In the A320-200's 'AIRCRAFT CHARACTERISTICS AIRPORT AND MAINTENANCE PLANNING' document. It presents the A320's PL/R capabilities as:

enter image description here

Firstly, I would like to know: What are the 3 different MTOW's listed? Is it for different seating layouts? eg 'high density' vs 'business + economy' or what? Note that 73.5(78) tonnes is the MTOW listed on Airbus's website, seen here, but they don't clearly indicate what the figure in brackets indicates.

Secondly, does the payload axis include passengers as well as cargo? If so, if the maximum amount of passengers is listed as 180, how much additional cargo can the aircraft carry, both in the cargo hold and overhead luggage trays? i.e. what model does the airlines/airframers use to estimate the weight of 180 passengers?

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    $\begingroup$ Passengers are sometimes referred to as self-loading cargo, so yes cargo includes them $\endgroup$ Feb 26 '15 at 16:44

There are two different Maximum Take Off Masses (MTOM) listed in the graph: 73.5 T and 78 T. This is only a small selection. The Airbus A320 has many variations due to modifications to fuel tanks, fuselage, engines, wings and landing gear. The following MTOMs have been certified (EASA PDF): 66 T, 67 T, 68 T, 70 T, 71.5 T, 73.5 T, 75.5 T, 77 T and 78 T.

In addition to the variation in MTOM, there are variations in the number of fuel tanks installed. The A320-100 series have either 2 or 3 tanks, while the A320-200 series can have up to 5 tanks. More fuel tanks allow an increase in range at the cost of payload. Even on short flights additional tanks will decrease the maximum payloads due to their structural weight. The brown line in the chart represents an A320 with one Additional Centre Tank (ACT) installed.

Payload includes passengers as well as cargo. Assuming an average adult weight of 88 kg (EASA PDF) including carry-on luggage, 180 passengers weigh 15840 kg. Depending on the variant of A320 you take, that leaves a couple of tonne margin for other payload such as check-in luggage or fuel to increase the range.

For more on estimating aircraft loading, see this question.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you know why they would only show the diagram for those 3 variants? Are they perhaps the most common? $\endgroup$
    – Jonny
    Feb 26 '15 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Jonny The 73.5 T variant is the basic A320. The 78 T is the current high gross weight model. The previous HGW MTOM was 77 T. I don't know about all the other models but I expect there are some special short field models in there with reduced take-off weights. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Feb 26 '15 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ @DeltaLima: There are at least several variants with more powerful engines. These are primarily for hot-and-high operations, but it affects MTOM too. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Feb 27 '15 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec Indeed the MTOM is affected by the engine type. But apart from engine types there are other modifications that impact the MTOM and other masses. For example the A320-211/A320-212/A320-231 (covering 4 engine types) have 17 weight variants. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Feb 27 '15 at 8:06

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