Why American Airlines Retired The Fokker 100

It might seem a long time ago, but American Airlines once had a fleet of 75 Fokker 100s. Branded as ‘Luxury Jets’, they were used for 13 years between 1991 and 2004. We take a look at why American stopped using them and how they were used in the final year.

Why American Airlines Retired The Fokker 100
American Airlines operated the Fokker 100 between 1991 and 2003. Photo: John Davies via Wikimedia.

In their heyday, the Fokker 100 had a lower maximum takeoff weight than comparable aircraft, like the Boeing 737-500, but it could carry similar numbers of passengers. This meant stronger economics, but it wasn’t that straightforward.

Operated by American mainline rather than regional Eagle, the Fokker 100 (code: 100) had a two-class configuration. First class had a two-two layout, while it was three-two for economy. That is, except when American used the type from Dallas Love Field to remove Legend Airlines. Then, its 100s had an all-first-class, 56-seat layout.

Speaking in the early 1990s, Robert Crandall, American’s Chairman, said:

“The F100 is a logical complement to our other aircraft, giving us the short-haul capability we have wanted. These 97-seat aircraft give us greater flexibility in scheduling, enabling us to offer jet service in markets where before it has not been economically feasible.”

Why American Airlines Retired The Fokker 100
This example, N1456D, was delivered to American in 1993. Tyrolean/Austrian operated it before it was acquired by Alliance Airlines in 2018. The Australian carrier is using it to this day as VH-UQC. Photo: John Davies via Wikimedia.

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Why were they retired?

A 13-year existence in American’s fleet wasn’t particularly long, especially given it was a standalone sub fleet and had a sizeable number of aircraft. Of course, 9/11 happened, resulting in a big recession and huge financial consequences. This cemented the decision to retire them, also helped by:

  • The bankruptcy of Fokker, the original equipment manufacturer, meaning maintenance costs and lack of support became a problem, especially as the aircraft were used intensively – unlike niche Alliance Airlines in Australia
  • The entry and fast growth of similarly-sized and more modern RJs coming increasingly online on regional airline labor contracts. How could American itself compete against more cost-competitive alternatives?
  • American’s hubs at Nashville, Raleigh Durham, and San Jose all closed, at which the 100 was to provide mainline capacity. Its hub at St Louis also closed, freeing up MD-80s that were redeployed
Why American Airlines Retired The Fokker 100
A lineup of Fokkers at Mojave before being used by other carriers. In the foreground is N1427A, which was operated by American between 1992 and 2004 and was eventually with Avianca Brazil. The registration is now used by an Amazon Air B767F operated by Atlas Air. Photo: Aeroprints via Wikimedia.

A look at the last year of use

In 2004, the year the Fokker 100 was last used, they had just under 24,000 flights, according to aviation data expert Cirium shows. They were very much used from Chicago O’Hare. We recently examined Dallas Fort Worth, which is now American’s largest hub.

Why American Airlines Retired The Fokker 100
This is where American flew the Fokker 100 in the final year of use, with some seeing very few flights. O’Hare to Minneapolis had the most services. Image: GCMap.

22 routes in the final year

Some 22 routes were operated by the F100 in 2004, including to Canada and the Northeast US. They had an average distance of 594 miles. The top-10 routes, ordered by the total number of flights, are shown below. They had over eight in 10 of the type’s flights that year.

  1. O’Hare to Minneapolis
  2. O’Hare – Washington National
  3. O’Hare – White Plains
  4. O’Hare – Newark
  5. O’Hare – Philadelphia
  6. O’Hare – Atlanta
  7. O’Hare – Northwest Arkansas
  8. O’Hare – Detroit
  9. O’Hare – Toronto
  10. O’Hare – Houston Intercontinental

Did you fly the Fokker 100 with American? If so, where did you go, and what are your memories? Do let us know by commenting.

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