How Much Do Airliners Cost? Top 7 Big Jets!


While waiting for your flight at the airport, have you ever gazed out on the tarmac and wondered, how much would these shiny, huge jets cost? I know I have! When looking a

A commercial airliner can cost anywhere between $80 to $500M. The single biggest cost of the airplane is its engines which can cost from $1M to $24M each. Extensive research, design & testing takes place taking years to complete for a new model which must be recouped over the aircraft fleet sale price.

In today’s article, we’ll have a look at some of the most popular airliners and the costs associated with them. We’ll cover the top 7 commercial aircraft in terms of size and have a look at the factors which make airliners so expensive!

How Much Do Commercial Jets Cost?

7. Boeing 747-400

Airplane Cost: $250M

Boeing 747-400 – Source: Li Pang

The iconic “Queen of the Skies” is still a very a common sight at most international airports. The 747-400 debuted several improvements over the initial model such as winglets, increased wingspan, revised engines, and a glass cockpit.

Cost:$250 Million
Number of Flight Crew:2
Number of Cabin Crew:12
Number of Seats:416 in multi-class layout
Range:8,382 miles
Max Takeoff Weight:875,000 lbs
Max Fuel Capacity:52,285 US Gal
Time To Refuel:48min @1200GPM or 24min @ 2400GPM
Fuel Cost:$303,037 in 2022
Engines:4x Pratt & Whitney PW4000
4x General Electric GE CF6
4x Rolls Royce RB211
Longest Flight:Frankfurt – Seattle Tacoma (Operated by Lufthansa)
Trip Details:5,109 miles / 10h 10min
Fuel Cost = Jet A @ $5.29/Gal

6. Airbus A340-600

Airplane Cost: $275M

Airbus A340-600 – Source: Cory W. Watts


Although it has been retired from service, the Airbus A340-600 used to be the flagship of Singapore Airlines on its ultra-long haul routes from Singapore to the west coast cities of the United States.
In competition with Boeing’s 747 series of airplanes this paved the way for the A350 series aircraft that now dominate the long-haul routes of the sky.

Cost:$275 Million
Number of Flight Crew:2
Number of Cabin Crew:12
Number of Seats:419 in multi-class layout
Range:8,978 miles
Max Takeoff Weight:840,000 lbs
Max Fuel Capacity:51,750 US Gal
Time To Refuel:43min @1200GPM or 22min @ 2400GPM
Fuel Cost:$305,498 in 2022
Engines:4x Rolls Royce Trent 556
Longest Flight:Tehran – Caracas (Operated by Conviasa)
Trip Details:7,315 miles / 13h 30min
Fuel Cost = Jet A @ $5.29/Gal

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5. Boeing 777-300

Airplane Cost: $279M

Boeing 777-300 – Source: Olivier Cabaret


Launched at the Paris Air Show in June 1996, the 777-300 was designed to be stretched up to 20%. Other added features include a ground maneuvering camera and a tail skid to avoid tail strikes during rotation and flaring. Structurally, the skin thickness was increased from 6.3mm to 11.4mm and a new pair of evacuation doors were added.

The reduction of 2 engines allowed engineers to save weight, fuel burn and cost of the aircraft making it highly competitive in the long-haul route market.

Cost:$279 Million
Number of Flight Crew:2
Number of Cabin Crew:11
Number of Seats:368 in multi-class layout
Range:6,937 miles
Max Takeoff Weight:660,000 lbs
Max Fuel Capacity:45,220 US Gal
Time To Refuel:38min @1200GPM or 19min @ 2400GPM
Fuel Cost:$239,213 in 2022
Engines:2x Pratt & Whitney PW4000
2x Rolls Royce Trent 800
Longest Flight:Yuzhno – Moscow (Operated by Aeroflot)
Trip Details:4,140 miles / 8h 40min
Fuel Cost = Jet A @ $5.29/Gal

4. Airbus A350

Airplane Cost: $317M

Airbus A350-900 ULR – Source: N509FZ

The Airbus A350 is the latest ultra long-haul (ULR), wide-body aircraft offered by Airbus. It first flew on 14 June 2013 and the first A350 was delivered to Qatar Airways on 15 January 2015. Customers include Singapore Airlines, Delta, Lufthansa, and Cathay Pacific.

The Airbus A350 was the first to have its entire fuselage made out of carbon fiber reinforced polymer. The major control surfaces such as the rudder, ailerons, and elevators incorporated a new type of lightweight honeycomb structure which resulted in massive weight savings requiring fewer engines to power it resulting in cost savings and fuel burn over its lifespan.

Cost:$317 Million
Number of Flight Crew:2
Number of Cabin Crew:11
Number of Seats:369 in multi-class layout
Range:10,000 miles
Max Takeoff Weight:696,660 lbs
Max Fuel Capacity:41,948 US Gal
Time To Refuel:35min @1200GPM or 18min @ 2400GPM
Fuel Cost:$221,904 in 2022
Engines:2 x Rolls Royce XWB
Longest Flight:Doha – Los Angeles (Operated by Qatar Airways)
Trip Details:8,70 miles / 16 hours
Fuel Cost = Jet A @ $5.29/Gal

3. Boeing 777-200LR

Airplane Cost: $366M

Boeing 777-200LR – Source: Björn Strey

The Boeing 777-200LR (Long Range) first entered service in 2006. At that time, it was one of the aircraft with the longest range hence the nickname Worldliner. The launch customer for this variant was Pakistan International Airlines.

The 200LR variant has several changes including an increased MTOW (Maximum Takeoff Weight) and three optional auxiliary fuel tanks in the rear cargo hold. Other structural modifications include extended raked wingtips, redesigned main landing gear, and additional structural strengthening.

Cost:$366 Million
Number of Flight Crew:2
Number of Cabin Crew:10
Number of Seats:301 in multi-class layout
Range:9,844 miles
Max Takeoff Weight:766,000 lbs
Max Fuel Capacity:47,890 US Gal
Time To Refuel:40min @1200GPM or 20min @ 2400GPM
Fuel Cost:$253,338 in 2022
Engines:2 x General Electric GE90-110B/-115B
Longest Flight:San Francisco – Bengaluru (Operated by Air India)
Trip Details:8,701 miles / 17h 45min
Fuel Cost = Jet A @ $5.29/Gal

2. Boeing 747-8

Airplane Cost: $416M

Boeing 747-8I – Source: Kiefer

In response to the threat posed by Airbus with their the A380, Boeing proposed a stretched variant of its best-selling Boeing 747-400. It was designated as the 747-8I or 747-8 Intercontinental.

The 747-8I first flew on March 20, 2011 with launch customer Lufthansa. Production of the 747-8I is scheduled to cease in 2022 once the 155th 747-8F has been delivered to Atlas Air.

The major chunk of the cost for this model came from the structural changes to the 747-8I. These changes include the lengthening of the fuselage from 232 to 250 feet, a thicker, deeper, and wider wing capable of holding more fuel.

Aerodynamic changes included a raked wingtip rather than the winglet previously found on the 747-8I and was re-engined with 4 General Electric GEnx turbofans.

Cost:$416 Million
Number of Flight Crew:2
Number of Cabin Crew:12-14
Number of Seats:467 in multi-class layout
Range:8,890 miles
Max Takeoff Weight:987,000 lbs
Max Fuel Capacity:63,034 US Gal
Time To Refuel:53min @1200GPM or 26min @ 2400GPM
Fuel Cost:$333,449 in 2022
Engines:4x General Electric GEnx
Longest Flight:Frankfurt – Buenos Aires (Operated by Lufthansa)
Trip Details:7,131 miles / 13h 50min
Fuel Cost = Jet A @ $5.29/Gal

1. Airbus A380

Airplane Cost: $446M

Airbus A380

The Airbus A380 was designed by Airbus Industries and is the biggest commercial passenger aircraft. The program was launched in 2000 and production started in 2003. The last airframe rolled off the assembly line in 2021 after sales began to fell.

The aircrafts high cost is partly due to the expensive engines which cost $13 million a piece. Secondly, as the Airbus A380 was the first double-decker aircraft, it needed extensive research and development before ever going into production which cost Airbus billions of dollars.

Cost:$446 Million
Number of Flight Crew:2 – 3
Number of Cabin Crew:Up to 21
Number of Seats:555 in multi-class layout or 800+ in a single-class layout
Range:9,200 miles
Max Takeoff Weight:1,234,600 lbs
Max Fuel Capacity:85,472 US Gal
Time To Refuel:1h 11min @1200GPM or 36min @ 2400GPM
Fuel Cost:$452,150 in 2022
Engines:4x Rolls Royce Trent 900 or Engine Alliance GP7200
Longest Flight:Dubai – Los Angeles (Operated by Emirates)
Trip Details:8,339 miles / 16 hours.
Fuel Cost = Jet A @ $5.29/Gal

What Factors Affect Airplane Cost?

Design

Prior to being manufactured, an airliner has to go through the design stage. Millions of man/woman hours are put in by engineers to design the components to ensure that they are safe, compliant with the regulations, redundant, and reliable.

When a new aircraft type is under development this process is undertaken on every single component to ensure it is the best and lightest it can be.

Nowadays, engineers use highly detailed and accurate modeling software that saves significant time and money. These software’s not only help engineers with the design of the aircraft, but they also help engineers understand stresses, airflows, component interactions, installation procedures and many, many more.

All of the design costs are by far the biggest factor when it comes to the cost of the airplane fleet. The more the airline can sell, the more of the R&D costs can be recouped.

Limited Suppliers

Airline manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing have a limited amount of suppliers whose parts and processes have been approved after a thorough inspection by the respective manufacturers. Even though there are thousands of companies supplying parts, for each of those individual parts there may only be a single supplier.

For example, an automobile manufacturer may have 10 suppliers for a certain component, however, due to the high standards and rigorous testing, an airplane manufacturer may only have 1 or 2 suppliers available.

For an automobile, a supplier may produce 500,000 of one component. The same supplier now producing a component for a new aircraft may only produce 2000 of them. The cost to produce this component is no higher because it can only be offset by 1999 other units vs the 499,000 produced for a car.

With this being the same for all suppliers the cost is higher, plus add to that the purer materials used and increased quality assurance needed for aircraft components, the cost increases again.

Testing

Testing in an aircraft’s development stage is incredibly rigorous and time-consuming. Before an aircraft can even be certified for production, it is put through its paces by teams of highly skilled test engineers and pilots under the watchful eye of the country’s aviation authorities. Each aircraft design must meet strict criteria to qualify as being safe and fit to fly.

A multitude of tests are carried out on the ground and in the air. Test pilots push the aircraft to the extremes of the flight envelope to verify that the aircraft will still remain under control under upset conditions.


If you would like to know more about the life of an aircraft test pilot please check out this video of when I visited the International Test Pilot School:


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Syed Anas Ali Shah

Syed has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science before he enrolled in flight school in 2016 where he was awarded his Fixed-Wing CPL with Frozen ATPL. He flies as often as he writes and passing on his love for aviation is one of his greatest passions.

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