The A320 family is one of the world’s most successful commercial aircraft types. The main type within the family, the A320 first started flying in airline fleets in 1988 and has been revamped with more efficient engines (new engine option – neo), available since 2016.
There aren’t too many very noticeable differences between the original A320, now called the A320ceo, and the newer A320neo. These are two very similar aircraft, and the A320neo might be fairly called an evolution of the A320ceo.
The main difference is the engine types. However, there are a number of other more subtle differences between the two. I’ll look closely at the various characteristics of these two aircraft, and I’ll point out where the differences lie.
Firstly, let’s take a brief look at the histories of these two closely-related aircraft.
The Airbus A320 narrow-body twinjet family first flew commercially in 1988 with Air France. In December 2010, Airbus announced the A320neo (new engine option), which entered service in 2016 with Lufthansa.
With more efficient engines and other efficiency improvements, the A320neo provides improved fuel economy. With the introduction of the A320neo, older A320 versions became known as the A320ceo (current engine option).
|Aircraft Model||Entry into Service|
The first A320 aircraft to be manufactured were classified as A320-100s. Only around twenty A320-100s were produced before Airbus began to roll out A320-200s in 1989.
The A320-200 offered increased fuel capacity and increased range compared to the A320-100. Part of that was due to the addition of wingtip fences.
As mentioned earlier, the neo version of the A320 started working commercially in 2016.
Specifications and Performance
Let’s take a look at some key physical characteristics and see how these two closely-related aircraft measure up against each other:
|Aircraft Model||Length||Wingspan||Tail Height||Fuselage Width||MTOW||Cruise Speed||Range|
|A320ceo||37.57m||34.10m or 35.80m with sharklets||11.76m||3.95m||78.00 tonnes||M0.82/ 624mph||6,200km/ 3,350nm with sharklets|
|A320neo||35.80m||79.00 tonnes||6,400km/ 3,450nm|
As these two aircraft share the same fuselage design their physical dimensions are the same as each other. Performance-wise these two aircraft are also similar when the A320ceo is fitted with fuel-saving wing sharklets.
Sharklets are large wingtip devices with a height of 2.4m that increase fuel efficiency by improving the lift-to-drag ratio; increasing lift while decreasing drag. Sharklets can reduce fuel consumption by up to 4% on routes longer than 2,500nm, and around 2% for routes of 500nm in length, when compared to wingtip fences. The longer the route, the higher the fuel saving.
Sharklets are a standard fit for the A320neo and can be fitted on the A320ceo too.
On a separate note, all A320 variants are ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) certified for 180 minutes since 2004 (EASA) and 2006 (FAA).
The turbofan engines offered for the A320ceo family included CFM International’s CFM56 and International Aero Engines’ V2500. The A320neo is offered with two advanced engine choices – CFM International’s LEAP-1A and Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G-JM geared turbofan.
These new engine options, with increased seating density combined with fuel-saving sharklets on the wingtips, can deliver per-seat fuel improvements of up to 20%. This is a huge benefit given the rising cost of fuel and the fact that fuel represents one of the main operational costs for an airline – second only behind crew costs.
The neo engines also have the potential to bring other cost savings, but only if airports around the world start to roll out landing charge structures that incentivize quieter aircraft.
Currently, there are a small number of airports that vary their landing charges based on aircraft noise emissions. London Heathrow is one example where significant savings can be made due to the lower noise emissions of the A320neo engines compared to the A320ceo engines.
Even if there is no financial saving on airport charges, the quieter neo engines improve travel comfort for passengers in the aircraft cabin.
Airbus’ typical 2-class and maximum seating capacities for the A320 are shown in the table below.
However, these numbers are for comparison purposes only, as in practice airlines fit out their aircraft in many different seating configurations and actual seat numbers can vary significantly between different variants, even within the same airline.
|Aircraft||Typical 2-Class Seating Capacity||Maximum Seating Capacity|
|A320ceo||140 – 170||180|
|A320neo||150 – 180||194|
If the fuselage dimensions of the A320ceo and the A320neo are the same, how can the A320neo accommodate more passengers than the A320ceo? The answer lies in a redesigned cabin layout.
The aft galley capacity has been reduced, and the two aft lavatories have been relocated and redesigned to fit into the former galley space. These changes allow the installation of at least one additional row of seats, depending on the number of cabins and seat pitch.
It’s hard to be certain of this as Airbus doesn’t seem to publish list price information on its website currently. And, of course, a list price is just a list price.
But based on my research I’d say an A320neo is about 10% more expensive to buy than an A320ceo – around US$110 million for an A320neo and US$100 million for an A320ceo. That said, orders for A320ceo’s are now closed.
Customers and Orders
As of the end of June 2022, a total of 8,564 A320 aircraft have been ordered, of which 6,266 (73%) have been delivered.
To date, there have been more orders for the A320ceo compared to the A320neo. However, this is not surprising given that the A320ceo was launched way back in 1984 and has only recently ended its production run. On the other hand, the A320neo was launched in 2010 and still has many years of production left to run.
The graph below shows the separate number of orders and deliveries for each of the A320ceo and A320neo:
You can see from the graph above that almost all A320ceo orders have been delivered (99.8%) and the A320 order backlog is now almost exclusively for the A320neo (39.8% of orders delivered).
With a common fuselage cross-section, the A320ceo and A320neo offer similar seating layouts with a single aisle and six seats across in economy and premium economy classes.
The versatility of these aircraft to offer efficient operations over short to medium-haul routes means that many airlines have fitted out premium cabins, including some with lie-flat beds. Where premium cabins are installed, airlines typically adopt a 2-2 seating arrangement in business and first class. That said, in some cases the arrangement may be 1-1.
Airbus’ ‘Airspace’ interior available on the A320neo was adapted from the A330 and A350 cabin concepts, and features customisable LED lighting effects, slimmer sidewall panels allowing 18-inch wide seats in economy class, and the largest overhead compartments available in any narrowbody aircraft.
Airbus A320ceo vs. A320neo: Summary
The new engines with their improved fuel efficiency and reduced noise footprint are the main difference between the A320neo and the A320ceo. Additionally, there are a number of other subtle differences between these two aircraft:
- Cabin layout and rear galley configuration offering increased seating capacity (leading to a further improvement in per-seat-fuel consumption)
- Ambience cabin lighting and other cabin improvements such as more comfortable pressurization and increased overhead luggage space
- Improved aerodynamic and fuel performance from the installation of sharklet wingtips (compared to A320ceo aircraft not equipped with sharklets)
However, even these subtle differences, can be incorporated into, or retrofitted to, A320ceo aircraft bringing the A320ceo and A320neo even closer together in terms of design and performance.