Note: This article is a part of AIKA Birdspot Series, whose aim is to help you identify any commercial aircraft in under 5 seconds. To access the series, click here.

The Boeing 737 family and the Airbus A320 family are two of the best selling airplane types this world has ever seen. According to this article, out of the estimated 23,600 aircraft in service (in 2016, at the time the article was written), around 13,000 belong to these two families. Thus, if you are sitting on any airport in the world, you are extremely likely to catch a glimpse of these aircraft. And thus comes the need to identify these and tell them apart!

A detailed guide to Identifying B737 v A320

You can use any of these criteria to differentiate a Boeing 737 from a Airbus A320:

1. Look at the cockpit windows

WANBV – Cockpit Windows of Airbus are Notched and Boeing are V-shaped

2. Look at the nose

NARBP – Nose of Airbus are Round and Boeing are Pointed

3. Look at the Vertical Stabiliser

SASBG – Vertical Stabiliser of Airbus is Steep and Boeing is Gradual

4. Look at the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU)

AASBR – APU of Airbus is Sawed-off and Boeing is round

5. Look at the Engines

EARBF – Engines of Airbus are Round and Boeing are Flattened

To sum it up:

A320 features
Airbus A320
Credits: Per aspera ad Astra
Boeing 737 features
Boeing 737
Credits: Brorsson

A closer look at the engines for better understanding:

A320 engine
Airbus A320 Engine – Almost circular
Credits: Darren Koch
Boeing 737 Engine
Boeing 737 EngineFlattened at the bottom
Credits: 737engine.jpg

Once you have identified whether it is a Boeing or an Airbus comes the more difficult part – identifying the variant.

Identifying the variants

Please note that since the families are large, we will attempt to list only the important variants.

Boeing 737 Family

737-200

One feature: Torpedo-like engines: Small but long

Boeing 737-200
Boeing 737-200
Credits: Remi Dallot

737-300

Two features: 

  1. Single overwing exit (-100 and -200 too have a single overwing exit. However, -300 is the only ‘modern’ looking 737 having a single exit)
  2. No winglets (you may see after-market winglets in -300s, but rarely)
Boeing 737-300
Boeing 737-300
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

737-400

Two features:

  1. Two overwing exits
  2. No winglets (again, you may see after-market winglets)
Boeing 737-400
Boeing 737-400
Credits: Arpingstone

737-700

Two features:

  1. One overwing exit
  2. Upward flexing winglets (on most planes)
Boeing 737-700
Boeing 737-700
Credits: 221.20 (talk)

737-800

Two features:

  1. Two overwing exits
  2. Winglets (blended winglets/split scimitar winglets)
Boeing 737-800
Boeing 737-800 with Blended Winglets
Credits: Alex Chau

737-900

Similar to -800 but has an additional exit door behind the wings. Therefore, the windows at the rear of the wings do not look evenly spaced

Boeing 737-900
Boeing 737-900
Credits: Johnnyw3

737 Max

Two features:

  1. Shark-fin style engine casing
  2. Double winglets
Boeing 737 Max
Boeing 737 Max
Credits: Steve Lynes

Note: Check out this amazing video for more

A320 Family

A318

One featureOne overwing exit

Airbus A318
Airbus A318
Credits: Juergen Lehle

A319

Similar to A318 but longer

Airbus A319
Airbus A319
Credits: Heurik Manuel Pajer

A320

One feature: Two overwing exits

Airbus A320
Airbus A320
Credits: Juergen Lehle

A321

Two features

  1. No overwing exit; four evenly spaced exit doors
  2. Triangular wingtip
Airbus A321
Airbus A321
Credits: Juergen Lehle

A320 Neo

Similar to A320 but having a sharklet style winglet. Note that A320 has triangular wingtip.

Airbus A320 Neo
Airbus A320 Neo
Credits: Rafael Luiz Canossa

Hope we were able to help you go further in your planespotting journey.


If you like the article, share it with your fellow aviation enthusiasts!

Cover Image credits: Kiefer

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s