Airbus A320 dethrones Boeing 737 as world’s best-selling jet

In the decades-long race between European plane maker Airbus and US aircraft manufacturer Boeing, the Seattle-based company seems to be slipping from the top spot as its star aircraft, the single-aisle 737, isn’t the most popular jet anymore. It has been the best-selling commercial aircraft of all time during five decades of its history, but the domination seems to be fading away.

Airbus has just got ahead of its American rival, with its A320-family jet seizing the title of the world’s best-selling narrow-body airliner from Boeing’s scandal-plagued 737 and 737 MAX models.

As figures from both aviation giants reveal, the A320 – and its variants – had attracted a total of 15,193 orders, overtaking the similar-class 737, which has 15,136 on the books as of October.

Boeing, however, is still ahead of Airbus in terms of actual deliveries, but the gap is closing rapidly. In October alone, the Toulouse-based company shipped 77 aircraft to its customers, 59 of which were A320s, while their American rivals had only delivered 20 jets.

If Airbus manages to keep their lead, it will fulfill the mission behind starting up the A320 project some 30 years ago. The plane was actually designed to challenge the 737’s hegemony in the narrow-body jets market, becoming the aircraft of choice for many airlines in Europe and beyond.

Airbus itself claims that one A320-family jet takes off or lands somewhere in the world every 1.6 seconds. Boeing doesn’t have such statistics, but the ratio should be quite similar.

Both A320 and 737 feature the six-abreast seating, but from a passenger’s point of view, the American jet is slightly more spacious as its cabin is 15cm wider. Airbus catches up by increasing the jet’s fuel-efficiency, reducing the noise footprint or cutting operational costs.

Several years ago, it also needled the all-time competitor by launching a Neo (new engine option) version of the A320. The new iteration of Airbus’ workhorse is set to beat Boeing’s 737 MAX model.

Crashes involving this type of plane killed 346 people, and were blamed on the innovative, but little-known flight control system.

The newest jet has been grounded elsewhere in the world, leading to accusations that Boeing rushed through upgrading and certifying the 737 MAX to catch up with Airbus. Trying to fend off the controversy, the US plane maker said this week that the US Federal Aviation Administration is on track to certify its redesigned flight-control software by mid-December, which means that the jet could return to the sky next year.

However, confidence in the MAX-series airplanes could be gone for quite some time, as even American flight attendants are reportedly “begging to not make them go back up in that airplane.”