Skip to content

Why I prefer flying an Airbus A320 to a Boeing 737

Feb. 29, 2020
6 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Many passengers don't bother looking at the type of plane operating their flight. Lots of people just search by price or schedule, but what happens when two airlines are offering similarly timed flights at the same price? For some fliers, the choice may come down to their preferred airline or airport. But I'd argue that it's important to look at the plane manufacturer as well.

All of the Big Three U.S. airlines operate both the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families of jets. On many routes, you'll even have the choice between an Airbus or Boeing, on the same airline. They're the number one and two best-selling jet liners of all time, and every one of the 17 biggest airlines in North America flies one or both. They come in various models seating from around 100 to more than 200 passengers, covering routes from short hops to transcon hauls.

You're bound to find yourself on one of them. The A320 family includes the smaller A318 and A319 and larger A321; the 737s flying today come in models numbered from 737-200 to -900, plus the currently grounded MAX series.

And all else equal, in the same class of service, I'd choose the Airbus jet over the Boeing. Here's why.

Wider cabins

Before I get into the analysis, I'll concede that there are definitely reasons to choose the 737 over the A320 family. For instance, if you're flying an Airbus A320 or A321 with American Airlines, there's a chance that your flight is operated by the no-frills legacy-US Airways version.

If that's the case, you won't have power outlets on your flight, which could pose a problem if you're flying on a transcontinental route. In that case, I'd prefer a Boeing 737... and just cross my fingers that the flight was operated by one with the new AA domestic first class.

However, this won't be the case for much longer. AA is actively updating the cabins on these legacy US Airways jets. The A320s are all getting power outlets, and the A321s are undergoing the dreaded Project Oasis retrofits, which will make legroom tighter but include the installation of power outlets.

Airbus A321neo cabin on JetBlue (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

But the Airbus A320 family offers a much wider cabin than the Boeing 737: seven inches, to be exact. And that's a big deal because it means there's typically more room for passengers, even though both planes are single-aisle.

From a survey of the average seat width of American, Delta and United planes, the A320 family offers, on average, half an inch more width per seat. Across a row of six seats, that means roughly three extra inches are allocated to the seat itself. The other four inches are split between the aisle and armrests.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Less curvature

As an AvGeek, I love planespotting. Whether that's finding the best view from the gate area or heading to the TWA Hotel before my flight from JFK, I'm always in search of the best airplane photos. You can follow my Instagram for the best ones, like the shot below. (Brownie points if you understand the caption!)

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6JNta8lDqt/

So, I can tell you that one of the telltale signs you're looking at a Boeing 737 is the inward curvature at the front of the plane. Due to this curvature, the cabin walls at the front of the plane also tilt inwards, making for a relatively uncomfortable ride on longer flights. Shoulder room is reduced and there's less space to rest your head when you're dozing off.

Curved walls in row 1 of a Boeing 737 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Better-placed windows

Though the windows on the Boeing 737 are ever so slightly larger than those on the Airbus A320, I much prefer the window placement on the European-made jet.

Airbus A321neo window (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

On the 737, the windows are much lower the ground, which means that I'm often bending over or slouching to see out the window.

Boeing 737 windows (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you're like me (or Brian Kelly-sized), you'll definitely prefer the A320 family of jets, since the windows are much closer to your eye level.

Pilots and Barking dogs

Do pilots themselves prefer one or the other? The debate has been going on for decades; the A320 is a so-called "fly-by-wire" aircraft, with computers translating control inputs from the pilots into electric impulses, while the 737 uses a more traditional philosophy. Some like one approach, some the other. A pilot we interviewed who flew both said his ideal plane would combine the two.

Passengers typically don't get to see those technical aspects — but they can hear them. Aboard an Airbus A320-family jet on the ground, you'll hear what some people think sounds like a drill, while others liken it to a barking dog.

That sound is caused by something called Power Transfer Unit (PTU), which equalizes hydraulic pressure among three independent hydraulic systems. The PTU is located near the main landing gear, and that’s why passengers will hear those noises coming from, seemingly, midway down the aisle, under the floor.

Bottom line

There's lots to consider when booking a flight. Most people will just choose based on price or schedule. But if you're faced with the choice between an Airbus A320 family jet and a Boeing 737, you might want to go with the former. Thanks to the wider cabin, reduced cabin-wall curvature and better-placed windows, the Airbus offers a more comfortable ride than the 737, all else being equal.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8L-PoTFAII/

Featured image by AFP/Getty Images

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 5X points
5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.

Intro offer

Earn 150,000 points120,000 points
The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$695

Recommended Credit

670-850
Good, Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Apply for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Exclusive Offer
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.