Planespotting 101: Boeing 737 vs Airbus A320

Can you tell the difference between the 737 and A320 in this shot? (Angelo DeSantis / Flickr)

Can you tell the difference between the A320 and the B737 in this shot? (Angelo DeSantis / Flickr)

Pilots, planespotters and aviation buffs can quickly recognize nearly every aircraft type from the ground or in the air.

But it’s not so easy for the rest of us.

To help TravelSkills readers confidently recognize what they see overhead or out on the runway, we are going to offer up a series of posts dedicated to Planespotting 101. (Here’s last week’s post about the Boeing 717 and MD80/90 series)

Today let’s look at two ubiquitous planes – the Boeing 737 family and the Airbus A320 family

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See the pointy nose on the Boeing 737? The dorsal-like fin leading up to the tail? (Photo: Colin Brown / Flickr)

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See the more bulbous nose on the Airbus? (Aero Icarus / Flickr)

The Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 are two of the most popular single-aisle planes flying. They are about the same size and look quite similar to the untrained eye.

The 737 is Boeing’s most widely produced aircraft and has nine variants flown by almost all major domestic airlines, especially Southwest, which operates only 737s and has 665 of ’em! Delta flies about 100.

The Airbus A320 (along with the similar A318, 319 and 321) is more popular overseas, but in the US, they comprise 100% of Virgin America’s fleet and much of JetBlue’s. US Airways has the largest Airbus fleet in the world, including nearly 270 in the A320 family. United has about 160. Delta has 105 A319s and A320s.

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Note the Airbus nose and windows (PurplePoulpe / Flickr)

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Note the pointy nose and angular window in the Boeing (PurplePoulpe / Flickr)

The easiest way to tell the difference between a 737 and an A320 is by looking at the nose of the plane. Boeing jets tend to have pointy noses compared to Airbus noses which are more rounded and bulbous.

You can also look at the outer edge of the cockpit windows. On a 737, the windows have a sharp diagonal corner while the A320s windows are more square.

Also, look at the tail of both jets. The 737 has tail has small dorsal- like fin that extends at a slight angle from the top of the fuselage to the tail. That’s absent on the A320’s smaller tail. See it? The A320 also has a larger, more distinctive tail cone than the 737.

When flying the 737 or A320, do you notice much difference? Do you have a preference? Please leave your comments below. 

(Here’s last week’s planespotting post about the Boeing 717 and MD80/90 series)

–Chris McGinnis

In Case You Missed It…

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United discounts awards + Delta eliminates chart + More Starbucks + United packs 777s + Southwest challenges Delta

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