Is your plane a Boeing or an Airbus? How can you tell?

An introduction to the world of aerospace giants

When you travel by plane, you board an aircraft that is the result of decades of technological development and ingenious design. The two main manufacturers in the aviation industry, Airbus and Boeingshare a virtual global duopoly. Knowing whether your flight is operated by an aircraft from one or other of these companies can be more than just a curiosity; it can affect your flying experience in terms of comfort, service and even safety.

Distinctive features between Boeing and Airbus

Fuselage and exterior design

Although very similar at first glance, Boeing and Airbus aircraft have some notable aesthetic differences. For example, most Airbus aircraft have a more rounded nose than Boeing's, which is often more pointed. In addition, a key difference is in the windows: the window sills on Boeing aircraft are generally more pronounced.

Cockpit and controls

One fairly certain way of determining whether you're in an Airbus or a Boeing is to take a look at the cockpit, if possible. Airbus cockpits have what is known as a side-mounted 'joystick' instead of the traditional 'yokes' found on Boeing. However, this observation may not be available to all passengers.

Entertainment systems and internal configurations

Certain interior features can also help to distinguish an Airbus from a Boeing. For example, the seating configuration and in-flight entertainment systems often vary. Airbus tends to offer slightly more passenger space in its A320 models than Boeing's B737s.

Meanings of model numbers

Understanding nomenclature

Both manufacturers use series of numbers to identify their models. Airbus uses series beginning with 'A', such as A320 or A350, while Boeing uses a system based around the number '7', such as B737 or B777. This information is often visible on the boarding pass or even inscribed on the aircraft.

Access to pre-flight information

For aviation enthusiasts or curious travellers, there are a number of tools available to find out in advance what type of aircraft will be used for their flight. Visit airline websites generally indicate the aircraft model on the booking page. Another useful tool is flight tracking applications such as Flightradar24 or FlightAware, which offer detailed information not only on the type of aircraft, but also on its flight history and usual routes.

  • Consult directly on your electronic or paper ticket.
  • Visit the airline's website.
  • Use a flight-tracking application.

User experience: why is it important?

Knowing the type of aircraft can influence your expectations of comfort, including legroom, in-flight entertainment options and even noise levels during the flight. New models from both manufacturers tend to offer significant improvements in fuel efficiency and comfort, so knowing whether you'll be flying on a newer model can improve the overall travel experience.

Impact on passenger confidence

Following certain air incidents, the reputation of a specific model can affect the perception of safety felt by travellers. For example, the controversies surrounding the Boeing 737 Max have prompted some people to check the model of their aircraft before the flight.

Whether you're an aviation enthusiast wanting to know the model of your next flight, or simply a traveller concerned about comfort and safety, identifying whether your aircraft is a Boeing or an Airbus can prove invaluable. There are a number of resources available to help you obtain this information well before you get on board.

Marc Dupont

Marc is the ultimate adventurer. A former survival instructor, he has a penchant for wild destinations and extreme challenges. From skydiving in New Zealand to solo trekking in Patagonia, Marc shares his tips for having unforgettable adventures while staying safe.

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