Boeing 787 vs Airbus A350

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Boeing 787 vs Airbus A350, Boeing 777 vs Airbus A330, I hear a lot of questions in this vein.  Which is better?  Which flys further, higher, carries more passengers and which is the more advanced?

Airliners are like tools in a tool box which an airline can choose to use on routes appropriate to the traffic demand. Some routes are relatively short and don’t require airliners that have a long range, or ability to fly a long distance.  If the pair of cities being linked are large then there might be a demand for more frequent flights by smaller airliners rather than fewer flights by larger airliners.  This allows the airline to offer business travellers a wider choice of departure times which reduces time wastage waiting for inconvenient less frequent departure times.  At peak times a much larger airliner might be used to ensure maximum uplift of passengers at those times.

It is critical to an airline that they have the right tools for the tasks that they intend to undertake.

It is critical to an airline that they have the right tools for the tasks that they intend to undertake.  Like any business, airlines have to control expenses, so once again the right tool is essential.  This is why many airlines have a mixture of airliner types. These different airliners are used on routes that they are specifically designed for, and can perform the task with the minimum of overhead expense.

The Airbus A350 XWB takes off on its maiden flight on 14 June 2013 from Aéroport de Toulouse-Blagnac.

Let’s look at the two newest offerings from the top two airplane makers, Boeing and Airbus.  Both aircraft manufacturers have come out in the last few years with new models that are technological leaps forward.  The Airbus A350 XWB (eXtra Wide Body) and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  These two airliners represent the competition between Airbus and Boeing to have the best offering in the market.  But  mostly they represent the demands by their airliner customers for a more advanced and economical tool for their airliner tool box.  Economy is the driving factor.

Economy is the driving factor.

Particularly since the the 2008 doubling of the oil price, airlines have been looking for ways to reduce their fuel bill and therefore protect their margins.  On the other side of the equation, the proliferation of Low Cost Carriers has put downward pressure on airfares and airlines are having to ensure their aircraft are full in order to make sure they show a profit.

Asiana Airbus A330 rotating at Sydney_1_s
An Asiana Airbus A330-300 rotates for take-off at Sydney.

These two newest airliners employ new techniques such as the use of composite materials to reduce weight, single piece fuselage sections to  reduce the number of fasteners which once again reduces weight.  Weight reduction of course reduces the amount of fuel burn required to carry a payload from A to B.  Coupled with enhanced passenger comforts to make them more attractive to the travelling public, these airliners are setting the bar for the future of air travel.

Both the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 come in 3 variants.  This ensures that the models are a very versatile offering to the market and the same design can be used for many different scenarios.  This also highlights the fact that the giant twin engined jets are now the mainstay of passenger aviation.  We have seen the demise of the Airbus A340 which was a 4 engined version of the Airbus A330.  This was produced at a time when twin jets were still getting approvals for long over water flights, but with the present level of engine technology this is no longer an issue.  We may even see the end of the 747 and A380 if a recession hits as some would suggest.

remember that there are different variants of each airliner model

So, when we talk about Boeing 787 vs Airbus A350 or Boeing 777 vs Airbus A330, we have to remember that there are different variants of each of those models.  Let’s look at range to start with.  Obviously if an airline has long over water routes, then they will need airliners with a long range ability.  The economics have to add up as you may end up with a flying tanker with a few passengers on board.

Large Twin Airliner Ranges
In ascending order the maximum ranges of the largest of todays’ twin jet airliners.

Although we can see that Boeings’ 777 offers the shortest and the longest range, the airliner models are fairly evenly spread through the various niche markets as relates to range.  The Boeing 777X, which I have not yet included here, as design specs are only now just being finalised, will have a range of 17,220Km which is up there with the Boeing 777 200LR.

Virgin Australia Boeing 777 taxi for 34L at Sydney_692x170
A Virgin Australia Boeing 777-300ER taxis at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport. These aircraft are used on the Australia to US trans-Pacific route.

So we know how far theses airliners can fly relative to each other, but unless we know what they can carry over that distance, the information is a little pointless.  So below we have a table to show the relative passenger numbers as well as the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) for each.

Large Twin Jet airliner capacity and MTOW
A list of the large twin jet airliners with their maximum take off weights (MTOW) expressed in kilograms and their maximum passenger numbers when configured in a typical 3 class configuration.

We can see here also that there are niches for each of the airliner models,  for each Boeing there is an Airbus offering that does relatively the same job and vice versa.  If you look at an aircraft that carries a heavier load you can go to the range chart above and it will probably have a lesser range, unless of course it is a specially built extended range variant.  You can also notice that for example the Boeing 777 200 and Boeing 777 200ER (Extended Range) carry the same amount of passengers, however the 777 200ER has a higher maximum takeoff weight.  This of course is to lift the additional amount of fuel that gives it the extended range ability.

This mix of attributes ensures that all niches in the Very Large Airliner (VLA) market are addressed.  Large capacity – short distance, large capacity – long distance, small capacity – long distance, small capacity – short distance.

Model and Variant
Range Passenger Capacity (typical 3
Maximum take off weight (MTOW)
Fuselage Length (metres) Wing Span (metres)
Airbus A330 200 13,430 293 233.00 58.82 60.30
Airbus A330 300 10,830 335 230.00 63.69 60.30
Airbus A350 800 15,700 270 248.00 60.54 64.75
Airbus A350 900 15,000 314 268.00 66.89 64.75
Airbus A350 1000 15,600 350 308.00 73.88 74.75
Boeing 777 200 9,700 301 247.20 63.70 60.90
Boeing 777 200 ER 14,310 301 297.55 63.70 60.90
Boeing 777 200 LR 17,370 301 347.50 63.70 64.80
Boeing 777 300 11,120 365 299.37 73.90 60.90
Boeing 777 300 ER 14,690 365 351.50 73.90 64.80
Boeing 787 8 15,200 242 228.00 56.70 60.10
Boeing 787 9 15,700 280 251.00 62.80 60.10
Boeing 787 10 13,000 323 251.00 68.30 60.10

The table above shows the different relationships between capacity, length and wing span.  In the case of the Boeing 777, the LR and ER extended range variants use additional wing size to enable higher lift as well as accommodating more fuel storage space.

To find out more details about each airliner type, click on the airliner name in the table above.

Thank you for taking the time to read about these airliners.  We would love to hear any comments you might have and any ideas to make this site more useful to you. These can be left below.

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6 thoughts on “Boeing 787 vs Airbus A350

    • Glad you liked it Heather. It certainly is a very competitive environment now and we can hope to see lot;s of new advanced in technology as a result.
      Thanks for stopping by.

    • Hi Chris,

      Thank you for stopping by. Yes there are many more points we could compare, but in the interests of space we have to leave it there. To find more information on each aircraft, click on its name to go to its specific page.

      Cheers Peter

  1. Hey. What about the technical difficulties. I have talked to different engineers and they have of course different meaning about Boeing versus Airbus, but are there any specific details about this?

    • Hi Lars,

      Thanks for stopping by. You’re right there would have been huge engineering challenges on both aircraft types. Unfortunately these would too many to be able to cover on this site.

      Cheers Peter

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