Airbus versus Boeing. Who doesn’t love a good competition between the world’s two largest commercial airline manufactures?  I try to say I am not slanted one way or another, but living 15 minutes away from where most Boeing aircraft are made might make me a bit biased. The saying around these parts, “If it isn’t Boeing, I am not going,” is pretty popular. I actually know a few people who honestly will not fly an Airbus or Boeing product just on principle. I don’t go that far.

Anyhow one of the constant “this manufacture is better,” arguments I hear is that the Airbus A320 seats are so much wider than the B0eing 737s. I figured it was time to find out. I took a look at airlines from around the world that fly both aircraft and used SeatGuru.com to find out the width of each seat.

I wanted to check the accuracy of the information SeatGuru has on their site, so I spoke with Jami Counter, Senior director of the site and he stated, “SeatGuru’s content team utilizes flyer comments to maintain the accuracy of our airplane seat information and updates the site with both user-submitted reviews and independent research.” That being said, I am by no means saying this is 100% scientific, but I think it can give a good comparison between the two.

Both the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families have the same width no matter what model they might be (ie a Boeing 737-200 is just as wide as a -900).  Airbus starts out ahead with a fuselage width of 156″ and a cabin width of 146″. The Boeing 737 is a bit smaller with a 148″ fuselage and only 139″ in the cabin. This means that the Airbus A320 has 7 more inches of width than the Boeing 737. If an airline did things right, each seat and the aisle could have 1″ more width than the 737.

I took a look at airlines running the Boeing 737 and/or the Airbus A320. I compared both the standard economy seating and also premium seating (some airlines call it first class, business, etc). The economy is shown with an “E” and premium with a “P.” If an airline had multiple seat widths in the same category, I averaged them together. Here are my results in inches:

On average, the Airbus A320 seats are wider, but not by much. Only about 1/2″ in economy and almost no difference with premium seats. It seems that airlines and seat manufactures are not using that extra 7″ of cabin width that the Airbus A320 provides.

When I asked Counter from SeatGuru about his thoughts, he told me, “While the A320 does have a wider diameter fuselage, it doesn’t necessarily mean that airlines will put in a significantly wider seat.” He also took a look at the data they have on their site and came to a similar conclusion that the A320 will have slightly more width on average. “On SeatGuru we’ve found that while there is some variation, we generally see airlines give about 17-17.2″ seat width in coach on a B737, while they give about 17.5″-18″ seat width in coach on an A320. These differences depend on the types of seats airlines use, as well as the overall seating configuration of the aircraft. ”

Is it worth making an effort to fly on a Airbus A320 for more room? I am going to say no. I know that many people have a preference of aircraft type they fly on and I am assuming that fractions of an inch isn’t going to persuade a person one way or another. However, airline loyalist have always surprised me in the past. Does this information change your views on flying on either the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320?

Orig Image: Caribb

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

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60 Comments

Seating comfort is more than just width. You also need to take in pitch (legroom) , squab depth, backrest flexibility, etc.

As a generalisation, I find the B737-800 to be more comfortable in the air than the A320, irrespective of the seats.

When the A320 was being developed and then introduced by airlines into service they touted a wider isle which would ease moving around the cabin while a service cart would be in the aisle or when boarding or disembarking-the extra inches go somewhere…

Marianne

I agree that the Airbus gives a less comfortable flight. It feels like seat is different, the cabin more closed in, the aisle so narrow the attendants could barely get the carts move. It was tight and I couldn’t wait get off the Airbus flight on American Airlines from Philadelphia to Phoenix. I am a female and weight 135 lbs. Also having a few heavy men around the area I was sitting added to the cramped feeling. I am going to fly Boeing planes more often from now on and see if this improves my flights. Also will upgrade to premium if necessary.

I agree with Allan.

After all, the A320’s fuselage is just marginally wider than a 737NG which does not offer significantly wider seat width.

Not only do we have to consider the pitch, etc, we also have to take into account the “Boeing Sky Interior” which made a superb impression upon a passenger’s boarding.

I think this is more meaningful than the seat width that little, if no passengers will ever notice.

Yea AirTran! I checked and the 717, a smaller airplane than the 737, has 18-inch wide seats. I’ll be glad to have that extra inch in 2 weeks!

What interests me more is the height of the window. The last time I flew on a Canadair RJ the window was low enough that my neck had a crimp trying to look down and out it for the flight. I’m 6′ so it would have been perfect height for my wife and children. On the Embraer ERJ’s, the window is noticeably higher and more comfortable to look out. This alone is a reason I try to plan my flights around aircraft types if possible.

Drew, the CRJ-200 has that low window. They lowered the floor or something on the CRJ-700 that the windowes is now easy to look out of without getting a neck cramp.

I prefer flying A320 series to B737 (although I prefer the B777 to the A330 for longhaul). As I’m 6′ I think legroom makes a great difference. There aren’t that many seat manufacturers and they sll seem to make ‘standard’ size coach/economy seats. Most airlines tend to buy standard seats across the fleet.

The biggest difference in the fuselages of the two airplanes isn’t the width. More importantly, it is the location of the maximum width. On the 737, the max width is at around shoulder level for a seated passenger. For the A320, it is at around the hip level to a seated passenger. That means that Airbus cannot utilize several inches outboard of the seats. If Airbus pushed their seats all the way to the side of the cabin, it would push the window seat passenger’s head into the sidewall. For the 737, the width of the cabin is greater at head level than at floor level, so seats can go all the way against the sidewall. That’s why a smaller cabin can have similar-sized seats. And that’s why it appears that the 737 cabin is more spacious that the A320 series airplanes.

kishore

This extremely “dorky” comment explains a lot. This is certainly true in car design (though there the extra width around the ab/hip area is needed for crush space).

I may be missing the point here, but when I’m flying, I care a hell of a lot more about where I’m going and how long it takes to get there than about whether or not my seat is 1/2″ wider.

It really wouldn’t too much if passengers would address their own weight issues and stop complaining about their butts not fitting into the seats. Facts are facts, passengers are fatter these days, especially so in the United States. Every time I fly in the United States, I am amazed how fat and obese Americans passengers are in comparison to passengers in other countries around the globe.

Douglas is missing the point. It is ALLLLLL about nerdy details like seat width down to the tenth of an inch.

I was shocked at the results. I fly almost exclusively Delta and in first class. I was sure that the A320 would be so much bigger. I always get excited to fly in those seats. I think it’s the way that the underseat storage is more open. Thanks for this dorky article.

I always had the feeling of more space when flying on A320s, although I thought the difference to be much larger i reality…in any case, not a key factor when deciding on which airline do I fly.

I just flew American Airlines, 737-800 from LAX to BOS. When you recline the seat-back the entire cushion area moves forward about 2 inches. ARG!!!

Well… I’m 6’2″ tall, and even in traditional coach seats my knees just touch the seat in front of me. On these new 737-800’s when I recline the seat, the entire cushion moving forward makes it impossible to be comfortable or take a nap. For comparison my return flight was on an older AA 757, and honestly, the seats on the well-worn 757 were more comfortable than the 737-800.

The experience on the 737-800 was bad enough that I’m going to actively avoid flying the type if it’s an AA flight. I’ve been on hundreds of 737’s over the years, and the AA 737-800 is horrible – probably the worst coach seat I’ve ever experienced for comfort for a tall person.

Regarding 737 vs A320… I don’t know why, but for some reason the A320 always feels more comfortable, no matter the airline.

Nancy reade

Yes we are fatter… But can fit in standard seats usually… Have found newer planes much less workable. Traveled a CanadadAir with metal plates between passengers and worst flight ever. When my husband and I fly together and can move the armr est up we do not impinge on other seats space… But this new seat was torture. Th@
anks for the info!

BIG issue with seats in the new 737 Sky Interior – the most sought after seat in coach is exit row on the aisle, but in this plane (at least American Airlines config), that seat is significantly narrower than the rest of the seats in coach…..to the point of hips (38″ waist) being pinched by the arm rests. What is AA thinking of???

Seat width is important, more so for larger people. I am a 6 foot, thin athletic male. Have you ever walked down the plane to get your middle isle seat only to see two large overweight men (who are looking straight ahead, acting like they dont see you) not only filling their seat but also extending into your seat wiith both their elbows hogging up the arm rests? Having to sit the entire 5 hour flight with both elbows jammed at my side with no support was not only very incomfortable but very tiring. Have an enjoyable, comfortable flight, right? Every inch in seat width makes a difference.

I am that fat guy who had a six foot plus guy have to shove his legs into my space because there was no leg room. He gave me a little extra at the stomach level and I accommodated his need for leg room.

The Airbus has a larger cabin than the Boeing and it kinda upsets me cuz as an American Id like to think there is in no way another manufacturer could edge out. Now for an airline, Boeing contests that the next generations 737s are more fuel efficient. They do not mention it beating the cabin space of an A320 however. The difference is barely noticeable but it is there. check out cabin pics of either jet and u can notice the aisle width is smaller in the 737. Its the little details.

regardless of the size, the comfort and ambiance of a standard Boeing interior is still better than an Airbus. Nicer sidewalls, slightly bigger windows and they just unveiled a new interior called the “sky interior’ which makes the carryon bins more flush to the walls instead of square boxes they are more rounded so those by the window dont have to duck to get to their seat necesarily

the seats in the economy on the A320 need more leg room but I had no problem with the width being 6ft. 2in. and 240 pounds.The premiem seats have plenty of room all of the way around. The windows could be a little bigger. Opinions are like you know what, everybody has one and that is mine.

As each generation comes, we get taller and bigger. It’s just a simple fact. Are there really obese people? Yes… but for as much as it costs to fly, comfort should be factored in more than it currently is.

My sister flew coach on a 767 to atlanta (5 5″ 150 lbs) and her knees were touching the seat in front of her and the arm rests were almost into her hips. If planes were just one foot wider, seats could be as wide as first class. Would that kill boeing or airbus?

I always find the A320 more comfortable irespective of the airline. I do not feel as comfortable with the B737 – just flew the 737-800. For me A320 anything..

I always find the A320 more comfortable irespective of the airline. I do not feel as comfortable with the B737 – just flew the 737-800. For me A320 anytime.

joni english

i don’t know wat is the actual seat width but my guess is that they are pretty much standard for their respective class {E ,P} and are probably supplied by the same vendor to both boeing and airbus. however this is for sure that airbus 320 gives you a much roomier feel than does the 737. there is even a video comparison on youtube that proves this fact

Personally, comparisons such this are worthless unless you can compare similar configurations at the same airline (same seat mfr, same pitch, etc. etc.). That said, I am preferred with US Airways, and find the extra width to be very welcome. I try to avoid any segments (if I can help it) that are non airbus.

“The Airbus has a larger cabin than the Boeing and it kinda upsets me cuz as an American Id like to think there is in no way another manufacturer could edge out. Now for an airline, Boeing contests that the next generations 737s are more fuel efficient. They do not mention it beating the cabin space of an A320 however. The difference is barely noticeable but it is there. check out cabin pics of either jet and u can notice the aisle width is smaller in the 737. Its the little details.”

i absolutely totally agree with nick. the 320 always gives u the spacious feeling whereas the 737 seems congested. my vote is for the 320!

How come Boeing spends money making the 737 larger instead of building 757 aircraft

Yes! They should carry on with the 757! Also, I understand Airbus has wider seats, but 737s are at least 15 million cheaper than the a320s and the 737s are also more fuel efficient. This makes it way cheaper for airlines. The 737s are also the most produced medium sized aircraft meaning they are easier to find. Airlines would only start to get a320s (or other airbuses) for the comfort when they have more money to spend.

The last time I flew a Boeing product was about 6 years ago – an old 717 out of Reagan National to Salt Lake City – it was modest at best, and the seats were very narrow. Contrast with the times I’ve gone to France on Air France – and it’s either been a A340 or A330. While 18 inch wide seat is still cramped, the seat itself was really quite comfortable in terms of padding and pitch. Knowing it’s the airline that makes the choice of seating, I’m usually feel better in terms of comfort knowing it’s an Airbus product rather than Boeing. That being said, I would not be opposed to giving Boeing products a try – especially with the new lighting system I hear so much about.

Sam Brevens

Air France???m Ugh. Flew them once in business to and from Zurich, connecting in Paris CDG. My first time was also my last. Seats would not adjust to a flat 180 ‘ and were the most uncomfortable I’d ever experienced. The attendants were rude and more interested in gossiping in the galley, but this is about seat width in 737s vs A320s, so I’ll reserve comments for a more appropriate forum.

Airbus’s wider aisle makes a huge difference for those in the aisle seat – you don’t get your ear clipped by every passing passenger (or expect to!), plus the trolley passes with fewer collisions.

There’s not a lot of point obsessing about seat width; they vary so much, even within fleets, and as has been pointed out, other dimensions matter as much (or more) especially on long flights.

With larger passengers every year, it does matter – but whole inches, not 0.2 of an inch!

I’m NOT a frequent flier. I recently took an Airbus 321 for 4 hours. It was very uncomfortable. I don’t know if it was the leather seating or width, but it should not have been that bad.

Henrietta Hammer

I voat airbus.
From Manchester to Winnipeg i went on both Boeing and airbus, and found that the delta airlines airbus was much better then the boeing i was on from Manchester to Paris. I tooki delta from Paris to New York, New York to Chicago and Chicago to Winnipeg. All were on airbus, and they were much better. take it from someone who’s scared of flying, i felt safer on the airbus.
airbus FTW, XD.

Good work. However you cannot compare averages. Because that is not what you fly! It is either 17 or 18 not 17.46. You need to compare MEAN. And that will give you what seat are you likely to fly on A320 vs 737. And yes it is 18 on Airbus, 17 on 737

The 737-900 is better looking Than the old versions, but it still fell crammed! Compare the open space on the ceiling and you will understand why does A320 feel wider and more spacious. Though it is really marginal.

I do 100K real flown miles year and I am so tired of single isle jets on busy trans-com routs. Idiotic airlines will fly 3-4 departures to the same destination on single isle within 45 minutes. Instead of putting one 777 or 787 on it. For 7 hour flight most people adjust their schedule. 45 min makes no difference. Of course on 1.2h flight the story is different. Large planes make you less tired, more comfort, better profit and less pollution per person.

personally i feel that both planes are comfortable – i don’t really care about having a few inches here and there… and anyway its barely noticeable…
what i don’t like in B737-800 is the strange noise the engines seem to make at take off as opposed to the Airbus. Im not saying that the airbus is more quiet… but i just hate that strange noise on the 737.

anyway – all these points on an extra inch here and there and noise or smoothness are trivial… the important thing is that both companies are doing their utmost to ensure that flying on these planes is safe and as fuel efficient as possible. Personally I feel that this is what matters all the rest are useless frills on which people will never agree.

I am a very frequent flyer. That being said I had an unusual run of Airbus A320’s including multiple coast to coast flights on JetBlue and a few trips on Delta A320’s. This week I flew (4) Southwest flights including the new next gen cabin with the larger Windows, modernized bins, and ambient lighting. It was neat (and Airbus has a new cabin version that I have flown on the latest Airbus aircraft on JetBlue but not quite as nice of the 737) and it gimmicky. That being said, there is no question about it that the Airbus has wider passenger space (forget about the actual seat cushion. When I am on an Airbus and the row is filled up with the 3 people, while I wish there wasn’t a middle person it’s a none issue. On a 737 forget it. Your stuffed into the window or aisle. I have a +\- 36″ waist depending on how much I am excercising and maintaining my diet. The guy next to me had apx. 34″ waist. I felt like I was on a date with him. I was touching him more than my wife! — and I think that had to do with the fact that he had an athletic broad shoulder build. Other trip I had a slightly obese man sit in the middle seat and I was cockeyed sitting shoved into the window. Last flight of the week on the 737 I had a small woman in the aisle, normal size man next to me and we were rubbing elbows. Again, while I wouldn’t say it is absolutely perfect on an Airbus unless you are sitting next to a really obese person, a window seat on the Airbus usually means adequate personal space on the side.

Is it just me or do the B737 seats have a further recline than the A320

I flew an Alaskan airlines 737 900 from Baltimore to LA last week and I flew a delta airlines A 320 from LA to Atlanta on the way back and in my opinion The A 320 so much more comfortable and the seats appeared to wider than what I was on on the new 737 900 that there was no comparison . And Alaska airlines is a lousy airline

I understand Airbus has wider seats, but 737s are at least 15 million cheaper than the a320s and the 737s are also more fuel efficient. This makes it way cheaper for airlines. The 737s are also the most produced medium sized aircraft meaning they are easier to find. Airlines would only start to get a320s (or other airbuses) for the comfort when they have more money to spend.

Frederic

Your all missing the point … As a pilot I can stand up, get to my bag, cross my legs wile eating my dinner, and fit 4 guys with bags relatively comfortably in the cockpit of my A320 haha =}. Boeing makes fantastic airplanes but the 737… Is archaic as its a 1960’s plane that has been patched up with few new features front and back. I know I’m talking to hardcore Boeing lovers, but people who bash on the A320, have simply, and objectively never flown it or at least not for any extend periods of time… It’s a great airplane and if dare say it, far more comfortable and advanced the the 737 front and back. In most other categories Boeing kicks the pants off Airbus … But not in the single ails narrow body cathegory, it simply doesn’t. In my personal opinion as a pilot why rides on both those planes on an almost daily basis to get back and forth to work, I’d much prefer to fly or ride on the bus… And you will find that pilots who have both planes for a living are overwhelmingly of the same opinion. But please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I dislike the 737… Again it’s an amazing machine that has past the test of time, but I do prefer the Airbus!

The A320 is much more comfortable than the 737. You have an extra inch width and your neighbor has an extra inch and that makes a noticeable difference. Also the A320 seat is more comfortable for the lower back. Also there is more room underneath the seat in front of you. No contest.

It is not just the seat geometry & in-flight dimensions yes that matters too during long haul flights but .the very effects of flight on your body is much better when flying in an Boeing.. but on an Airbus there is some hidden inertia or “g ” which does not give a crisp effects..& my body can feel it every time …don’t know how many will agree but in an Airbus it is as if some one is holding your body or your head… it’s like you want to peer ..but there is no pee…& That is very frustrating ..I think combat flying ..or fighter pilots could better relate to things what I am saying …!!

Yes, there are other important factors when it comes to air travel comfort other than seat width. But this topic is seat width.

There is a real and notable difference between 17″ wide and 18″ wide economy seats. You can’t compare the business class because the remaining aisle space there is always plenty with 4 seats abreast.

The major difference between 737s and 320s is: You can fit six 18″ wide seats per row in an A320. Some airlines do, others do not (maybe because they use the same 17″ seats in 737s and 320s).
You just cannot do that in a 737. Never. Not even if you wanted. Nobody does. Your table above might state otherwise but you just can’t. The Numbers for Air China and Lufthansa are plain wrong. Neither people nor trolleys could pass the remaining aisle.

Flying 737 in eco ALWAYS means very narrow seats. This article is BS, sorry.

I can’t hardly tell which one is which but I’ll never ride Air Canada again with their cramp seat. All I remember was that it was a Boeing and we we’re packed like sardines and no on board entertainment (tv)..and to think that it’s an international flight (Toronto to Barcelona). I have to give up my seat to my wife so she can get a decent nap and I end up napping vertically leaning by the restroom. It really was a terrible experience that I will not soon forget.

Another way to tell the difference between these two jets is by sound. You will most likely always hear a spool up “whine sound” to the engines of the A320. Where as the 737 in any variant lacks this sound. The space inside is also a factor as the A320 “trumps” pardon the pun the 737 in that area as well. It’s a no wonder why i prefer flying on JetBlue who only uses Airbus A320’s and a few Embraer 175 and 190 variants. As opposed to SouthWest who solely uses 737’s particularly the 500 & 700 variants. A320’s in my opinion are a far nicer plane by far to travel on.
Regards
https://www.totalresumes.com.au/

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Rob the FSE

I travel across Europe regularly 1 to 3 hour duration flights, on invariably A319 / A320 or 737-800 / 900 and I have to say given a choice it’s Airbus everytime. They are noticeably quieter (the new Neo versions are amazingly quiet). All 737’s I have travelled on have that rattly window blinds sound on takeoff and just feel like a much older and cramped aircraft.

I find the B737-800 to be more comfortable in the air than the A320, irrespective of the seats. Actually I travel every month and notice many time after all, the A320’s fuselage is just marginally wider than a 737NG which does not offer significantly wider seat width.Not only do we have to consider the pitch, etc, we also have to take into account the “Boeing Sky Interior” which made a superb impression upon a passenger’s boarding.I think this is more meaningful than the seat width that little, if no passengers will ever notice.

SRIKANTH

No matter whether its a B737 or A320. It all depends upon the airline when it comes to comfort. Personally i love Boeing 737. I used to travel in B737 most of the time. But all were domestic routes. My long international travel was on an A320. (Coimbatore to Sharjah on Air Arabia.) I really hated the seating arrangement. Also it is a low cost airline. Literally the leg room was very cramped. Same experience in an Indigo’s A320. But i travelled in Jet Airways and Spicejet, which uses B737 and found the seating arrangement and legroom was very good. Highlight is i am not a very tall person. i am just 167 cms. But A320 was very cramped for me. Cant able to imagine about tall persons.

Gerald Brady

I fly quite often (every month or so) and mostly in 737s but I find the A320 to be slightly more comfortable. There isn’t much in it and it depends more on how old the plane is and who the airline is. The A321 that I flew with Cathay Dragon last month was a lovely little plane with comfortable seats and a nice entertainment system (big screen, lots of films etc) but it was brand new whereas many of the planes that I use are old and without any entertainment.

My interest in what I buy lies in the comfort and quality of the environment I fly in,given both aircraft are very safe to fly. I am about 50:50 on flights.
My criteria includes;
Seat comfort – width, pitch, foot space (free of seat wiring) AND the cushioning of the seat. Lie flat in business for long flights is a must.
Cabin comfort – cabin pressure and humidity AND noise level

The cabin pressure and humidity of the 787 A350 and A380 and 777x in due course are my preferred planes for long haul. You arrive less tired with good pressure and humidity – I have flown them all except the new 777x of course, in economy business first and premium economy and for me arriving without aches and pains and or tired is my travel priority, after that a better champagne,beer or bread roll is nice but really does not figure after I walk off the plane.

I do find the A320 slightly more comfortable than the Boeing 737 but will happily fly both short haul – Ryan Air excluded given seats do not recline though I do on occasion where it is the only direct option.

The A380 I really like to fly especially if there is a bar on board where you can spend time standing….. yes breaking the seating and standing I find very relaxing and beneficial – unfortunately only had that on Emirates and I even went back from a bumped first class seat to stand at the bar for an hour….

Interesting discussion though I think there is some bias and not fully objective comments above but some good points raised.

The standard of flights comes through the Business Class and First Class is the vast amounts of not only leg room but also fully reclining seats with the fully comforted area with all accessories of our entertainment.

Jim Collins

In a 737, you feel like you’ve won the lottery when the door closes and the middle seat is empty! In the bus, you don’t care.

I find the B737NG whether 17” inches or 17.2” horrifically uncomfortable. I’ve only experienced the Airbus 18” seats and that extra 2.0cm to 2.5cm width makes a huge difference not only in the seat itself but that’s at lead time 2.0cm more between you and your neighbors shoulders. Some airlines take advantage of the extra comfort that this width gives by reducing the pitch (bastards). Also mainline airlines don’t want you too comfortable since they want you to pay for premium or business class.
That’s why Low Cost Carriers such as Spirit will give you 18.5”. I also suspect airlines don’t want 18.5” in an Airbus seat and 17.2 in their Boeing’s. Boeing had worked to allow 17.6 inch seats into the B737MAX.

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