Beyond the fact that they are both twin-engine Boeing aircraft, the 767 and 737 are two very different aircraft types.
The 767 first went into service in 1982, and the passenger variants of the 767 are no longer in production with the numbers in commercial airline fleets now dwindling rapidly. However, the 767 freighter and tanker are still available.
The 737 preceded the 767, first entering into commercial service in 1967. This means that the 737 has been around in various formats for over five decades. It has continued to evolve and improve over this time and is still in production with plenty of orders for the 737 MAX variants still to be delivered.
In this article, I’ll compare these two aircraft from a number of different perspectives, so, let’s see how these two aircraft compare in terms of size, seating capacity, range, orders, and more.
The first 767 orders were placed in 1978 and the first aircraft went into service in 1982. The passenger versions of the 767 are no longer in production, with the last 767 rolling out in 2014. After 2012, all 767 orders have been for freighters and tankers, with FedEx being the major freighter customer.
Boeing 767 was designed to replace the market at the time occupied by aircraft such as the aging 707, Douglas DC-8, Lockheed L1011 Tristar, and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. Over time, the 767 series grew to include five passenger models, the 767 freighter which is based on the 767-300ER fuselage, and the 767 military tanker which is based on the 767-200ER (designated as the 767-2C in Boeing’s order book data).
In 1985 the 767 was ETOPS certified allowing it to fly regular routes across the Atlantic Ocean.
The main 767 variants and their first in-commercial service dates are as follows:
|Aircraft Model||Type||First In Service|
The flying history of the 737 goes all the way back to the 1960s and can be described as a constant evolution. The 737 delivery run has, so far, lasted for 55 years and will continue well into this decade with significant orders still to be completed for the 737 MAX.
The 737 family has been developed over four separate series (or generations), the earlier two of which are no longer in production:
- Boeing 737 Original comprises two main variants – the 737-100 and the 737-200. More than 1,000 737 Originals were delivered by Boeing.
- Boeing 737 Classic comprises three more fuel-efficient variants with differing capacities and ranges: the 737-300, the 737-400, and the 737-500. Almost 2,000 737 Classics were delivered by Boeing.
- Boeing 737 Next Generation (Next Gen of NG) comprises four main variants – the 737-600, the 737-700 (and 737-700ER), the 737-800, and the 737-900 (and 737-900ER). More than 6,000 737NG aircraft were delivered by Boeing.
- Boeing 737 MAX is an evolution of earlier 737 generations, with more efficient engines, aerodynamic improvements such as distinctive split-tip winglets, as well as airframe modifications. The 737MAX series has four variants – MAX7, MAX8, MAX9, and MAX10.
The majority of Boeing’s 737 production is now focused on the 737MAX, with only a small number of 737-800s, and the specialist 737-800A, aircraft yet to be delivered from the NG series.
|Series||Models Included||First in Service||Last Delivery|
|Classic||737-300, 737-400, 737-500||1984||2000|
|Next Generation||737-600, 737-700, 737-800, 737-900||1997||In production (737-800/-800A only)|
|MAX||737-7, 737-8, 737-9, 737-10||2017||737-7, -8, and -9 in production|
Let’s take a look at some key physical characteristics and see how the passenger versions of these two aircraft measure up against each other. The 767 variants fall into FAA Airplane Design (ADG) Group IV with wingspans between 36m and 52m.
|Aircraft Model||Length/ m||Wingspan/ m||Fuselage Width/ m||MTOW/ tonnes|
All 737 variants fall within FAA ADG III, although the numerous 737 variants demonstrate quite a lot of variety in terms of size and physical characteristics. The shortest 737 was the original 737-100 at 29m, and the longest will be the 737MAX10 at almost 44m. The 737 wingspan has varied from around 28m to 36m.
Let’s look in more detail at the 737 MAX variants:
|Aircraft Model||Length/m||Wingspan/m||Fuselage Width/m||MTOW/ tonnes|
The ranges of the 767 variants are shown in the table below:
Whilst the 767 was originally targeted at hub and point-to-point carriers operating short- to mid-range transcontinental routes, its later 180-minute ETOPS certifications allowed it to operate intercontinental routes, including transatlantic routes, boosting sales.
All of the 737 variants are primarily designed for short- to medium-haul routes. However, some 737 aircraft, especially later variants, are also 180-minutes ETOPS certified.
The 737 variant ranges vary significantly, and so not to complicate matters too much, let’s take a look at the variants within the 737NG and 737 MAX series with the longest and shortest ranges as shown in the tables below, starting with the longest ranges:
The relatively rare 737-600 has the longest range of the 737NG models.
Below are the 737 variants with the shortest ranges:
The 767’s official seat numbers from Boeing vary by variant and number of cabin classes. The 767-200 variants range from 174 (3-class) to 245 seats (1-class), the 767-300 variants range from 210 to 290 seats, and the 767-400 variants range from 243 to 409 seats. In practice, actual seat numbers vary significantly by airline and depend on their seating standards, number of classes, and whether premium classes are fitted-out with lie-flat seats.
The twin-aisle 767 typically has seven seats abreast in economy class (2-3-2), six or seven seats abreast in premium economy class (2-2-2, 2-3-2), and four to six seats abreast in business class (1–2–1, 2-1-2, 2-2-2).
Boeing’s suggested seating numbers for the 737MAX are as follows:
|Seats (2-class)||138 – 153||162 – 178||178 – 193||188 – 204|
Looking at a variety of airlines operating 737-8 and 737-9 aircraft (AeroMexico, Air Canada, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, China Southern, Copa Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, FlyDubai, Fiji Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Icelandair, Korean Air, LOT, Norwegian, Oman Air, Ryanair, Singapore Airlines, Spicejet, Southwest, Turkish Airlines, and United Airlines), actual fitted-out seat numbers typically vary as follows:
|737-8||175 – 197||146 – 178||166 – 178|
|737-9||–||172 – 179||166 – 181|
Customers and Orders
767 deliveries to the end of June 2023 totaled 1,280 aircraft and, of these, the split between the various 767 variants is as follows:
- 767-2C: 73
- 767-200: 128
- 767-200ER: 121
- 767-300: 104
- 767-300ER: 583
- 767-300F: 233
- 767-400ER: 38
To date, the 767-300ER accounts for 46% of all 767 deliveries. At the end of June 2023, Boeing had 112 unfulfilled orders for the 767, 47 of which were for the 767-300F and 65 for the 767-2C. In total, the 767 deliveries and unfulfilled orders at the end of June 2023 were 1,392 aircraft (1,280 deliveries and 112 unfulfilled orders).
The last order for a 767 passenger jet variant was placed in 2012, and in 2014 Boeing dropped the 767-400ER and the 767-200ER from its pricing list. Since 2012 the only 767 orders received by Boeing have been for the 767-2C and the 767-300F, and orders keep coming in for these variants, albeit in relatively modest numbers.
The 767’s biggest passenger airline customer is United Airlines. However, the 767 has also been very popular with cargo airlines, and FedEx is actually the 767’s largest customer overall. UPS is also a very significant 767 customer. Current passenger version operators of the 767 include Air Astana, ANA, Austrian Airlines, Delta Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Icelandair, JAL, LATAM Airlines, and United Airlines.
I looked at Boeing’s official data to the end of June 2023 to investigate how many 737s have been ordered and delivered for each variant. In total, an amazing 11,328 737s have been already delivered and there are 4,379 unfulfilled orders.
The Next Generation is the most successful of the four 737 generations to date. In terms of individual variants, the 737-800 is the most successful.
Boeing has delivered around 23% of its 737 MAX orders, and the company is working hard to increase production of the 737 MAX, from its current 31 planes a month to about 50 per month by 2025, despite fuselage production problems at Spirit AeroSystems, one of Boeing’s major suppliers.
The 737MAX is proving very successful with low-cost airlines such as Southwest Airlines, Lion Air, and Ryanair. In fact, Southwest Airlines is the largest customer for the 737 MAX. United Airlines is the largest full-service carrier customer for the 737 MAX. Both of these airlines have each ordered more than 500 of the type.
767 vs. 737 Summary
So, are the 767 and 737 similar? Not really. The narrowbody 737 came before the widebody 767 but has outlived the 767 which is no longer in mainstream production (apart from its freighter and tanker versions).
The 737 has been a constantly evolving aircraft that has now been in production for more than five decades. The constant improvements to the 737 have given this aircraft a new lease of life with its NG and MAX series, and the 737, in the form of the 737 MAX, has a huge order backlog of more than 4,000 aircraft.
Not surprisingly, the 767 variants are longer, heavier, and have greater wingspans than all 737 variants.
But there are a few similarities. Both are Boeing aircraft and both are twinjets that have benefited commercially from ETOPS certification allowing airlines to deploy these aircraft on intercontinental routes.
With its huge order backlog still to be tackled, it does look like the 737MAX variants will be gracing our skies for decades to come. In contrast, the number of 767s in airline fleets is declining rapidly.