How to tell Boeing 757s, 767s and 777s apart
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The Boeing 757, 767 and 777 are each key members of the medium-to-long haul fleets of airlines around the world. It is somewhat challenging to tell them apart—particularly when you add in the Airbus A330, which looks similar to each—but there are a few tell-tale differences.
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All of these aircraft are twin jets, i.e. with two engines. In the case of the Boeing 757 and the Boeing 767, those engines are of similar size. Not so for the Boeing 777. Those engines are huge; they are almost the diameter of a Boeing 737’s fuselage, and the new Boeing 777X‘s General Electric engines are even wider than that. So, the first tell-tale feature you can spot is that the Boeing 777 engines are much larger and seem to droop from the wings, like a pair of heavy earrings.
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Does it Have a Non-US Livery?
Chances are, if it’s a humongous, two-engine airline with a foreign livery such as Cathay Pacific or Emirates, it’s a Boeing 777. The Triple Seven has been the go-to wide-bodied aircraft for many of the world’s carriers for the better part of 20 years. In contrast, the Boeing 757 and 767 are designs from the late 1970s and ’80s, and fewer and fewer will be seen in the wild in the coming years. The major operators of both the 757 and 767 are Delta and United; American Airlines retired its in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. JAL and ANA in Japan are among the largest foreign operators of the 767, while the 757 has largely disappeared from passenger service outside the U.S. (you can find sizeable fleets in Iceland and Germany, still.) Compare that to the ubiquitous Boeing 777; Air France alone operates 70 of the planes.
Eliminate the Boeing 757
While that’s not easy to spot from the outside, the Boeing 757 differs from the Boeing 767 and 777 in that it is a single-aisle, narrow-body aircraft, with 3-3 seating across in coach. In contrast, the Boeing 767 and 777 are wide-bodied aircraft with two aisles and three rows of seats in coach (typically 2-3-2 on the 767 and 3-4-3 on the 777.) On the outside, the Boeing 757 is skinnier than the longer and fatter-looking Boeing 767. And there’s a good reason for that: the 757 has a cabin that’s 11 feet 6 inches wide, the 767 is 15 feet 6 inches, and the much larger 777 is around 19 feet 6 inches, depending on the model. That means the 757 is 42% skinnier. The Boeing 777 is the longest and heaviest of them all.
Spot the Boeing 777
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Length and size are not easy to spot, particularly at an airport where most everything on the ramp is huge. The easiest way to quickly determine whether you’re looking at a 757, 767 or 777 is the tail cone, where the auxiliary engine known as APU sits at the rear of the aircraft. On the 777, the tail cone is chisel-shaped. No chisel? You can eliminate the Boeing 777.
Wheel Count: Does It Have Two Sets of Wheels per Bogie or Three?
The Boeing 757, Boeing 767 and Boeing 777 all have two main landing-gear bogies— the structures under the wings with wheels attached. The Boeing 777, however, has three pairs of wheels on each bogie, while the 757 and 767 have two. The 777 above clearly shows the triple-wheel arrangement.
The Boeing 757: Look for the Skinny Moose with the Pointy Nose
The Boeing 757 comes in two variants, the 200 and the 300. The 300 is the stretched version of the 200. An easy way to tell the difference is that the 300 has two emergency-exit doors over the wings and the 200 has none.
Between the 767 and the 757, the 757 has a pointier nose. The 767 is a touch more bulbous.
The 757 has an unusually high landing gear. It looks a bit like a moose; it is top-heavy with skinny legs. The reason? Boeing originally designed the gear to allow for stretch models of the 757 later down the line, so as to avoid tail strikes on takeoff with a longer fuselage. If you’re spotting a 757 on landing, you might be able to tell that the nose landing gear is further back under the belly of the aircraft than the Boeing 767.
The Boeing 767 Variants
The Boeing 767 comes in the 200, 300, and 400 main variants, distinguished by length. The 300 and 400 are stretch models of the original aircraft, the 767-200 launched in 1982. To tell them apart, the only surefire way is looking at the exit doors. The 767-300 and 400 have emergency exit doors before the wing and after the wing. The Boeing 767-200 has one emergency exit above the wing. And if you can spot it, the 767-300 and 400 each come with a retractable tailskid that was added to protect the tail of these longer versions from damaging tail strikes on takeoff.
Another detail that only the 400 has: raked wingtips.
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You’ll also commonly see 767s referred to with the letters “ER” after the model number, as well; those refer to “extended range,” and ER 767s have no external differences from the standard versions.
A Tough One: The Boeing 767-400 Versus the Boeing 777-200
Each plane is roughly the same length: The Boeing 767-400 is 201 feet long, and the 777-200, the smallest Triple Seven, is 209 feet long. So, what’s the easiest way to tell the difference? First is the tail cone. The 777 will have the chisel-like tail cone. Also, take a quick look at the engines. If they appear to be “small” it’s likely a Boeing 767-400. And of course, the Boeing 777 has two sets of three wheels on its main landing gear, while all 767s have two sets of two.
The Boeing 777-300ER
The biggest difference between regular 777s and the 777-300ER, the biggest of the 777s currently in service, is that the latter features raked wingtips. They aren’t as pronounced as the Boeing 787’s, nor does the wing curve upwards so dramatically.
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The 777-300ER is some 40 feet longer than the 777-200, but that is hard to spot in the air or on the ramp. The wings are your top clue.
Here’s a table summing up the differences between 757s, 767s and 777s:
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Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy
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