all sound desperate, I tend to think the subject of conversation was a great idea.
    A 100+100 order tell us Boeing provided exactly what it was asked for.

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