Airbus A320 Outshines Boeing's 737

A silhouette of a man is seen behind an Airbus A320 plane model on display, Friday Feb. 24, 2006 during the Asian Aerospace exhibition which started Monday in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Boeing's 737 passenger plane, which has seen deliveries top 5,000 since it entered service 38 years ago, has always been touted by its U.S. makers as the world's most popular commercial jet.

But lately, the plane has been losing business to European rival Airbus' A320, the 737's direct competitor in terms of size, range and listed price. Both single-aisle planes are designed to fly a short-to-medium range and seat a maximum of about 200.

Last year, Toulouse, France-based Airbus had a 62 percent market share of the single-aisle plane market with 918 orders for the A320. The 737 had 569 orders.

This past week at the Asian Aerospace show, the A320 again outshone the 737 in orders.

  • Indonesian low-cost carrier Adam Air said it planned to replace its fleet of Boeing 737s over the next five years with 30 leased and purchased A320s.
  • Indian budget carrier Go Air placed a firm order for 10 A320s
    and took an option to buy 10 more.
  • Airbus finalized a deal on the eve of the air show to sell 43
    A320 and A319 jets to state-owned domestic carrier, Indian.

    Boeing's only major deal this week came when Indian budget carrier Spicejet ordered 10 737 planes and took an option to order another 10.

    Are the 737's days of glory over?

    Few experts think so. After all, last year's 569 orders for the jet was an annual record high.

    Analysts suggest that the A320's popularity has less to do with technical superiority than aggressive pricing, though the plane does have a few physical advantages over its Boeing rival.

    For one, the Airbus jet's cabin is seven inches wider than the 737.

    Airbus' customers agree that's one influencing factor, together with the plane's potential to lower operating costs, as the company claims.

    "We are sure that Adam Air passengers will be excited by the A320's attractive cabin and delighted by the low fares we will be able to offer," said Adam Adhitya Suherman, president-director of Indonesian carrier.

    "With the 737, even though they've upgraded the length, the avionics, and the wings, the cross-section of the plane remains the same as it was forty years ago," said Andrew Miller, chief executive of the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, a consultancy based in Sydney.

    Miller said the popularity of the A320, introduced in 1988, had much to do with its growing use by low-cost carriers.

    "That's where all the growth has been. Now there's an acceptance of the A320 as a low-cost workhorse, whereas prior to that the 737 was the plane of choice," Miller said.