What's the future of the 100-seat aircraft? It seems to me the airline industry is in an uncomfortable position right now in regards to this very important size plane. I fly a lot of routes in the Northeastern USA that have old 100-seaters--732's, DC-9-30's, F-100's. This size a/c has been a mainstay in the NE USA since the 1960's. Traffic patterns suggest the market should still be strong. Please forgive me if this topic has been discussed before, but I don't recall any headers that suggest such.
The options aren't attractive. The 717 is an outstanding performer, but it's a stepchild. There are no 125 and 150-seat family versions in the offing. The Boeing 737-600 is part of a popular 100-125-150 seat family, but it hasn't sold at all in the USA. From what I read, the 736 is too heavy and its operating costs too high to step in easily for its 100-seat predecessors.
Airbus dawdled for years before offering the 100-seat A318, which will round out the bottom of an excellent 125-150-175 seat family. But the A318 isn't even going to fly til next year--and its economics may or may not be workable, according to Aviation Week.
Finally of course we have the Canadair and Embraer 100-seaters just over the horizon--the CRJ-90-200 and the Embraer ERJ-90. But these a/c will have commonality with regional a/c the oligopoly carriers don't own. After the Comair pilot strike, the Six Families aren't going to want any more entanglement with their regionals than necessary. Owning a/c whose type commonality is with regional rather than mainline a/c may no longer be attractive.
Would majors really want to surrender 100-seat capacity, a sizeable portion of their traffic, down to the regionals? And one can only imagine what ALPA would think of the majors farming 100-seat ops down to regional carriers. More fireworks than the holiday we in the USA will celebrate tomorrow.
So where is the 100-seater going? What can we pax look forward to in the next five years?