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Why do low cost carriers choose the 737?

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Why do low cost carriers choose the 737?

Old 19th Jun 2019, 19:22
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Why do low cost carriers choose the 737?

I've always wondered why so many low cost carriers operate the 737 instead of the A320. Most online information seems to suggest that both the list prices and lease prices for the A320 are lower and maintenance cost is comparable. I've been told that loading the A320 requires more/other equipment because it's higher off the ground and it uses containers, but I believe Airbus offers a bulk loader A320 as well. Now I've never flown the A320 so I don't know much about it's reliability, efficiency or turnaround times (amongst others) but perhaps it has something to do with one of those factors?

At the same time I wonder why almost all EU flag carriers prefer the A320 instead!
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Old 20th Jun 2019, 15:18
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Well, i would say it depends really. Especially in europe at the moment the only low cost carrier that is all boeing is Ryanair. Easyjet, Wizzair, Eurowings, Vueling, Level are all pure airbus operators. Of course, with the newest order for 200 737 MAX from IAG that will change somewhat. But even in the US the picture is a bit more complex. Sure, Southwest is a boeing operator, but Frontier, Spirit, JetBlue are airbus operators.

All in all airbus and boeing are pretty much interchangeable for low cost ops. Yes, for the 737 you do not need in all cases a conveyor belt to load the luggage, in an airbus you pretty much do, except if you go for container loading (which low costs in my experience do not) which of course needs the required equipment for that. That said, 20 minute turnarounds are possible in both types, in my view the airbus actually has some advantages as it can fuel on one side and load on the other side without any interference (fuelling ports are available on both wings). Of course, in the case of left side fuelling passenger handling might be a problem. I haven't seen an A320 with a built-in airstair, although i head that it is a customer option. On the other hand, i have first hand experience with a built in airstair in the 737, and ryanair for example has all its 737 equipped with that, that airstair helps with handling, but of course has a 200 (or was it 250?) kgs weight penalty that is always carried around. In the end, the beancounters will decide what they do. And surprisingly even Ryanair now has an Airbus fleet with Laudamotion.
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Old 20th Jun 2019, 15:55
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Originally Posted by Mobilae View Post
I've always wondered why so many low cost carriers operate the 737 instead of the A320.
Define "so many".
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Old 20th Jun 2019, 17:52
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Originally Posted by flyboyike View Post
Define "so many".
You do have a point there. However some of the largest low cost carriers (Ryanair, Southwest, Lionair, Westjet) did apparently choose the 737 at some point.

But then maybe I should turn the question around: Why do practically all EU flag carriers operate the A320? I believe KLM is the only exception (aside from some operators using both).
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Old 21st Jun 2019, 03:27
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Then there is the case of the Oz LCC who uses 737 and A320!
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Old 21st Jun 2019, 07:16
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Originally Posted by Mobilae View Post
You do have a point there. However some of the largest low cost carriers (Ryanair, Southwest, Lionair, Westjet) did apparently choose the 737 at some point.
That is true, and then some others did not choose the 737 or even changed fleets. Easyjet started out as a 737 only operator, and later on switched to be a full A320 one. IAG with its portfolio of airlines now seems to go the opposite way. And Ryanair after all is operating both 737s and A320 family aircraft, although their A320 portfolio arrived only recently, they will probably never switch the main ryanair brand to A320s, but on the other hand they seem not keen to switch their Laudamotion A320s to 737s anytime soon.

Originally Posted by Mobilae View Post
But then maybe I should turn the question around: Why do practically all EU flag carriers operate the A320? I believe KLM is the only exception (aside from some operators using both).
It has advantages depending on overall fleet. First thing is container loading which works very well in a hub and spoke system, and then of course if your other fleets consist of mainly airbus types, training cost becomes a major factor as it is extremely fast to transition from one airbus type to another. Switching from A320s to A330s in my previous airlines was just three simulator sessions and a week of ground school plus some line training. Switching from the 737 to the A320 on the other hand took 11 simulator sessions and a month of ground school. The other way round even longer as basic trimming technique had to be trained again. Now, the training was in excess of the minimum required by the regulator, but still done to be able to train to proficiency.

And then there is of course history. Many major EU carriers were at some point partly or completely government owned, some still are (Air Baltic for example and Alitalia could be seen that way). And Airbus started out as a state business as well, so there was quite an impetus on ordering from them.
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Old 29th Jun 2019, 17:51
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I suspect that a lot depends upon the deals that airlines get. I'd give very good odds that IAE got a very competitive rate with their recent Max order (or letter of intent). The loco model, certainly as applied by Southwest & Ryanair works best with a single type - variants of the type are ok as long as you have a single type rating. Once an airline has committed to a type it makes sense to stick to it unless a manufacturer makes a killer offer - which I suspect Airbus did with easyJet.
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