Watch Those Seat Changes on American Airlines!

When American changes from a legacy Boeing 737-800 to a retrofitted ‘Oasis’ plane with a different configuration, most passengers keep the same seat numbers even though those seats are completely different.

You might have purchased a premium or Main Cabin Extra seat and won’t be in one of those seats anymore – which largely seems like a fail on American Airlines’ part.

Reader Devin B. writes,

[I]n the past couple of weeks I’ve had 3 cases where I had an exit row seat selected on an American 737 but when I boarded they had changed equipment and I no longer had an exit row. The standard 738-800 exit rows are 14 and 15, but they are 16 and 17 on the new oasis configuration. If they change equipment between those types, then you lose your main cabin extra seat, even if you have status or paid extra for it.

When I am upgraded I always prefer seat 4E on the Boeing 737-800. That’s an aisle seat in the second row. I don’t want the bulkhead (no underseat storage) and I don’t want the last row.

I’m a creature of habit. Recently I wasn’t paying attention, I had seat 4E, so I sat down in the second row of first class as I always do. Only I had sat down in 2E because it was an Oasis’d plane and my assigned 4E was now the last row of first class. Embarrassing!

You can find the ‘tail’ or specific aircraft assigned to your flight about two days prior to departure at And you can look up that specific aircraft at the unofficial American Airlines fleet site. If you’re on a Boeing 737-800 you can see if it’s got 160 seats or 172 seats, if it has the new larger space bins or traditional bins, to tell if you’re on an Oasis’d plane.

You can also just look up the seat map within 24-48 hours of departure to see whether the configuration of your plane has changed, and what kind of seat you’re in. Of course that close to departure there usually aren’t very many options left.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. What is American doing for people who paid for a MCE seat and now are not getting it thanks to the configuration change?

  2. Fortunately We at Unitedless do not have this problem, yet.
    The solution is to always pick the last row.

  3. AA does a lot of things wrong. I don’t like short connections because they stress me out and I don’t want to deal with the hassles of missing the connection due to a late arrival. So I usually book a connection with at least 90 minutes or more but AA often will go and change my connection to a short time (40 minutes?) and then I have to call to get it changed back.

  4. American Airlines; the arm pit of aviation. Spoken by a deceased WW ll CIB bomber pilot’s Son. A combat wounded U.S. Army dog of war.

  5. If they’re keeping seat assignments resulting in people losing exit rows, doesn’t that also mean they’re assigning folks into those exit rows who haven’t accepted the terms and may not be exit row qualified?

  6. I have had this happen twice on family trips where I put the entire family in MCE. In both cases, we were all sent back two rows. It was always the row without a window. So not only did I not get the upgraded seat, I also got the very undesirable seat I would not have selected from the beginning. As you mentioned, this happened so close to departure that I could not reseat all four of us together.

    Possibly the biggest new frustration I have. Especially on the vacation flight for the family that was four hours long.

  7. American Airlines: If you hate Spirit and Allegiant, just wait until you get to experience us!!!

    P.S. Our CEO is drunk.

  8. I feel like this has to be an IT oversight, hopefully it gets corrected.

    I often have a switch from a LAA A321 to a LUS, or visa versa, and find seat changes happen fairly. Exits for exits, and with the smaller MCE, the person who books into it first retains.

  9. That’s if you are lucky to even have a seat. I was supposed to fly Kingston to Miami, Miami to Orlando, Orlando to DCA, but the Miami to Orlando leg of my flight was completely cancelled. After pleading for SEVERAL HOURS on the phone and via Twitter DM, AA finally reinstated my Orlando to DCA leg, but they won’t reimburse me for my car rental expense for the Miami to Orlando leg of my trip.

  10. Almost forget: AA bumped me off first class for the Kingston to Miami and Orlando to DCA portions of my trip to boot

  11. Has happened to us twice with paying for mce and being moved to nmce with NO notification. Have had it!

  12. This has happened to me several times.I now try to book other flights (airbus or regional jets domestic ) and hope for the best. Looking at a seatmap and booking a 737 is not a guarantee that is the location u will have with AA switching metal to the Oasis (a misnomer…) AA has been ruined for long time AA customers since the merger with US AIR.

  13. I am furious at AA for this total cluster. I flew recently into Phoenix and I was surprised to find that instead of a reclining exit that I had booked and confirmed, I had the last seat before the exit which was a no legroom, no reclining seat. A heads-up about an aircraft/configuration change should have been a priority. I am a long-time Executive Platinum with almost three million miles flown, and AA is really pushing me away. They have zero regard for passengers, elite or otherwise. Shame on AA. Shame on them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *