Pontifications: Meet the “A320neo MAX 195”

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By Scott Hamilton

April 6, 2015: There is a saying in America: keeping up with the Joneses.

This means that if your neighbor buys something, you have to go buy something similar to “keep up.”

In the case of commercial aviation, Keeping Up with the Jones has been an international past time for decades. Boeing developed the 247. Douglas developed the DC-2. Douglas developed the DC-4. Lockheed developed the Constellation. The DC-6 begot an improved Connie which prompted the DC-7 which in turn prompted the 1649 Connie. Boeing developed the 707 and Douglas the DC-8. And so it goes today, with the tit-for-tat between Airbus and Boeing.

So the latest: Boeing 737 Max 200, meet the Airbus “A320 Max 195.”

That gnashing of teeth you hear is coming from Toulouse not only at the characterization but also the label.

Last month Airbus received certification for a 195-passenger configuration for the A320neo. This compares to the 737 Max 200, designed for 200 passengers (but in practice, more likely 194-197).

When I heard of the “A320 Max 195,” thanks to a story by Mary Kirby of Runway Girl Network, my mind boggled. The A320 is shorter than the 737-800/8 and Airbus had to creatively struggle to find a Layout ofPassenger Accommodations (LOPA) to bring seating to 189, using 28-inch pitch and smaller and fewer lavs and galleys. How in the world could Airbus fit another six seats into the airplane?

I could scarcely hide my incredulity when I queried Toulouse.

“Following successful evacuation tests performed in 2014, Airworthiness Authorities have granted us with an enhanced egress rate that applies to the existing forward and aft doors of the whole A320 Family,” an Airbus spokesman said in an email. “This has allowed us, [last] month, to certify the A320 with an envelope of 195 pax, providing us margin for future cabin developments. All the enablers we have today allow us to market up to 189 pax on the A320 but, to answer market needs, we keep looking at innovative ways to add more revenue seats at equivalent comfort standard.

“[The] 195 pax is just a theoretical certified envelope, based on our new overall doors’ rating and on the A320 bearable structural loads constraints,” Airbus said. (Emphasis is theirs.) “This gives us margin for future cabin developments but is not specifically linked to an existing LOPA. [A]ll the enablers we have today allow us to market up to 189 pax on the A320 but we keep looking at innovative ways to add more revenue seats at equivalent comfort standard.”

In this case, Airbus would have to use a 27-inch seat pitch (seat maker Zodiac already has a design).

Mary Kirby posted this video: and had this story about Zodiac’s design and the 195-seat A320.

“Of course, one needs to put everything into perspective,” Airbus continued. “An A320 in a theoretically possible 195 seats layout would be for special ‘high-density’ configurations for airlines who want it for certain markets with certain business models. But obviously if a passenger pays a full-fare mainline ticket he or she would not expect to be sitting at 27inch pitch. On the other hand, if a backpacker just wants to ‘get around’ at the lowest possible cost, then even at 27 inch pitch (in a new-gen-seat 18-inch wide in an A320) that will likely be much more comfortable than the bus or train they subsequently take to their sightseeing tour. In short, nobody is forcing anybody to do anything – it’s just a question of what’s possible to offer customers. And the market – ie you the passenger, at the end of the day – is free to decide what they buy.”


I could see airlines like Ryanair or Spirit Air, neither of which is particularly concerned about what the passenger wants or doesn’t want, presenting what essentially is a take-it-or-leave-it fleet-wide configuration like this. Imagine trying to evacuate a 195-seat A320 (or a 200 seat MAX, for that matter) in 90 seconds. With seat pitch like that, and the growing population of, shall we say, plus-size people, it might take 90 seconds just to get out of the damn seats let alone to the exits.

But Boeing has a 200 seat 737-8. To Keep Up with the Joneses, Airbus now has a 195 seat A320neo.

Aye karumba.

44 Comments on “Pontifications: Meet the “A320neo MAX 195”

  1. .. it might take 90 seconds just to get out of the damn seats …

    There will be airbag derived automatic crash lube dispensers mounted in the armrests. Cattle prod derived inserts in the seat cushion will further help overcome reticence in individual seat evacuation. 😉

    • Nah, They’ll simply flatten all seats in a long slide to the nearest exit, even if it is behind you – possibly aided by your lube dispensers and/or emergency water-slide mode.\

      You’ve seen Wally, right?

  2. It is true that the customer has a choice. Here in the UK I avoid Ryanair like the plague as I’ve found that by shopping around one can usually match their fares on legacy airlines. The real fear is that there is a general downward spiral in standards, and the likes of Ryanair are just the leaders.

    • I Don’t think you are being fair to RyanAir……….after all they pattern their self after Southwest..

      Now 40 years later,Southwest is right there with the Legacy Carriers on airfare-price/bloated management…….but, their FAs tend to nicer.

      Before RyanAir introduced the no-frill Formula to the EU/UK………a demographic-group was shut-out from regular plane excursions. Now if RyanAir/Other Carriers wants to mess-with Taylorism………seeing how much they can manipulate customer service and fees…………Consumer in the end has the final say.

      I avoid flying whenever possible….add the time to get to airport,check-in,lounge,boarding,flight-time,baggage recovery,etc……..a 400-500 mile trip in the car with as many stops as one wants can be done in the same time as that flight proces……….Plus you bring your own sweet ride(free wi-fi/movies,etc)……….. andmore time saved from getting a Rental Car.

      • You say “….Ryanair introduced the no-frills formula to the UK”. With respect, they didn’t – Easyjet did. I received a presentation of the Easyjet business model in June 1995, some months ahead of their first flight, and it was unique and ground-breaking in Europe at that time. Easyjet was direct-sell only, (no use of travel agents), and its pricing model was dynamic. Ryanair, at the time, sold seats through travel agents and looked far more like a conventional airline in respect to pricing and route strategy. Easyjet blazed the trail in Europe, and Ryanair followed.

        • Yes, EasyJet………..brought forward some of the Formulas……….but only RyanAir is the most successful at it of all the Independent and State Owned/Sponsored Carriers.

          RyanAir has a never-ending growing fleet and many more options for flyers in the EU……….With RyanAir still young and Michael O’Leary as its charismatic P.T. Barnum……..RyanAir has the better Management (currently) to decimate all its competition in Passenger Volume.

          After all, Ryan flies more people than any other Carrier. But if Financial Histories are any clue………EasyJet/RyanAir will end-up consuming themselves and have to be restructured. As once you are at the “top of your game”; the only place to go then…………is stagnate or down…..few decades from now.

          They will be just like BA,Lufthansa,United, etc.

          • Well, if it’s going to take DECADES to really, really decline, Mike can sleep well tonight! LOL

    • Hi,

      The big advantage of Ryanair is not only the price, it is its unmatched list of destinations as well. I think that the majority of its destinations don’t have an alternative.


      • Widespread network obviously.

        And the airline that will drop you the furthest away from your flagged destination. ( Like “Hamburg” actually is Lübeck-Blankensee and “København” drops you in Sweden 😉

  3. “On the other hand, if a backpacker just wants to ‘get around’ at the lowest possible cost, then even at 27 inch pitch (in a new-gen-seat 18-inch wide in an A320) that will likely be much more comfortable than the bus or train they subsequently take to their sightseeing tour.”

    So you’re gonna have a backpacker section and a regular section? How do you determine or forecast who’s buying the seats if they all have the same seat pitch?

  4. I keep hoping health legislation will provide a suitable counter. Maybe someone who suffers DVT through having insufficient space to move at these new pitches will successfully bring a case in the USA and the fines handed down to the airline will be so significant that they and any other airline in a Common Law country roll back rapidly to a healthy pitch, followe soon after by airlines in other jurisdictions.

  5. Appendix -1A to Part 25 section 803 (complementing the provisions of Appendix J to ditto) says that non obstante the availability of numerical egress simulation protocols to check the Exit Limit of a given LOPA, if the OEM or the Airline want to raise the pax count for an aircraft type more than 5 % over and above the hereuntil certified Exit Limit, then a full scale live Emergency Evacuation demonstration has to be carried out. Now apply this provision to 738, A320 and A321 : + 11/189 = + 5.8 % and + 15/180 = + 8.3 % and + 20/220 = + 9.1 % … all three aircraft types are due according to applicable texts for a compulsory live full scale demo, so LET’S HAVE IT ?!

    In any event, the downside of a LOPA with (3+3) pitched 27″ is ground turn-around time. From 42 minutes (A320 @ 180 pax) you slow down TAT to 51 minutes, impairing your CASK by 0.45 x 9/(90 + 42) = 3 % from the slower trip time, plus by 0.35 x (118 kg x 15)/70,000 = 1 % in additional trip fuel from the heavier aircraft, plus yet another 1 % here and there, so at the end of the day, your aircraft isn’t more efficient, it is being wrongly used, ie MISUSED ! Not accounting for the lesser 24h productivity, the negative impact upon freight revenues (no more room for freight in lower deck) and the negative impact upon Main Deck revenues due to ticket yield dilution from reverse Product Quality perception in the market vs competitors flying less crammed …

  6. once upon a time, it was possible for the person in the window seat in coach to get out of their seat to the aisle without the b*tch and aisle seat residents having to stand up and move to the aisle to make way.

    once upon a time it was possible for an average chunky guy to have the tray table down and place their laptop on it to either get work done or watch a movie.

    once upon a time, luggage, a snack (or even a meal!) and pleasant, friendly cabin attendants were included in your ticket price.

    when many of these penny ante monetizations were introduced the claim was “high fuel prices are forcing us to do this”, but now fuel is cheaper than it has been since before these petty charges were introduced, but the charges haven’t gone away, nor have ticket prices come down.

    but as long as the cattle will pay the freight to ride in the car, the meatpacker will try to stuff a few more in the pen.

    • Once upon a time, most people were normal weight, but now in the states, the average person is way over weight and does not seem to care how they struggle to move around or how they look. On a flight I was on, a very large man sat next to me and asked if he could put the armrest up, I said no knowing after he dozed off, his excess poundage would ooze over to my seat.
      Airlines will continue to add more seats and airlines like Spirit will pack in as many as possible. I would never fly Spirit as I don’t want to be treated as cattle.
      As long as the traveling public fly the likes of Spirit airlines, the abuse will continue.

  7. Good note. But really the story is about what regulatory scheme could possibly imagined that many people in the North America market making it off the plane. I’m 5’10 185, not substantially large, but getting from a windows seat in a 27 inch pitch row has odds stack against if i m in the mid range, with a full flight.

  8. Once was seated in a 29 inch seat, clickair if I remember well. The seat in front had a hard backshell. I Gould only dit straight with my knees crammed for jours. I cannot imagine 27 inch.

    Maybe a prolonged large scale mercyless social media campaign naming andere shaming everything onder 29 inch will help.

    Overwhelming the 24/7 Airlines monitoring the internet. If their Airlines comes up in sociale media they are alerted within minutes to do damage control.

  9. Apologies for being obtuse but I have never understood how a minor stretch was not possible with a view to capping the 738 max advantage. Why is this not done?

    • Sowerbob, totally agree. In 2007 I expected it to be launched. Thinking about it however, a dedicated just right A320 200 seater could easily have Boeing call it a day with the 737 and launch the NSA ASAP, ending the lucrative A321 monopoly in the same sweep.

      An inferior but present MAX proves much easier to handle..


      So probably strategic reasons to hold back the ~4 row stretch “killer” A320. (200 seats/ 4 crew, A321 is 7 rows longer/ heavier..).

  10. On a $200 ticket, the cost to upgrade to another 3″ of pitch is about $10 or 5%. If given a rational economic choice, I assume most passengers would pay for about 33″ of pitch.

    • Weightwise, a 250 lb passenger sits in a 300 lb fuselage for a 30″ pitch seat, with 250 lb of engine and wings for 800 lb total of payload and aircraft weight. Or, 330 lb fuselage for a 33″ pitch. So fuel and landing fees to transport 830 lb vs. 800 lb? Given a rational economic choice, extra floor area on an aircraft is not that expensive.

    • what airline only charges an extra $10 for economy “plus” (aka, 1995 economy)? it is at least $49 in every case I have seen since the concept became the norm.

      • I was just trying to figure out the true cost. Why try to put 200 people on a 738 or 195 on a A320 if there is no rational economic justification.

        If you could put 200 people in an A318 in saddleseats, how much fuel is saved per passenger? How many people would rather pay $190 to fly standing up versus $200 to sit for two hours?

        What’s the actual cost to the airlines of a checked bag?
        What’s the actual cost to the airlines of a carryon?
        If 30 lb of fuselage stretch for a econ-plus seat costs $49, I’m surprised the airlines let somebody bring a 30 lb carryon bag for free. Space is measured in weight, which is the common denominator for what it costs to fly.

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  12. The classic common denominator of what the offering is onboard an aircraft is sq.ft of cabin floor area reformulated into SEATS, which is a misconception.

    The correct analysis of the offering is cuft of cabin volume upstairs PLUS more cuft of hold volume downstairs (the Hägar Viking conundrum : two aircraft in one, a paxliner upstairs and an airfreighter down underneath).

    Added together, the two-aircraft-in-one paradigm explains why room for Carry-on upstairs has a big economic impact upon trip yield : you free valuable – sellable – room for payfreight in the holds, putting the luggage in bins overhead where no seats can be installed … on one side you gain, on the other you don’t lose : there is a positive net to Carry-On luggage !

    Pitching up the seats to below 28″, what you actually do is sending more checked-in luggage downstairs, putting a penalty upon freight revenue. Freight pays better per ULD than checked-in luggage !

  13. “But Boeing has a 200 seat 737-8. To Keep Up with the Joneses, Airbus now has a 195 seat A320neo.”

    That seems to be the starting point of the article. After you discover in reality its more of a evacuation bonus of the newly available emergency exits, you return to your Joneses conclusion. Is the evacuation explanation not credible?

    • Boeing offering; although 200 Seat Rating is already possible………going to that magical number means (by International Aviation Guidelines), that Carrier of a High-Density A320/737 variant………..must put 1-2 more flight Attendants on Board.

      That creates a situation of Serious Loss in Revenue(by increased operational Costs) during Off-Peak Times with Marginal Passenger Loads throughout the week and Seasonally.

      It’s why you won’t actually see a A320/737 variant configured at that 200 Seat mark.

      I think the actual wiggle-space (same number of FAs) is in the ballpark of 189-195 Seats that can actually be Installed. Unless successful Lobbying occurs to change the Aviation/Guideline-Rules………..you will never see an actual A320/737 Variant configured for 200 Seats.

      • It seems 199 seats is the holy grail of NB Lopa’s these days.

        ” One cabin crew member for every 50, or fraction of 50, passenger seats installed on the same deck of the aeroplane”

        Many aircraft are close, many two class 757’s/ A321s.

      • The famous “sweet spot” in MOL (of RYR) language is for 200 pax because FA union rules say minimum 1 FA per each 50 pax so the 738 MAX 200 has 4 (and only 4) Flight Attendants. If you install 206 seat (??) in a 738, you’d want 5 Flight Attendants. The additional cost to the operator of this fifth FA (including job benefits, NSOC (Night Stop-Over Costs) per diems and tutti quanti …) burns the (NET) revenue of 6 seats, meaning that the CASK of a 200 seater is identical to the CASK of a 206-seater, because of the increase in fixed Trip Costs. In summary, if you want to jump beyond MOL’s 200 seats Sweet Spot in a move to make more revenue, you’d need to plan for at least 212 seat (two more rows) to make it worthwhile. But we have the relation 200/6 = 33 rows, times 27″ = 900″ divided by 35 rows = 26″, so to reach 212 pax with 738 we need to pitch the cabin down to 26″ … this kind of misery is as yet unheard of ?!

  14. Just imagine them installing ejector seats on the major airlines for passengers and crew members

    • Air droppable paletised seating and a rear loading ramp.
      The Soviets had pretty effective parachute cum breaking rocket setups around. 😉

  15. But Boeing has a 200 seat 737-8. To Keep Up with the Joneses, Airbus now has a 195 seat A320neo.

    Except they don’t, really. They just got certification that the existing exit doors would be sufficient for up to 195 pax. The maximum A320 cabin configuration Airbus has (and is advertising, as per their own statements) at the moment is still for 189 pax.
    So the 195-seat A320 doesn’t exist just yet.

  16. Hello Scott,

    I show Mary Kirby the new TCDS back on march 10th, and the did a great job with that little phrase in the TCDS.
    As you did with getting some airbus feedback.
    195 in an A320 is just crazy.
    But don’t you think the MAX200 will become MAX206 ou whatsoever ?
    The MAX200 will come with the same exit limit as 737-900 that is rated at 215 PAX)
    Best regards

    • In a race to the bottom the lead may not become the winner.

      a 737MAX215 will probably get the full hazing attention of the industry press 😉

    • I wouldn’t be surprised, but I will certainly avoid any airline with that configuration. I rarely fly Southwest because it doesn’t assign seats. I won’t fly Spirit and, now. Frontier.

      • You’re right, Frontier is horrible nowadays, I remember as a kid, My dad would take me and my (Mom) brothers/sisters on company trips(don’t know who actually paid for our air fare then).

        (I think back then is was all 737-200s) . Frontier Customer Service was awesome……….legroom in the seat good too.considering by dad is fairly tall…and he specifically chose them instead of United (for Rocky Mountain Area business Trips).

        FAs were so dang nice then(they knew our dad by his name and remembered ours when we would fly again with the same crew)…..and meals were pretty dang good then.

        Yup, Pilots let us kids in the cockpit once at altitude. for very long periods of time.

  17. I had the joy of sitting in the worst seat on an Easyjet flight to Basel last year. Middle seat, back row. I am not tall or fat but it was intolerable and if the sign of things to come I for one am not looking forward to it. Something like 28 inch pitch and no recline on a full plane. I particularly enjoyed the subtle tapering of the craft at the back which meant I was in the laps of my fellow passengers.

    There is a limit to what is acceptable and my personal limit was exceeded on that flight. Not too cheap either. The setting of simple basic parameters on space should be implemented to stop this nonsense. Say 30 inches pitch and 17 inches width or some such.

    • Maybe a prolonged large scale mercyless social media campaign naming and shaming every airline offering seats under 30 inch will help.

      Airlines are exploring new limits in what they can get away with, using all kinds of confusing, irrelevant and even piteous one-liners. Not reacting is accepting.

      • Through careful marketing,advertising,promotion…it’s easy to convince a consumer a 17-18 inch pinch seat is all good.

        A $150,000+ top line Long Wheelbase Mercedes S-Class cost about $1,000-$1,500 more to produce and ship across the ocean; then a Base $12,000 Toyota Yaris.

        It’s all in the sell……….in a consumer-driven market-place driven by crafty advertising………..consumers are easily duped………..along the lines of Marxism or whatever agenda is at stake……..>>>>>>>>>>>Commercial Aviation.

        • Thats way out by a factor 10 to 20. The seats alone are probably a grand each.

          • Leather is cheap…………so is the foam…..it’s all in the sell.
            Heated-seat pads (basically a controlled short circuit interrupted by that same home gas unit cut-off temp switch) cost about .50 cents per Foam-Paper pad.

            Electric motors to do this and that cost a couple dollars each to a Manufacturer.

            Stamp/weld a seat frame/Tracks? a couple of Dollars.

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