The 767 and 787 are both twin-engine, twin-aisle widebodies. That perhaps is where the similarities end. Whilst the 767 introduced some innovations such as a two-crew cockpit, improvements in avionics, and fuel efficiency developments, it has been eclipsed by the 787. The 787 benefits from decades of technological and operational efficiency improvements compared to the older 767.
The 767 first went into service in 1982, and the 787 followed almost three decades later in 2011. The passenger variants of the B767 are no longer in production and the numbers in commercial airline fleets are dwindling. However, the 767 freighter and tanker are still available. The 787 is in full production with a large backlog of unfulfilled orders.
In this article, I’ll compare these two Boeing widebodies from a number of different perspectives. And, given the age difference between these two aircraft, I’ll also highlight how technological advancements have allowed the 787 to become a superior aircraft to the 767.
Boeing 767 was the first Boeing wide-body aircraft to be designed for two flight crew members.
The first 767 orders were placed in 1978 and the commercial jet versions of the 767 are no longer in production, with the last 767 rolling out in 2014. After 2012, all B767 orders have been for the freighter and tanker versions of this aircraft, with FedEx being the major customer.
The 767 was designed to replace the market occupied by aircraft such as the aging Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8 and DC-10, and Lockheed L-1011 Tristar.
The 767 family includes five passenger models, the 767 freighter which is based on the 767-300ER, and the 767 military tanker which based on the 767-200ER (the KC-46A 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.
|Variant||Type||First In Service|
The 787 family is available in three variants:
|Aircraft Model||Type||First In Service|
The 787 development was driven by a need to produce more fuel-efficient aircraft.
Boeing targeted 20% less consumption than the aircraft that the 787 was to replace (such as the 767), a carrying capacity of 200 to 300 passengers, and deployment mainly on point-to-point routes of up to 8,500nm (15,700km). The 787 was the first airliner developed with an airframe made mostly from composite materials.
The first 787 was delivered to ANA in 2011. The stretched 787-9 entered service in 2014, also with ANA. The further stretched 787-10 entered service with Singapore Airlines in 2018.
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:
|Aircraft Model||Length/ m||Wingspan/ m||Fuselage Width/ m||MTOW/ tonnes|
In broad terms, the 787 is a longer aircraft than the 767 with lengths ranging from around 57m to 68m, compared to 48m to 61m for the 767. The 787 also has a longer wingspan, wider fuselage, and higher MTOWs.
All 787 variants have relatively long ranges which vary from around 11,700km to 14,000km.
The 787 has proven to be a highly adaptable all-purpose aircraft, and it operates some of the longest direct air routes in the world such as Tokyo-Boston, Los Angeles-Melbourne, and the incredible London-Perth route. But, the 787 is also deployed by some airlines on some very short routes such as domestic routes in Japan, confirming how versatile this aircraft can be.
The ranges of the 787 and 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.
The 787 brings significant range improvements compared to the 767 with a maximum range of over 14,000km (787-9), compared to a 767 maximum range of just over 12,000km (767-200ER).
The 787 is a very technologically advanced aircraft. Below are just some of the advancements compared to previous generation aircraft like the 767.
The materials selected for the 787 Dreamliner reduce operating costs through the increased use of composites, especially carbon composites. A majority of the primary structure of the 787 is made of composite materials, in particular the fuselage and parts of the wings, and the 787 is 50% composite as measured by weight.
Composites allow for a lighter, simpler structure, increasing efficiency, reducing fuel consumption, and reducing weight-based maintenance and fees. They do not fatigue or corrode, which reduces scheduled maintenance and increases aircraft operational time. Composites also resist impacts better and minor damage can be repaired quickly at the gate.
The 787 was also specifically designed to improve the passenger experience. Among others, design improvements include large windows (largest of any jet airliner to date), improved lighting, more comfortable cabin pressure, and large overhead bins.
The 787 features advanced fly-by-wire flight controls. Fly-by-wire has been around for decades, but the 787’s fly-by-wire control systems are very advanced. These systems can even optimize the shape (camber) of the wings during the cruise phase to automatically improve fuel efficiency. This advanced fly-by-wire system also contributes to improved ride quality for passengers. The 787 systems can sense turbulence and adjust the aircraft’s control surfaces to dampen the effects of turbulence.
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 767-400ER ranges 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. Based on my research I conclude that 767-200 and 300 variants with two-class cabins typically have around 230 seats.
Delta Airlines is one of the small number of airlines currently operating 767s (300 and 400 variants) with three cabin classes (First or Business, Premium Economy, and Economy). Average seat numbers are 218 for Delta’s 767-300ERs, and 242 seats for its 767-400ERs Delta Airlines also operates a 4-class 767-300ER with 26 first-class seats, 18 business class seats, 21 premium economy seats, and 151 economy class seats (total 216 seats).
The twin-aisle 767 typically has seven or eight seats abreast in economy class (2-3-2, 2-4-2), 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). In economy class, seven seats abreast (2-3-2) is the most common layout and this layout places approximately 87% of all seats at a window or aisle.
The table below shows the typical 2-class cabin configuration seating capacities of the 787 variants published by Boeing:
|Variant||Passengers (Typical 2-Class Seating)|
The twin-aisle 787 typically has eight or nine seats abreast in economy class (3-2-3, 2-4-2, 3-3-3), with nine seats abreast being the more common configuration. Seat rows can be arranged in four to seven abreast in first or business, e.g. 1–2–1,2–2–2, or 2–3–2. As an example, British Airways 4-class B787s are four abreast in first class (2-2), seven abreast in business and premium economy class (2-3-2), and nine abreast in economy class (3-3-3).
Customers and Orders
Boeing 787 deliveries as of the end of March 2023 totalled 1,048 aircraft and, of these, the split between the three 787 variants is as follows:
- 787-8: 388
- 787-9: 584
- 787-10: 76
To date, the 787-9 accounts for 56% of the total 787 deliveries.
At the end of March 2023, Boeing had 581 unfulfilled orders for the 787, the majority of which were for the 787-9 (75%). Adding deliveries and unfulfilled orders together, the 787-9 is the most popular 787 variant with a total of 1,019 aircraft, representing 63% of all 787 deliveries and unfulfilled orders combined at the end of March 2023. In total, the 787 deliveries and unfulfilled orders at the end of March 2023 were 1,629 aircraft (1,048 deliveries and 581 unfulfilled orders).
The most significant 787 airline customers include United Airlines, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, Qantas, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Japan Airlines, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, and leasing companies such as International Lease Finance Corporation and Air Lease Corporation.
Boeing 767 deliveries as of the end of March 2023 totaled 1,272 aircraft and, of these, the split between the three 767 variants is as follows:
- 767-200: 128
- 767-200ER: 121
- 767-2C: 72
- 767-300: 104
- 767-300ER: 583
- 767-300F: 226
- 767-400ER: 38
To date, the 767-300ER accounts for 46% of all 767 deliveries.
At the end of March 2023, Boeing had 120 unfulfilled orders for the 767, 54 of which were for the 767-300F and 66 for the 767-2C.
Adding deliveries and unfulfilled orders together, the 767-300ER is the most popular 767 variant with a total of 583 aircraft, representing 42% of all 767 deliveries and unfulfilled orders combined at the end of March 2023. Interestingly, the second most popular 767 variant is the 767-300F with a total of 280 deliveries and unfulfilled orders at the end of March 2023.
In total, the 767 deliveries and unfulfilled orders at the end of March 2023 were 1,392 aircraft (1,272 deliveries and 120 unfulfilled orders).
The last order for a B767 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 B767-2C and the B767-300F and orders keep coming in for these variants, albeit in relatively modest numbers. In 2022 and as of the end of March 2023 combined, Boeing received 36 orders for the B767-2C and 10 for the B767-300F.
The 767’s biggest passenger airline customer was United Airlines. However, the 767 has also been very popular with cargo airlines and FedEx is actually the 767’s largest customer. UPS is also a very significant 767 customer.
Current operators of the 767 include Air Astana, ANA, Austrian Airlines, Delta Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Icelandair, JAL, LATAM Airlines, and United Airlines.
Boeing 787 vs. 767: Summary
The 787 and 767 are similar aircraft in that they are both twinjets and are twin-aisle widebodies. Both aircraft have benefited commercially from ETOPS certification allowing airlines to deploy these twinjets on intercontinental routes previously reserved for trijets and quad jets.
The 767 is still in production, but only as a tanker or as a freighter. The last 767 passenger variant order was placed in 2012. In contrast, the 787 is in full production with a large order backlog.
With an age difference of almost three decades between these two aircraft the 787 is a much more technologically advanced aircraft compared to the 767 and is more fuel-efficient.
Whilst some passenger airlines still deploy the 767, its numbers are starting to dwindle. The number of 787s in airline fleets, on the other hand, is continuing to increase as Boeing gradually tackles its order book and continues to deliver this modern and well-liked aircraft.