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26 Percent Of All Commercial Airliners are Boeing 737s

New planes like A380s, 787s, or if you’re really lucky, an A350, are great to fly on.

If you fly regularly, switching between old and new planes can make the differences in comfort seem even more acute. It’s not surprising frequent travellers often book flights based on planes serving the route.

But what planes dominate the sky? And how old are they?

Methodology

I began by analysing airlines from Skytrax top 100 airlines 2015.

Using these 100 airlines, I then scraped data from Airfleets that documents every plane flown by each airline (April 2016).

Results

Aircraft flown by airlines

count of aircraft by airline top 10

Download chart.

New planes are expensive. A new 787-8 costs between $157-167MM USD. Owning or leasing a plane is a significant cost on any balance sheet.

Unsurprisingly, older airlines typically have larger fleets.

Did you know? The airlines with the most planes in their fleet are all American: 3. United Airlines (717), 2. Delta Airline (833), 1. American Airline (943).

Most common manufacturers

count of aircraft by manufacturer

Download chart.

Of the planes operated by the Skytrax top 100 airlines (12841), 5872 (45.73%) are built by Airbus and 5880 (45.78%) by Boeing – a difference of just 8 planes!

The other manufacturers have about an 8% share of the market (1089) — Embraer is the third largest manufacture of planes in operation (418 / 3.26%).

Aircraft in operation

age since aircraft introduced vs count in operation top 10

Download chart.

Rank by count Model Mfg Count of model Age since introduction (years) Percentage of total
1 737 Boeing 3337 34.45 25.99%
2 320 Airbus 2498 20.02 19.45%
3 777 Boeing 1131 15.62 8.81%
4 330 Airbus 1000 15.91 7.79%
5 321 Airbus 936 20.02 7.29%
6 319 Airbus 933 20.02 7.27%
7 170 – 195 Embraer 412 8.65 3.21%
8 767 Boeing 369 24.71 2.87%
9 757 Boeing 330 23.80 2.57%
10 747 Boeing 309 33.05 2.41%

Full ranking.

The most common models in operation are the Airbus 320 (19.5% / 2498 planes flying) and Boeing 737 (26% / 3337). They were first introduced 20 and 34 years ago respectively.

The Boeing 747 has long been the workhorse of the commercial airline industry (1543 orders, 1520 delivered). It is still commonly used by airlines (309 in operation / 2.41% market share) and some of these planes are over 20 years old (the 747-100 was first introduced in 1970, although none of these are still in service). Boeing has introduced newer iterations of the aircraft over the years, the most recent of which was the 747-8 in 2011 (although the model has received few orders).

Compare that to Boeing’s newer 787 that has started to see an uptake in orders. The planes first commercial flight was in 2011 operated by ANA. That makes it just over 3 years old. That said, although the plane might have better entertainment systems and a smoother ride (boasting “Smoother Ride Technology”), comfort in economy class on the 787 has received a significant amount of bad press.

Did you know? The most common models of planes in operation are: 3. Airbus A330 (7.79% market share / 1000 planes flying), 2. Airbus 320 (19.5% / 2498), 1. Boeing 737 (26% / 3337).

Airline fleets

The youngest plane in operation, the A350, is the only aircraft less then 1 year old. There are just 18 of these planes currently flying commercially. Finnair has 4, Qatar Airways 8, TAM Airline 2, and Vietnam Airlines 4. Only the BEA Avro RJ100 (12), Airbus A310 (9), and Embraer 135 – 145 (6) are less common — and these are all planes approaching retirement.

Did you know? All of Southwest Airlines fleet is made up of Boeing 737s — that’s 710 planes. Only American Airlines (830 total / 269 are 737s) and United Airlines (717 / 311) have bigger fleets.

Full matrix.

Improvements

Instead of just comparing aircraft models, it would be useful to consider model variations (i.e Boeing 747-400 vs. 747-8). This way the age of fleet could be better considered.

tl;dr

The most common aircraft model in operation is the Boeing 737 (26% market share / 3337 planes) and was first introduced in 1968.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

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