American Airlines Is Using Down Time To Rip Out Seat Back Video From Domestic Planes

The first legacy American Airlines Airbus A321 – ship 930, registration N930AU – flew from Mobile to Tulsa on Thursday for ‘Oasis modification’.

That means taking domestic planes and squeezing in more seats with less spacing between them and less padding. That runs counter to the current mantra of social distancing, and misses that the tendency will be much longer lasting than many people realize.

This is a plane that was only just delivered in February 2017. They only got three years out of the current interior, and they’re ripping out seat back video screens in order to give passengers an inferior experience going forward.

The decision to do this – now – is odd on many levels.

  1. Only a handful of legacy US Airways planes have been modified. Those are the beaten up planes that don’t have seat back video or seat power to begin with, so there are some improvements that can be made even putting in less comfortable seats.

  2. American actually said they would prioritize the old ‘basket of deplorables’ legacy US Airways fleet for the retrofit, and wouldn’t take screens out of planes until the very end of the process. They’re reneging.

  3. The airline needs to conserve cash but they’re spending to modify planes they don’t need to fly, to add seats that passengers won’t be filling perhaps for years.

Airbus A321 interior, credit: American Airlines

American isn’t just cramming seats closer together, so that customers will have an even worse experience when they return to the skies, they’re doing it now to planes that have seat back video – even though the airline had promised these planes would be done last.

Some have suggested they’re just taking the long view – they ‘need’ to retrofit these planes, because they aren’t changing their long term plane despite new evidence the world is changing – and it’s better to do it when planes are grounded.

However they aren’t going to need their full fleet for quite some time. And the domestic fleet is going to have the Boeing 737 MAX once it is ungrounded. As far as we know American will even continue to take delivery of more planes. (They’ll offload some older 737s to compensate.)

Oasis Seats

The persistent slack in the fleet would allow them to easily put off retrofits, conserve cash, rather than accelerating. American should be reneging on plans with Collins Aerospace to take hundreds of new seats per aircraft, not doubling down – and not starting with the best domestic planes they have to make them worse.

Not for nothing, but American’s share price began to tumble right as this retrofit project took off and American’s own numbers show they’ve pushed away frequent travelers.

Of course as a soon-to-be partially nationalized airline, it has something in common now with Etihad, owned by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, which is doing massive fleet work on its grounded aircraft: 200 people per shift are replacing seat covers, shampooing carpets, and moving forward work on maintenance checks.

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 »

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  1. Oasis? How can they name this project Oasis? It’s the worst thing for customers they have ever done.

    I have been Planium for years. I used to consider AA the best airline out there, now it’s the worst. They only care about shareholders. The customer comes last.

    I used to pay more to fly AA, now I have no interest in getting on the plane. I have been useing Jet Blue and Southwest more and more.

    My AA days have come to an end, they don’t care about my needs, why should I care about theirs?

  2. Gary Leff really needs a hobby! They are not nationalizing the airlines, wholly or in part, so why put that in an article? Second, why does this man constantly fly an airline he does nothing but bash? He flies coach for work all the time then brags in social media about saving his upgrades for his wife and daughters when he can but then comes on VFTW to be this “guru” and publishes articles with clickbate headlines and half truths that really just drive up his ancillary ad sales. It makes since to drop the weight of the IFE and save on fuel cost, the seats are lighter as well, the “padding” is not changing if you have flown you would know… Stop being a fear monger Gary just to sell ads and credit cards offers in your joke of website. If it’s that bad, take the train.

  3. The Department of the Treasury demanded warrants on Friday in exchange for subsidies – partial ownership – so please get your facts right if you’re going to go on a personal attack diatribe.

    In any case these planes with extra seats often go out weight restricted so tell me more about how this capital spending project is about saving fuel expense?

  4. People criticize AA but honestly with my frequent travels ( 6 hour + flights) I refuse to fly any other airline. They are the most reliable airline and the AAadvantage rewards program is superb. American is almost always on time and prices are affordable. Planes are rather new ( or they are very clean ). I flying over 5k miles a week. I’ve experienced many other airlines and know my way around an airport enough to place AA as one of the worlds best Airlines . They also have a very speedy check in process when checking a bag ( especially when abroad ) . I am a passenger/client based out of miami and love their services here as well. Thank you AA for getting me anywhere I need/want to be

  5. Time to nationalize and/or to VIGROUSLY re-regulate American Airlines! The present CEO, Doug Palmer took 2 people-oriented, award-winning airlines: USAIrways and America West and created the most employee and passenger unfriendly airline in the USA. Even the hedge hopper predecessors Allegheny and Piedmont were better!
    Let the airline go under!! They don’t deserve a bailout!!

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