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Comparisons: A321LR vs 737 MAX-10, by Travel Radar Correspondent David Hopwood

Imagine you are an operator in central Asia, and you’ve found plenty of demand for an aircraft that will carry about 200 people in business and economy over a distance of 5000 kilometres.

Air Astana A321LR ©Airbus

What modern aircraft are you going to consider?

Let’s assume the Boeing 737 MAX-10 is operational. A reasonable choice is between the MAX-10 and the Airbus A321LR. Will they do the job, and which is more attractive?

Firstly, the capacity; the MAX-10 will carry 204 passengers; 16 in business and 188 in economy. The A321 almost the same; 206 with 16 and 190. Nothing to choose between.

Secondly, range. Both aircraft will accomplish the routes, the MAX-10 will fly up to 6100 km but the 321 has some distance in reserve; 7400 km.

The MAX is lighter at 90 tons MTOW, the 321 at 97 tons.

737 MAX ©runwaygirl

Perhaps there’s a tight fit at your hub; the wingspan of the MAX is 36 metres, so is the Airbus.

So far, so good. What about costs? The list price for one MAX is $135 million and for the 321 it’s $130 million. Not much difference there either, but the list price need not mean much; if you’re going to buy 30 MAX-10s you’ll get a much better price than five Airbus’s.

Cost price is one thing; you could buy a cheap A340 (South African might still have a few for sale if you’re interested) for some spare change, but you’ll go bankrupt keeping them flying. Operating cost is another. Boeing claims that both trip costs and operating cost per seat is 5% lower than the A321.

Common sense tells us that we should be making a list of the advantages and disadvantages of our options in any decision-making process. So—both aircraft will fly the routes, but the Airbus has some range in hand. If you want to go a lot further, you might want to consider the A321XLR. The Airbus has a cheaper list price, but if you’re a great negotiator perhaps Boeing will give you a good deal. They also claim better operating cost.

You’d need to consider other factors to make the decision more obvious. You can order a 321 today and get it in perhaps 2 years’ time. When would you get your Boeing? When do you need it? What else is in your fleet? If you already have Airbus’s, then it make sense to standardise.

Then of course there’s the reputation to consider. Given Boeing’s recent problems, buying the MAX might be hard to sell to your investors; but Ryanair has.

And of course, decisions aren’t always completely rational….

Now, about that Ferrari; yellow or red?

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