An American Airlines Boeing 737-800 – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDLMultimedia
Recently, I had the chance to fly pretty similar flights from Seattle to Puerto Rico and back on Delta Air Lines and then American Airlines.
I had not flown on two domestic airlines back-to-back with so much the same, and I found there to be a pretty stark differences.
To San Juan, I took two Delta Boeing 737-900ERs with the newest interior (one was only a few weeks old). I flew from Seattle to Atlanta (shocking), then on to San Juan. On the way home, I took two American 737-800s. One had the Boeing Sky Interior cabin, but still shared entertainment screens. The second was an older 737-800, with no sky interior and also shared screens (but more on that later). I flew out of San Juan, through Miami, and then on to Seattle.
The cost of the tickets were exactly the same: $236 each way. I also earned Alaska Airlines miles for both flights, so I didn’t care about miles on either, nor did I have any status [update: I did not realize that Delta only gave me 50% Alaska miles vs American’s 100%. Still knowing this, it doesn’t change any of my choices or opinions since I am not much of a miles guy]. I was also in window seats and had similar seat-mate setups.
I went into these flights with no expectation of doing a story, but the fact that on similar flights, there was an obvious winner, I became motivated. And yes, you will have to wait until the end to see which airline won — no cheating!
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