100-149 seat market isn’t ‘Bermuda Triangle’ for the right airplanes

A new study released today by AirInsight concludes the oft-maligned 100-149 seat market is viable, and not a ‘Bermuda Triangle,’ if the right airplane is developed to compete within it.

We’re a co-author of the study, Market Analysis of the 100-149 Seat Segment.

Some aerospace consultants, analysts and observers–as well as Boeing’s Randy Tinseth, VP-Marketing–term the segment a Bermuda Triangle because of airplane “failures” in the market. But the fact is that except for Embraer’s E-Jet, the poorly-conceived British Aerospace/Avro Jets and Bombardier’s pending CSeries, there hasn’t been a clean-sheet design since the 1960s. All other aircraft have been derivatives of older designs and offerings of weak and dying manufacturers.

We need to add the Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100 to the clean-sheet design list, but this falls into the weak OEM category.

Today there are six aircraft types and 15 sub-types from five OEMs. (There were seven and 16 until Tuesday, when Boeing finally dropped the 737-600.)

AirInsight has an analysis of the future of the A319/A319neo and 737-700/737-7 Max here.

Here is a run-down.

Click on images to enlarge.

Airbus A318

The A318, a double-shrink of the A320, is still nominally offered by Airbus, though there hasn’t been an airline sale in years and only the business jet has sold in recent years. This airplane was launched to kill the fledgling McDonnell Douglas MD-95. Airbus doesn’t plan to offer an A318neo and while sharklets may be available at a later date, they’re not yet. The A318 is used by British Airways for London City-New York Service, but other operators (like Frontier Airlines) are already disposing of the airplane and at least one has already been scrapped because no interest is there for re-marketed A318s.


The A319 is one of those extremely rare examples where a “shrink” actually worked well. More than 1,000 A319s were sold. But the airplane is no longer economically optimized with $3 fuel and sales have largely dried up.

Due to bankruptcies, there is a surplus of A319s on the market–and a surprising 350 due to come on the market in the next few years as leases expire. Aircraft values and lease rates are depressed as a result, making the prospect for new orders difficult since a cheap airliner can be had instead–see Allegiant Airlines. We don’t expect many sales going forward for the A319 or its successor, the A319neo.


Airbus launched the neo program when Bombardier beat out Airbus for an order of 40+40 CS300s from Republic Airways.

But the A319neo response hasn’t sold well, with few than three dozen since the launch of the program. The A319neo is about 12,000 lbs heavier than the CS300 (equivalent of about 65 passengers or an Asian elephant) and economically it simply can’t compete with the CS300. On the other hand, if commonality is all-important in a small fleet, the A319neo has a place. The A319neo has a much longer range than CS300, so there remains a niche for long, thin routes that are beyond the capability of the CS300 but which cannot support the A320.

Boeing 737-600

The 737-600 was, until Aug. 7, 2012, nominally offered by Boeing even though there hadn’t been a sale since 2005 and the last one was delivered in 2006. This was Boeing’s response to the MD-95 and it sold even worse than the A318. It’s the same size as the original Boeing 737-200 and the subsequent 737-500. It’s long been economically obsolete. Boeing stubbornly retained the listing as an active product but finally gave it up with the August 7 price update. Still, Boeing won’t officially confirm it’s “discontinued.” How bizarre.


This has Boeing’s baseline 737, but it’s been supplanted by the 737-800 as the preferred model. At December 31, Southwest Airlines accounted for 41% of the backlog. But even Southwest is converting -700s to -800s and we expect many of these orders to be so-converted. Sales of the -700 were tepid in 2011 and so far non-existent in 2012.

We don’t expect there to be many sales at all of this model going forward. Nor do we expect there to be many sales of the -700’s successor, the 737-7 MAX.

737-7 MAX

To be perfectly honest, we’re not sure why Boeing is offering the 7 MAX any more than it makes sense for Airbus to offer the A319neo. Like the A319neo, the 7 MAX is a heavy airplane for what it does. It, too, can’t compete with the CS300; it’s simply not an economically optimized airplane.

Like the A319neo, it has much more range than the CS300, but data shows less than one third of the range capability is typically used, so this largely goes to waste. Like the A319neo, the 7 MAX can become a long-thin airplane where the 737-8 MAX is “too much” airplane. But so far, not one sale for the 7 MAX has been booked and we don’t expect many. Even Boeing says it expects the 7 MAX to, at best, represent 10%-15% of the MAX backlog. We think even this might be generous. The 7 MAX will be the last of the MAXes to enter service; it’s planned for 2019.


What is this “regional jet” doing here? It technically falls within the 100-149 seat market, but it’s really a different airplane (regional vs mainline). Still, it serves a very small segment at the lowest end of the marketplace. It’s more economical than Embraer’s E190, even if the E190 has much more passenger comfort and better range.

But for many operators who are most concerned with economics and who don’t need the range, the CRJ1000 can fill this niche nicely.


The CS100 is the smaller of the two Bombardier CSeries, serving the lowest end of the 100-149 seat segment. It competes against the A319 and 737-600–if, indeed, there were something there to truly compete with–and the E-190. The CSeries economics handily beat Airbus and Boeing and are better than the E-190. The CS100 also has superior airport performance vs the A318 (which is very good), and can do London City-New York non-stop in British Airways-style business class to the A318 requirement for a fueling stop. Forty-one percent of the sales so far have been for the CS100.


The CS300 competes with the A319 and 737-700 class. The economics are superior, though the range is less. Sales vs these two incumbents have been equal or better in 2011 and 2012. Critics unfairly compare sales to the entire Airbus and Boeing single-aisle models instead of just within this segment.

The CS300 is planned to enter service in the fourth quarter of 2014, which will be about two years ahead of A319neo and a full five years ahead of the 7 MAX. This provides a major competitive advantage, assuming the aircraft isn’t late (as with all new airplane programs in recent years, regardless of the OEM).


For those who say the 100-149 seat market is a Bermuda Triangle, they haven’t bother to consider the E-190 and E-190. To be sure, these serve the 100-125 seat segment but as the data shows, sales have been very good.

Embraer proved conclusively that a clean-sheet design actually works.

The E-Jets have proved popular in right-sizing. Although Airbus and Boeing like to talk about the trend up-gauging, the market reality shows than right-sizing down from the A319/737-700 class as well as up-sizing from the RJs makes a viable market.


The pairing with the smaller E-190 with the E-195 gives Embraer  highly successful entries into this market segment. The question is, What’s next? EMB says it will re-engine the E-Jet. What engine? Likely a new wing. Likely new systems. But now, instead of a clean-sheet airplane, EMB will have a hybrid solution of technology that will date to the mid-1990s.

Too little is known about what EMB will do. But it may be fiddling with a winning formula.

In the meantime, EMB has seen sales slow, so an RE may be its only choice.


The final current entry into the 100-149 seat segment is the Sukhoi SSJ100. It’s the first new aircraft after the collapse of the Soviet Union to come out of Russia. It has a lot of Western systems. It’s partnered with Italy’s Alenia to provide product support. But when it’s all said and done, it’s still Russian and product support and quality are still questionable. Launch customer Armavia just announced it’s returning its one SSJ100 for these very reasons. Although initial sales are respectable, 47% come from captive Russian airlines. We doubt SSJ will make much of an inroad into the West. Sukhoi is already talking about a 130 seat SSJ (and so is Japan’s Mitsubishi for the MRJ, which currently stops at 90 seats).

So there you have it–the line up. EMB proves there is a market for an optimally-designed airplane. We expect CSeries sales to take off once the first flight occurs. Airbus and Boeing are largely out of the market. Sukhoi won’t make much of a dent.

The AirInsight report is more than 80 pages and looks at these in more detail, economics and a host of other issues.

18 Comments on “100-149 seat market isn’t ‘Bermuda Triangle’ for the right airplanes

  1. Minor correction for the E190/E195: both a re powered by the CF34-10E, bot the -8E. The -10E essentially has a shrinked CFM56 core with 1 HPT stage, the -8E has a 2 HPT core and a 10 stage HPC.

  2. Excellent analysis and thanks!

    IMHO, the B737-7MAX and Airbus A319NEO offer carriers a “family package”. AA’s order proved that Airbus (and Boeing) need offer a “family” of planes. It also keeps the competitor “honest”.

  3. a group hopefulls still promoting the Fokker jets says the airframe is still the lightest. IMO they would need billions iso millions the make it realistic option. Sofar nobody came up with those and a nose to tail upgrade would be required, including really future proof engines..

  4. Dutchmen are persistent and tough, but not always realistic about new aircraft
    designs after WW II, except for the F-27, while others like the F-50 and F-100
    were heavily subsidized by the Dutch Government, until they got tired of going
    so in the 1980s!
    Before that, they tried to build a new-aircraft in cooperation with Boeing, but
    insisted on being the Leading Partner, when Boeing told them “to go fishing!”
    Before that, they were pioneers in commercial aviation worldwide, with the well-
    known high-wing Fokker Trimotors, which were copied and sold as ‘Ford Tri-
    motors in the US, under license from Fokker.

  5. keesje :
    a group hopefulls still promoting the Fokker jets says the airframe is still the lightest.

    Maybe the lightest among existing airframes. But that would presumably exclude the CSeries fuselage which is made of aluminium-lithium alloy (Al-Li).

  6. There is nothing special about the 100-149 seat segment. The only problem is that it has not been well served for several decades now. All it needs is an efficient modern aircraft.

    If Boeing had developed the 717, instead of protecting the 737, that segment would be a lot healthier than it is right now. But all that is about to change with the CSeries.

    There is a strong requirement in just about any segment. But the market will only support the right aircraft. The 777 was not going anywhere for the first ten years. But with the right modifications and ameliorations it has since become a best-seller. The prior difficulties had nothing to do with the segment itself.

    There is no invisible border between one segment and the following one. It is a continuum which is defined by the products that are offered at any given time. And time is just as important as the product itself. For example if the price of oil would quickly go up beyond $180 a barrel and stay above that figure for a prolong period of time, it would completely change the dynamic of the market.

    In short, what defines the market is the right product, at the right time. There is no mystery there, let alone a Bermuda Triangle.

  7. Regarding – Analysis demonstrates that the typical aircraft mission in the United States, where data is readily available, is 60-120 minutes.

    Similar situation is Europe. The BAC One Eleven, Bae-146/Avro, Trident, Fokker 70/100, Dassault Mercure were designed with than in mind. Hope CS and ERJ will have different fate.

    • Bombardier’s view about range is more in line with Boeing and Airbus than the previous offerings you mention here. What killed the Mercure on the export market is its short range. Dassault used the same reasoning about “typical aircraft missions” and failed miserably. I call that over-rationalization.

      Range beyond typical missions is an important criteria for aircraft operators. That is something the Americans have understood much better than the Europeans historically. But Airbus realized this early and that is why they have been so successful.

  8. The F100 is significantly lighter then the CS100. Possibly because it is a stretch optimized for shorter ranges. Looking at the spec of this “F120” I see it had GTF, a new cockpit etc. A good idea from a technical/ market standpoint, but possibly upping the innitial costs another billion.

    I guess Fokker went down because the government stopped subsidiezing, while the rest of the industry didn’t stop doing so. Embraer being a succesfull exampe of extensive government involvement. Spain replaced the Netherlands as 4th Aerospace power in the EC. Extensively subsidiezed in a dozen ways. And not only Europe, if add up all the R&D funding subsidies and financing in US aerospace we go Galatic. Deepdown eVerybody sees but prefers to see it differently.

  9. I flew on a Southwest 737-800 and thought it was too many people which slowed down a few things and lessened the experience.. I’m hoping Boeing and Southwest will team up on a 737 MAX7 5′ stretch with 149 seats and three lavs. I still think this is the sweet spot in the single aisle market.

  10. @ keesje

    When we compare aircraft models to one another we have to make sure we use to same reference criteria. Before we can say that the Fokker 100 has the lightest airframe we need to know what is compared and how it is compared.

    Empty and Maximum Weight is a good start. We also have to take into consideration the range and of course the capacity.

    Fokker 100
    OEW: 54,000 lb
    MTOW: 101,000 lb
    Range: 1710 nm
    Capacity: 107

    Boeing 717
    OEW: 67,500/68,500 lb
    MTOW: 110,000/121,000 lb
    Range: 1,430/2,060 nm
    Capacity: 117

    OEW: 51,000 lb
    MTOW: 90,000/91,800 lb
    Range: 1,345/1,535 nm
    Capacity: 100

    OEW: ??,??? lb
    MTOW: 121,100/128,200 lb
    Range 2,200/2,950 nm
    Capacity: 110

    I don’t know the figure for the CS100 OEW, but I assume it most be quite low considering that it has a CFRP wing/empennage and Al-Li fuselage. Whatever that figure might be, the capacity and range of both versions will have to be taken into consideration.

    When everything is taken into consideration we can see that the Fokker 100 and Bombardier CRJ1000 are quite similar, except for the fuel burn of course. But the comparison with the CSeries is more difficult because it is in a different class altogether with five different variants.

    • The CS500 I suspect will be produced. Does the wing have enough span to produce maximum efficiency in that class, against the larger span of the NEO and MAX? Is 3-2 seating a bonus or is asymmetric seating an oddity?

      • The bonus is that the centre seat is extremely large for Economy Class. The aisle is also wider than the one in the 737 and even the A320.

        In regards to the wing it depends how the optimization of the various derivatives has been done. On the CRJ series they were able to use the same wing on the CRJ700 and CRJ900, but they needed a new wing on the CRJ1000.

        Like other posters have noticed here before, it is obvious that the CSeries was designed with the CS500 already in the family picture.

  11. Others seem to have picked over any errors with electron microscope vigour, how sad is that.

    So open minded I sat down with a Pussers & Coke in hand & enjoyed a thoroughly informative read of the sector, as ever the inclusion of your own often amusing market relative snippets together with the rum enhanced my experience even further.

    Thank you….

  12. Pingback: Bombardier C Series Unveiled | Back Row Flier

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