How to Tell Airbus and Boeing Airliners Apart


Is It an Airbus or Boeing?

Many of the popular airliners in service worldwide are built by Airbus and Boeing, but telling these manufacturers and models apart can be difficult.

Included on this page is a quick-and-easy, side-by-side identification of the differences between the common Boeing and Airbus jet airliners of the day.

For complete spotting tips on these two leading airplane manufacturers, visit our Boeing Commercial Jet Airliner Spotting Guide and Airbus Commercial Jet Airliner Spotting Guide.

How to tell the difference between Airbus and Boeing Airliners

For starters, Airbus airliners are designated as A3xx models, e.g., A320, A330 and A350. Boeing airliners are numbered in the 7x7 format, like 737, 747 or 787.

Here are some tips on how to distinguish frequently seen airliners from Airbus and Boeing ...

Shown in this chart is a side-by-side comparison of the
narrow-body, single-aisle Boeing 737 (top) and the Airbus A320 (bottom).

See more Boeing 737 photographs and spotting tips

See Airbus 320 photographs and spotting tips

Side-by-side comparison of the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737

Side-by-side comparison of the
narrow-body Airbus A321 (top) and the Boeing 757 (bottom).

Note that the A321 has two 2-wheel main gear assemblies, while the 757 has two 4-wheel landing gear.

See more Boeing 757 photographs and spotting tips

See more Airbus 321 photographs and spotting tips

Side-by-side comparison of the Airbus A321 and the Boeing 757


Two popular wide-body jetliners are similar in overall appearance. The Boeing 767 (top) and Airbus A330 (bottom) are twin-engine, wide-body airliners. The main landing gear on the Boeing 767 lean to the front, while those on the A330 lean to the rear.

See more Boeing 767 photographs and spotting tips

See Airbus 330 photographs and spotting tips

Boeing 767 and Airbus A330 side-by-side comparison

How to tell the difference between a Boeing 777 and Airbus A350.

Shown below is a side-by-side view of the characteristics of the wide-body Airbus A350-1000 (top) and Boeing 777-300 (bottom)

See more Boeing 777 photographs and spotting tips

Read more about the Airbus A350

Boeing 777-300 and Airbus A350-1000 Side-by-Side Comparison


New competitors in the wide-body marketplace are the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350. Their overall appearance is similar. Shown below is a side-by-side comparison highlighting the differences between the Boeing 787 (top) and Airbus A350 (below)
Side-by-side comparison of the Boeing 787 (top) and Airbus A350 (below)

Boeing and Airbus both feature wide-body jumbo airliners in their product line. Here is a side-by-side view showing how to distinguish the Boeing 747 (top) and Airbus A380 (below).

See more Boeing 747 photographs and spotting tips

More Airbus A380 photographs and spotting tips

Side-by-side comparison of the Boeing 747 (top) and Airbus A380 (below)

 

A Few Notable Differences Between Airbus and Boeing Jet Airliners

The typical narrow-body Airbus airliner features a "rounded nose" with windshield straight across the bottom, and the rear windshield window "notched"
The typical Airbus airliner features a "rounded nose" with windshield straight across the bottom, and the rear windshield window "notched"

The classic Boeing airliner has a "pointed nose" with a "V-shaped' windshield
The classic Boeing pointed nose configuration

But there are always exceptions! Like in the new Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.  Shown below is the fuselage nose and windshield configuration of the Airbus A350 (top) and Boeing 787 (bottom).

The cockpit windshield configuration of the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787

Comparison of typical Boeing wide-body tail structure (top) compared with a typical Airbus structure (bottom) which has more of a straight fuselage alignment across the bottom of the tail
Comparison of typical Boeing wide-body tail structure (top) compared with a typical Airbus structure (bottom) which has more of a straight alignment across the bottom of the tail

Boeing and Airbus Airliner Operations at Night

Boeing and Airbus Airliner Operations at Night

While spotting airliners during the day can sometimes be difficult, nighttime air operations make the process even harder.

One way to tell Boeing and Airbus airliners apart at night is by examining the pattern of the white light at the tip of the wing, known as the strobe.

Boeing strobe lights flash only once, while Airbus airliners flash twice in rapid succession.

 

Spotting Guides for Boeing and Airbus Airliners

Airbus Commercial Aircraft Boeing Commercial Aircraft
Wide-Body Narrow-Body Wide-Body Narrow-Body
Airbus A300 Airbus A318 Boeing 747 Boeing 707
Airbus A310 Airbus A319 Boeing 767 Boeing 717
Airbus A330 Airbus A320 Boeing 777 Boeing 727
Airbus A340 Airbus A321 Boeing 787 Boeing 737
Airbus A350     Boeing 757
Airbus A380      

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