Seat economics will dictate the future of 100-seat aircraft in American Airlines' fleet.

"There is room for a 100-seater – we have 20 of them," said the airline's vice-president of fleet planning Peter Warlick earlier this month, at a delivery ceremony for American's first Embraer 175 in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil.

Warlick was referring to the 20 E190s – with 99 seats – operated by American subsidiary US Airways.

The aircraft are largely concentrated at the airline's Philadelphia hub and operate a number of routes, including the Washington National-New York LaGuardia-Boston shuttle, Flightglobal's Innovata schedules show.

"As those aircraft age, it will be a question of whether, at that point in time, the economics are to the point that support a 100-seat aircraft or do we need to go larger in order to get the seat economics," says Warlick.

A larger aircraft could be the Airbus A319, which American configures with up to 128 seats.

The next generation of 100-seat aircraft includes the Bombardier CS100, scheduled to enter service in the second half of the year, and the E190-E2, to enter service in 2018. Both have geared turbofan engines and offer superior economics over current-generation aircraft.

Asked whether Embraer Commercial Aviation president Paulo Cesar Silva was trying to sell American any E2s, Warlick joked that Silva had just been trying to do this during the delivery ceremony.

The question of additional 100-seat aircraft in the fleets of US mainline carriers has arisen following the success Delta Air Lines has had introducing to its fleet 88 Boeing 717-200s with 110-seats.

The shift from regional jets to the 717 has been cited by executives at the Atlanta-based carrier as helping reduce costs and increase revenue, thanks to the additional seats and ancillary fees the carrier can charge on the larger aircraft.

United Airlines said in October that it was buying two used Boeing 737-700s to replace some of the regional jets leaving its feeder fleet, and that it was looking at additional opportunities, including the E190.

American could add more regional jets with 76 seats, including the Bombardier CRJ900 or E175, to its feeder fleet if it were to expand its mainline narrowbody fleet. Such an expansion could include additional 100-seat aircraft.

Warlick cautions that no new mainline aircraft orders are likely soon, because of the high number of deliveries the airline already has scheduled.

Fort Worth, Texas-based American expects 74 mainline aircraft deliveries – or about one every five days – and 50 regional aircraft deliveries in 2015, its latest fleet plan shows.

Source: Cirium Dashboard