Airbus A320 family

The Airbus A320 is the basis for the Airbus single aisle family. The aircraft is similar in size and appearance as the Boeing 737, Comac C919 and Irkut MC‑21. Here are the key features of the A320 family. Firstly it has six cockpit windows. Typical is the last side window: the top corner is slightly cut off. Also the nose is relatively blunt. Most versions have winglets, which come in two ver­sions. See below for details. Finally, the Airbus A320 series have a small dorsal fin, small visible nose landing gear doors when the gear is extended, and the nose gear is slightly tilted forward. 

Nose of A320 series, with cut off corner of last cockpit window and slightly tilted forward nose gear.

Different versions

To differentiate between the different subtypes you have to look at

  • the length of the fuselage
  • the shape of the engine nacelles
  • the number and location of cabin doors and emer­gency exits
  • the presence of winglets
  • teh presence of a cargo door

At first the A320 was designed without winglets, but only a few were delivered (A320-100). Quickly the A320, and later A318, A319 and A321, received small winglets. These have a part up and a part down. Later Airbus developed a new, tall winglet for the A320 family, more like those on the Boeing 737NG. These are called 'sharklets'. The winglet type has no influence on the type designation.

Original winglet for A320 family

Tall winglet for A320 family, called 'sharklet'

Airbus A318, ACJ318 and A318 Elite

The smallest of the family is the A318. Like the standard A319 it has only one emer­gency exit, which makes it difficult to distinguish. However, the A318 looks a bit odd, with a large tail. Actually, the vertical stabiliser is a metre higher than the rest of the family. The A318 was delivered with CFM56 engines, designated A318-11*, and with Pratt & Whitney engines (A318-12*). The CFM56 engines have separate fan exhausts, the PW6000s don't. The latter have a nacelle like for the IAE V2500 as used on the A319, A320 and A321.

The corporate jetliner version was first marketed as A318 Elite, but later as ACJ318, in line with the rest of the family. They used to have an X attached to the official desig­nation, but it is unclear if this is still used.

Airbus A318 with CFM56 engines

Airbus A318 with PW6000 engines (photo Rafael Luiz Canossa/WikiMedia)

Airbus A319, A319CJ & ACJ319

The A319 about 2.5 m longer than the A318 and also has one emergency exit on both sides. There is how­ever one exception, as easyJet aircraft have two over­wing emergency exits to accommodate more passen­gers. This makes it more difficult to recognise it from an A320. The conventional A319 comes with two engine choices, CFM56 (designated A319-11*) and V2500 (designated A319-13*). The latter can be recognized by the single exhaust nacelles.

The corporate jetliner version was first known as A319CJ, but later as ACJ319, in line with the rest of the family. They used to have an X attached to the official designation, but it is unclear if this is still used. 

Airbus A319 with V2500 engines and one overwing emergency exit.

V2500 engines on A320 family, distinguished by their single exhaust.

Airbus A319, with CFM56 engines and two emergency exits.

CFM56 engines on A320 family, with a separate core and fan exhaust.

Airbus A319neo & ACJ319neo

In the marketing name A319neo the suffix neo stands for new engine option. These engines are the CFM LEAP 1A (official designation A319-15*N) and Pratt & Whitney PW1100G (A319-17*N). Both engines have a significantly larger diameter than the old engines and have clearly visible guidance rails for the thrust rever­sers. Also standard are the large winglets, called 'shark­lets'. These are available on the A319ceo (conven­tional engine option) as well, although there are not many with them.

There is also to be corporate jetliner version that is named ACJ319neo. 

The Airbus A319neo is the shortest and least popular version of the neo family. (photo Wikimedia/Pedro Aragão)

The first Airbus A319neo to be delivered was an ACJ319neo, like shown here.

Airbus A320, A320 Prestige & ACJ320

This is the first version of the family, nearly four meters longer than the A319. It has two overwing exits on each side as standard, unlike one on the A318 and A319, although easyJet A319s have also two. This makes keeping them apart a bit tricky. Like the A319 the A320 comes with CFM56 (designated A320-11*/-21*) and V2500 engines (A320-23*). The original A320-100, only built in small numbers, is externally characterised by the lack of winglets.

Also the A320 has a corporate jetliner variant with a luxurious interior and additional fuel tanks to extend the range. It was first known as A320 Prestige, now as ACJ320.

Airbus A320-100, without winglets

Airbus A320-200, with original winglets

Airbus A320neo & ACJ320neo

The new engine option was first available on the A320, marketed as A320neo. These engines are the CFM LEAP 1A and Pratt & Whitney PW1000G. Both engines have a significantly larger diameter than the old engines and clearly visible guidance rails for the thrust rever­sers. Also standard are the large winglets, called 'shark­lets'. These are available on the A320ceo (conventional engine option) as well.

In the official designation an 'N' is added at the end to mark the neo, the aircraft with LEAP engines being A320-25*N and with PW1000G engines A320-27*N.

Airbus A320neo (A320-251N)

Detail of A320neo engine nacelle (CFM LEAP-1A engine).

Airbus A321-100 & A321-200

The longest version of the family is the A321. It is easy recognisable by the large emergency exits, before and after the wings. These are nearly as large as the normal passenger doors, and much larger than the overwing exits on the smaller A318, A319 and A320. It comes in two main versions, A321-100 and A321-200, which cannot be recognised from the outside.

Airbus A321-200

Airbus A321P2F, A321PCF & A321SDF

The classic A321 can be converted to a cargo aircraft by multiple companies. The first is EFW, a joint-venture between Airbus and ST Aerospace of Singapore. This version is dubbed A321P2F, meaning passenger to freighter. The second is Precision Conver­sions, which markets its modification as A321PCF. Finally there is the A321-200SDF, or SineDraco Freighter. Obviously all are easy to recognise by the large cargo door in the left front fuselage, and the absence of cabin windows. There seem to be no external differences mutually.

Airbus A321P2F

Airbus A321neo, A321neo ACF, A321LR & A321XLR

Like the A320 the A321 is also available with LEAP-1A or Pratt & Whitney engines. These variants are marketed as A321neo, with official designations A321-25*N and A321-27*N. The differences with the A321ceo are the same as between the A320ceo and A320neo.

Apart from the 'standard' A321neo there are additional variants. The first is the A321neo ACF, in which ACF means Airbus Cabin Flex. On this version the second pair of (large) emergency exits in front of the wing is replaced by one or two smaller emergency exits over the wings, while the third pair of emergency doors can be moved aft. Both allow the cabin be configured more flexibly and with more seats. In the official designation they have an 'X' as suffix, so A321-25*NX or A321-27*NX.

The next subtypes are the A321LR and A321XLR, both extended range versions of the A321neo with Airbus Cabin Flex. Apart from extra fuel tanks in the belly (not visible from the outside) there are no changes. How­ever, the A321XLR has official designation A321-200NY.

Airbus A321neo, with the standard A321 cabin door configuration.

Airbus A321neo with ACF. Note the two small emergency exits over the wing.

Confusion possible with

Comac C919

comac c919

This Chinese jetliner has a large resemblance with the A320 and the Irkut MC‑21. It is easiest recog­nised by the number of cockpit windows: four on the C919 and six on the other two.

Irkut MC-21

mc 21

Like the Comac C919 the MC‑21 can be seen as a clone of the A320. To distinguish the MC‑21 from the A320 it is best to look at the wingtips. For now the MC‑21 has no winglets.

Airbus A220


Formerly known as the Bombardier CSeries the Airbus A220 has the same basic configuration as the A320 family. The A220 has four cockpit windows, a flat tail cone and canted winglets as recognition points.

Boeing 737

B737 800

To distinguish a Boeing 737 from A320 family look at the cockpit windows: these are the same as or similar to that of the Boeing 707 and 727. The older versions still have the two "eyebrow" windows above the normal cockpit windows. Also The nose is more pointed and most 737s have a large, triangular dorsal fin.