Airbus A350 vs. Boeing 777: How Do They Compare?

The A350 and 777 widebodies are, to an extent, similar aircraft, both in terms of their physical sizes and hence their seating capacities, and in terms of the main markets that they serve.

What is very different about these aircraft is that the A350 is relatively new on the scene, first entering commercial service in 2015. The 777, on the other hand, has been around for more than 25 years and has continually evolved through a large number of variants. Both aircraft families are in production, although most of the older 777 variants are no longer available.

In this article, I’ll compare these two aircraft from a number of different perspectives, just as we have done before with different aircraft pairings. So, let’s see how these two long-haul, widebody rivals compare in terms of key attributes such as size, seating capacity, range, and orders.

Airbus A350 vs. Boeing 777

History

The A350 family has two passenger versions – the A350-900 and the longer fuselage A350-1000 – and an upcoming freighter version, the A350F. The A350 is also available as an ultra long range model (A359-900XWB) which is externally identical to the A350-900 but has an increased fuel capacity and increased MTOW.

The A350 variants are listed below:

Aircraft ModelTypeFirst In Service
A350-900Passenger2015
A350-900XWB (Ultra Long Range)Passenger2018
A350-1000Passenger2018
A350FFreighter2025 (expected)

The Airbus A350 was initially conceived to compete with Boeing’s 787. The first A350 prototype flew in June 2013, and type certification from EASA was obtained in September 2014, followed shortly after by FAA certification in November 2014. The A350 is the first Airbus aircraft largely made of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymers. The A350 has a common type rating with the A330.

The A350F freighter version is available for order, but as of October 2022, no A350F aircraft have been delivered yet. In January 2015, the first A350-900 entered service with Qatar Airways, followed by the A350-1000 in February 2018, also with Qatar Airways.

The A350 succeeds the A340 and competes with Boeing’s long-range aircraft – the B787, B777, and B777X.

Airbus A350-900

The 777-200 was launched in 1989 to fill the gap in Boeing’s product catalog between the 747 and the 767. The first 777-200 delivery took place in 1995 and was followed by an increased weight and range variant – the 777-200ER, which entered service in 1997. ETOPS (180 minutes) approval for the 777 came in 1995 with the launch of the 777-200.

After the 777-200, Boeing developed a stretched 777. With a length of almost 74m, the 777-300 became the longest airliner ever produced until it was superseded by the Airbus A340-600. The 777-300 delivered 20% more capacity compared to the 777-200 and went into service in 1998.

In 2000, Boeing launched its next-generation twinjet program. The first model to emerge from the program, the 777-300ER went into service in 2004 and went on to become a hugely successful product, combining the capacity of the 777-300 with the 777-200ER’s range. A second long-range model, the 777-200LR, went into airline service in 2006.

The 777F went into service in 2009 and was based on the structural design and engine specifications of the 777-200LR, and fuel tanks that were derived from the 777-300ER.

Boeing 777F

In 2013 Boeing formally launched the 777-8 and 777-9. The 777-9 will be a stretched, higher-capacity version of the 777-8 with a slightly lower range.  Both models are to be equipped with new generation GE9X engines and feature new composite wings with folding wingtips. At 76.72m long, the 777-9 will become the world’s longest airliner, topping the 76.25m long 747-8.

Delivery of these latest 777 aircraft has been delayed a number of times, with Boeing now estimating 2025 for the 777-9.

The main 777 variants are listed below:

Aircraft ModelTypeFirst In Service
777-200Passenger1995
777-200ERPassenger1997
777-200LRPassenger2006
777-300Passenger1998
777-300ERPassenger2004
777FFreighter2009
777-8Passenger
777-8FFreighter2027 est.
777-9Passenger2025 est.

Dimensions

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 ModelLength/ mWingspan/ mFuselage Width/ mMTOW/ tonnes
A350-90066.8064.755.96283.0
A350-100073.79319.0
777-200/ 200ER63.7360.935.86247.2 – 297.6
777-200LR64.80347.5
777-30073.8660.93299.4
777-300ER64.80351.5
777F63.73347.8
777-869.7972.80/ 64.85 (folded)5.96351.5
777-8F70.9365.1
777-976.72351.5

The 777 and the A350 are physically very similar, with all lengths within the range of 64-77m, similar wingspans (except the longer unfolded 777-X wings), similar fuselage widths, and MTOWs typically in the range of 300-350 tonnes.

Boeing 777-300

Range

The A350 is flexible enough to fly efficiently all sectors from short-haul to ultra-long-haul routes, with a maximum range of up to 9,700nm for the A350-900XWB allowing more than 20 hours of flying time. The A350 was developed to compete directly with Boeing’s long-range aircraft, specifically the 777 and the 787.

The A350 ranges by variant are shown in the table below.

Aircraft ModelRange
A350-9008,300nm (15,372km)
A350-900ULR (A350XWB)9,700nm (18,000km)
A350-10008,700nm (16,112km)

Airbus A350-1000

The 777 was designed to bridge the gap between Boeing’s other widebody aircraft – the 767 and the 747, and also to replace older aircraft such as DC-10s and L-1011s. Therefore, the ability to fly long-haul was an important design factor. The 777-200LR and the 777-30ER (and the 777-8, and the 777-9) have impressive ranges enabling the 777 to serve some of the world’s longest commercial air routes.

The 777 variants, including freighters, have a wide spread of ranges varying from around 8,600km to 16,200km, with the 777-8 expected to have the longest range of all 777 variants, and similar to the A350-1000. The 777 variant ranges are shown in the table below:

Aircraft ModelRange
777-2005,240nm (9,700km)
777-200ER7,065nm (13,080km)
777-200LR8,555 nm (15,843 km)
777-3006,030nm (11,165km)
777-300ER7,370 nm (13,649 km)
777-300ERSF4,650nm (8,610km)
777F4,970nm (9,200km)
777-88,730nm (16,170km)
777-8F4,410nm (8,170km)
777-97,285nm (13,500km)

Boeing 777-200

Seat Capacity and Cabin Layout

The A350 typically carries anywhere between around 250 and 400 passengers in two- or three-class cabin configurations, similar to the existing higher capacity 777 variants that carry between 280 and 400 passengers in two- or three-class cabin configurations. The 777-9 will have even higher capacity, with Boeing suggesting more than 420 seats in a 2-class configuration.

For the A350 I looked at the seating configurations of this aircraft’s biggest customers currently operating A350s (Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Air China, Virgin Atlantic, and Cathay Pacific). Typically, this aircraft is configured with three-class or two-class seating configurations, and the ranges of seat numbers are set out in the table below:

Aircraft2-class3-class
A350-900161 – 303253 – 325
A350-1000327331 – 397

You can see that seating numbers vary significantly even for the same aircraft with the same number of cabins. The two-class configuration with 161 seats belongs to Singapore Airlines’ A350-XWBs used on its long-haul routes to the USA which are fitted out with only business and premium economy class seats.

Airbus suggests that the A350 can carry 300-350 (A350-900) or 350-410 (A350-1000) passengers in typical three-class configurations, and up to 440 passengers in a single-class layout for the A350-900, and 480 passengers for the A350-1000.

The A350 interior typically allows cabin configurations of nine seats per row in economy class, eight seats per row in premium economy, and four seats per row in business class, with a twin-aisle arrangement.

I researched actual seating plans for carriers with large 777 fleets such as Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, American Airlines, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines to find typical seat numbers for two, three, and four-class cabin configurations:

American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Singapore Airlines operate 777-200ERs and 777-300ERs with four-class seating layouts carrying between 234 and 283 passengers.

Air New Zealand, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Qatar Airways, and United Airlines operate 777-200s, 777-200ERs, 777-200LRs, 777-300s, and 777-300ERs with three-class seating layouts carrying between 309 and 350 passengers. Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and Qatar Airways operate 777-200LRs, 777-300s, and 777-300ERs with two-class seating layouts carrying between 283 and 398 passengers.

Boeing data shows that the 777 variants can carry between 317 and 426 passengers in typical two-class seating configurations.

The twin-aisle 777 typically has three to four seats abreast in first-class cabins, four to six seats in business class (with eight seats abreast in British Airways’ opposing seat’ layout), eight seats in premium economy, and nine or ten seats per row in economy class.

Customers and Orders

To the end of October 2022, Airbus has received a total of 919 orders for the A350, and has delivered 504 (55%). So far, the A350-900 is the most popular of the A350 variants accounting for 80% of orders and 87% of deliveries.

The top 10 customers for the A350-900, and the top 5 customers for the A350-1000 are shown in the graphs below:

Airbus A350-900 Customers

By the end of October 2022, Boeing had received 2,352 orders for the 777 in total since its launch in 1990. The most popular 777 to date is the 777-300ER which received a total of 880 orders, or 37.4% of the total 777 orders.

The top 777 customers (all variants) to date (end of October 2022) are Emirates which has ordered a total of 296 777s, followed by Qatar Airways which has ordered 159 777s. United Airlines is the top US customer with 127 777 orders so far.

Boeing 777 Customers

To the end of October 2022 there are 445 unfulfilled orders for the 777, as follows:

  • 777-300ER – 6 aircraft
  • 777-X (777-8 and 777-9) – 353 aircraft, with nearly two-thirds of these going to Middle-Eastern carriers
  • 777F – 86 aircraft.

Airbus A350 vs. Boeing 777: Summary

The A350 and 777 widebody rivals are, physically relatively similar aircraft, and therefore carry similar passenger numbers and serve similar markets.

The 777 has been around a lot longer than the A350, first flying commercially in 1995, and evolving through numerous variants. Not surprisingly, the 777 over its long history has received more than twice the orders of the younger A350. However, the A350 has only been in operation since 1995, and with over 900 orders so far, it is set to become a hugely successful aircraft.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Get Your FREE "Four Ways to Try Business Class Without Breaking the Bank" Guide

No, I am not going to tell you how to fly in first class and sip Dom Perignon for free…

But, I am going to introduce you to a couple of ways you can experiment with to try a business class flight without having to spend thousands of dollars.

How Can I Help You?