February 24, 2020

How much do airliners cost?

There are a number of commercial aircraft manufacturers around the world, however the industry is dominated by two super manufacturers namely Boeing and Airbus.

If you have ever gone on holiday and flown or fly for business, then with a high degree of certainty, it was probably on a plane manufactured by these two companies.

Photo: Boeing 777x

Boeing v Airbus

Boeing is the elder statesman of the two and was founded in 1916. The Boeing company is America’s largest industrial exporter and has manufactured some of the most iconic commercial aircraft ever to fly including the 707, 727, 737 and the Queen of the skies the 747. The company is based in Seattle, Washington.

Airbus was formed in 1967 by the French, German and British governments to counter the might of America’s aviation giants which at the time included Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Lockheed who were growing in strength and influence around the world. Their rise has been meteoric, and Airbus are probably best known for being the manufacturer of the giant, double decker plane - the A380. Airbus is based in Toulouse, France.

How do airlines decide which aircraft to buy?

Each airline will have its own set of requirements based on the routes they fly and the demand for those flights by fare paying passengers.  This evaluation will be based on their existing routes but also take in to consideration future expansion plans and any new routes they may be planning to open. They will also have to predict what will happen in the future with regards to fuel costs, demand and likely passenger trends. We could summarise it by saying it will for most come down to 2 questions.

  1. How many people do they need to carry?
  2. How far do they need to carry them?

Whatever manufacturers plane fits the needs of points 1 and 2 and has the lowest purchase plus operating costs will usually get the nod. This is assuming the chosen manufacturer can build and deliver the aircraft in the required time frame. If not, then they may select their second preference and negotiate better terms.

Photo: Airbus A350 XWB

Mixed Fleets

Most airlines have mixed manufacturer fleets enabling them to fly the most suitable aircraft on their routes whether that is a Boeing or Airbus aircraft.  Some airlines do operate single manufacturer fleets because all their routes fall in a very similar category and operating costs can therefore be optimised.

Ryanair for example have over 400 737-800 aircraft either in operation or awaiting delivery and also have an option for a further 100 Boeing 737 MAX 200. This means that by 2024 they anticipate having over 520 Boeing 737 aircraft in operation. Easyjet on the other hand has an all Airbus fleet with over 200 aircraft in operation which are a mix of A319 and A320 versions and will soon be joined by the latest A321neo models which are currently on order.

So, if you fancy starting your own airline or just want to take a peek at just how much Boeing and Airbus charge, the following list is based on current standard price lists.




Cost $M Model Cost $M
737-700 85.8 A220 – 100 81
737 MAX 7 96 A220 – 300 91.5
737-800 102.2 A318 77.4
737-900ER 108.4 A319 92.3
737 MAX 8 117.1 A320 101
737 MAX 200 120.2 A321 118.3
737 MAX 9 124.1 A319neo 101.5
737 MAX 10 129.9 A320neo 110.6
767-300ER 209.8 A321neo 129.5
787-8 239 A330-200 238.5
787-9 281.6 A330-800neo 259.9
777-200ER 295.2 A330-300 264.2
787-10 325.8 A330-900neo 296.4
777-200LR 334 A350-800 280.6
777-300ER 361.5 A350-900 296.4
777-8 394.9 A350-1000 366.5
747-8 402.9 A380 445.5
777-9 425.8

Table shows average prices for Boeing and Airbus aircraft in 2018, by type (in million U.S. dollars)


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