American Airlines President: Squeezing More Seats Into Boeing 737s Is “A Real Success”

At the final ‘Crew News’ employee forum of the year a pilot asked American Airlines President Robert Isom about ‘oasis’ cabin modifications and how that relates to the Boeing 737 MAX’s return to service.

American unveiled a new cabin interior with the 737 MAX and has been retrofitting their existing fleet of Boeing 737-800s with this new interior. They paused this retrofit when the MAX was grounded, not wanting to take additional planes out of service. The retrofit program has restarted even though that means American has to cancel more flights than they otherwise would have as a result of the MAX grounding.

“Project Oasis” retrofits mean:

  • Less legroom and less underseat storage space in first class, harder seats with less padding, and the elimination of the cabin divider between first and coach.
  • Fewer Main Cabin Extra seats, and the ones that remain have less space than before and less comfortable chairs.
  • Tighter coach than ever before, with just 30 inches from seat back to seat back. American compensates for reduced space by also reducing padding in the seats and reducing seat recline.
  • Squeezing more seats in, partly by reducing the space between seats and partly by shrinking the size of the lavatories, one American Airlines pilot called these new lavatories the most miserable experience in the world.

In addition to less comfortable seats with less legroom, American is installing bigger overhead bins. That way the plane can hold one full-sized carry on bag per passenger, reducing boarding delays by reducing how often customers have to gate check their bags and the time passengers spend hunting for bin space. The new standard also means that passengers won’t have seat back video screens, either.

Before US Airways management took over American’s Boeing 737s had 150 seats. US Airways management took that up to 160 seats five years ago. This new configuration squeezes in two more rows to bring the total seats up to 172.

American Airlines President Robert Isom told employees that there are currently 72 planes with this new interior and that by summer 2020 they will have reconfigured 150 with Oasis.

And, he says, customers like the new Torquemada configuration,

[C]ustomer feedback, there are some changes we’re going to be making around the first class cabin, but in the coach cabin…those have been met with a lot of nice response from our customers and one that we view as a real success.

It should be no surprise that in the echo chamber of the American Airlines C-Suite no one can hear the passengers scream. That’s why, after a horrible 2019 operationally and financially, the American Airlines strategy is to stay focused on doing the exact same things.

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. All I want for Christmas is for these clowns to be forced to fly their own domestic economy offering.

  2. I really don’t think most people cares about this.

    Sure, tall people of the country will scream, but average height of this country is just 5ft 9.

    No seat back video is a real bummer, and that will turn off people for sure.

  3. @Adam L. +1. They should also be required to take their family along to “enjoy” this wonderful product.

  4. These guys should be politicians. “…lot of nice response from our customers…” Way to manipulate the facts there, buddy. A few customers saying something positive about Oasis, which are extreme outliers, isn’t a “nice response.”

  5. I’ll be honest. I actually enjoy the seats more than the ones with the seat back entertainment from a pure seat padding perspective. I can’t really explain why since they have less, but I’ve flown enough aircraft this year to notice on both types. The one bummer is seatback video. If they could somehow add that in using a system like delta (wireless tablet system) I would love that.

  6. Outside of bloggers, pretty much no one cares or realizes. American is simply a terrible company, poorly run from the top down. Their lack of financial success has nothing to do with Oasis configurations

  7. Flew one of these for 4 hours. Never again. Flight attendant recommended I put on an apron before using the toilet since the sinks are tiny and water goes everywhere! Seat cushions were miserable as was leg room. And what happened to those evacuation tests they were having to revamp?

  8. “those have been met with a lot of nice response from our customers and one that we view as a real success.” – Have to wonder who they talked to? Probably people that have never flown before or never have flown anything but domestic US airlines. The only thing that is going to stop AA from making these flights worse and worse in order to pad their pockets is having actual competition from other airlines.

  9. So basically they have almost completed the conversion to LCC status. I really want to love AA but they don’t seem to want to love anyone back.

  10. @Chris 50% of US men are below 5’9″ and 50% are above. In fact 25% of US men are above 5’11”; 10% above 6’0.5″. What is more interesting is the average shoulder width (50% percentile) is 18.5″ meaning over half the men are over hanging their seats. In 1962 the distance from the buttocks to the knee was 24.5″. People are taller now, that is a 50% percentile number as above; the 30″ pitch includes seat thickness.

    Not much space to move.

  11. As a customer with over 2.5 million miles on AA, I am puzzled by the CEO’s remarks about nice comments in regards to the Oasis configuration. How seriously out of touch with reality he is…… nobody I know likes this configuration. In fact most of us avoid AA flights with this configuration.

  12. I will tell you i had the opportunity to experience the Oasis configuration. I was in a window seat and thought I would sleep through my flight from ord to lga. Talk about hell, I only experienced so slight claustrophobia walking through a submarine on a tour however being trapped in this flying shit wagon of a plane configuration is criminal. I ended up digging a laptop out and paying for the WiFi so I could take my mind off the conditions by texting people. American if you think this is a good idea stick your board in one of these flying hell boxes and have some dousche recline into you. Then go flying for two hours.

  13. I bet their do get good reviews relative to MD 80’s. People like the new plane smell and large overhead bins.

  14. “Torquemada Configuration…”

    LOL – oh @Gary, this was the best thing I’ve heard all day!

    Good one, dude. And Happy Holidays!

  15. While Gary’s hatred of Oasis knows no limits, Isom is not lying when he says that customers like the plane. The aircraft is perfectly fine in coach; the design of the seat actually yields improved legroom. The much larger “space bins” are definitely valuable to customers. This bathroom stuff is just absolute nonsense: this design is becoming the industry standard for narrowbody lavs and it’s just fine. If you don’t fit into this bathroom, you’re not going to fit into a standard coach airline seat. The name of the game is revenue, and this aircraft increases revenue. If anyone should complain, it’s flight attendants, who lose their roomy back galley. But since they don’t really serve meals from that galley anymore, it’s hard to say they need the additional room.

  16. @chopsticks – that’s simply not true, by American’ own internally-reported data (likelihood to recommend scores). Those are no higher on an Oasis plane than an LUS Airbus without seat power.

  17. The traveling Public wants First Class travel, full meal services, lot’s of legroom, free this, free that. We want it all. The problem is, we want it all for $25.00 round trip. We don’t want to pay the real cost of flying. Yes, I sound like an airline employee. I used to be one. That was a while ago with a company who gave what the Customers wanted. They went bankrupt. You can’t have cheap fares and full amenities folks. It’s not cost Realistic or Cost effective. We all wanted deregulation. But it’s exactly like every business. You get what you pay for.. .

  18. If I can’t fly on an Airbus, then I don’t fly at all. Superior comfort to Boeing planes. Period.

  19. I have a booked flight on American for the coming week but after this I will make a point to not fly American ever again. This is nuts. The seats are already so small you can’t move and for flights over 8 hours it’s unbearable.

  20. These seats are an abomination. Really uncomfortable, feel like you are sliding forward and the hard seat back really hurts your knees if you are anything over 5′ 10″.

    The most uncomfortable flight of my life! I had to stand up in the end as I could not near it. Maybe 10″ in front of me -barely enough room to open a soda can.

    When I complained to customer service after the flight the lady at the desk encouraged me to write in and complain because many customers are complaining and supposedly many of the crew hates the format.

    I fly at least twice a week and American was my go to carrier. Not so much anymore. Will vote with my feet. Southwest and Delta are my new preference.

  21. EP member here. If I have to be forced to fly on one of these Oasis planes, I’ll switch over to United. They already matched my status. AA already makes a ton of money. Stop trying to alienate your most loyal customers.

  22. Funny how Alaska and UA have the SAME EXACT layout, but they don’t get the negative coverage AA gets

    Gary – you’re an AA loathing LOSER – GET A LIFE

  23. Had one trip I was miserable, all three passengers had laptops open and they did not have room for them plus restroom trips and services interferred with everyone in the asile seats.

  24. @Joe – Why spew such hate and false information? So unnecessary. Why not be constructive in your opinion vs a personal attack?

  25. This is definitely not good for seniors, especially in long flights. As it is now, just getting out of your window seat the restroom is a ordeal. AA is not going to bey first choice anymore

  26. Actually compared to a LUS plane without power, oasis is great. Especially from CLT. Have flown on 2 Oasis’d 321s and appreciate the extra 4 FC seats and power. Yes I do wish they put in the seatback video. But we will take the planes with power as a novelty from CLT.

  27. Where do these comments come from, is AA paying them to say nice things? Oasis is THE. WORST. AIRCRAFT. CONFIGURATION. EVER. Isom is smoking crack.

  28. I flew F on this MIA-SFO & IMMEDIATELY sent an email to AA Customer Service complaining how uncomfortable the seat was. The woman next to me, a stranger, also thought the seats were rigid & uncomfortable. I have booked connecting flights vs. non-stop to avoid A-321 with this product.

  29. I have over a Million Miles on American and was Platinum or whatever is the highest level they recently invented for over a decade. I have essentially abandoned any use of this POS airline. What a joke they have become under the current leadership. Please change your name! I don’t even want this “airline” to share the name with my citizenship.

  30. Looks like a lot of AA people responding here. Too much disparity, methinks.
    Never have I seen so many people write in with compliments rather complaints. Are they really unaffiliated? Hmmmm.
    Oh well. Looks like I’ll be flying JB regularly, again.

  31. I’m platinum on United, and recently had to fly AA for the first time. I was on one of those new planes. I will never fly AA again. It was a horrible experience in so many ways. The gate staff were completely chaotic, the crew was surly, and the plane was uncomfortable. And I thought it was rather expensive.

  32. I flew AA twice now, as Delta flights were full. Both times, the seats were very uncomfortable and didn’t recline back hardly at all, making for an uncomfortable 4 hour trip. The room between the seats is very claustrophobic, even for me at 5’2”. The flight attendants were not professional nor polite nor friendly. I will not fly AA again!

  33. Good gosh folks, stop flying, I mean stop, stop, flying period. If you must, go, if not stop, stop flying in those cattle cars with wings. Drive, take the train, buy a motor home or van life it. Private jet may be an idea, price may well worth it check it out. These airlines think of us as sheep to be herded with no voice to speak back.

  34. When reading about this new configuration i thought i was reading about Spirit airlines. I guess AA should change their name to the. SPIRIT# 2

  35. Complete BS! Not a passenger with any sense of reality or legs or a spine will appreciate the awful seats. When in ‘first’ on these planes I have use the blanket as a cushion for my back as the seats really are quite terrible. And I still do not understand why in ‘first’ there is zero under seat storage considering there is no IFE boxes to deal with. I use the term ‘first’ as it’s really coach slightly plus really. Still, the seats are wider than pure cattle so I guess that’s something at least.

    These planes are such a shame. And the 757s and 767s with a big gigantic hole where the screen should be is nothing more than an embarrassment. I mean really an embarrassment.

  36. I just told my 9 year old son that AA is packing 172 people in a plane that used to hold 150 persons by reducing the pitch between seats. He just said “what? That is just wrong!”

    Perhaps AA’s management should go to an elementary school, expose their great ideas and get some common sense feedback.

  37. I am never flying AA anytime soon……i was uncomfortable and claustrophobic on two occassions on AA. I promised that this will never happen to me again. There os absolutely no consideration for the customers’ comfort and wellbeing.

  38. Piedmont, US Air, Allegheny, America West…all under Doug Parkers reign. All great airlines until he and his team got ahold if them.

  39. LHR being my base, I fly American Airlines to the USA since I have SWU. I only fly international flights on AA. In October, I flew domestically with American Airlines as it’s been at least three years. OMG!! What a major disappointment. The new “US Airways” is pathetic and such a disgrace.

  40. I just got off of a321 NX from Dallas to Phoenix I was flying business class there was no leg room I might as well just pay for economy

  41. May as well fly Spirit. Have a better experience, won’t lose your bag, and you’ll actually get there on time. Oh, and it’s a LOT cheaper.

  42. First, to all the people saying the executives should ride in those seats.
    Executives and their families fly in private aircraft, so the chances of them flying in first class is about zero.
    Second, it’s interesting that all the cheerleader comments are obviously company posts, or shareholder posts, executive posts and more likely just bots (they’ve tweaked the software to the point it actually does read as legitimate). They all read very similar to each other.
    The major problem are shareholders.
    They expect to make more than they did last quarter, and they expect it every quarter,
    If they don’t see an increase, they see it as losing money (investors minds are very simple).
    So, if there isn’t a bigger dividend check every three months, something is obviously very wrong, and that’s when the CEO’s get nervous, so they look for ways to generate more profit.
    More profit means happy shareholders and it also means a performance bonus for the CEO’s.
    The fact that the people they rely on for those profits are being screwed over is unimportant, they simply expect the plebes to pay up.
    You’ll notice that greed isn’t considered a sickness or mental illness even though it most certainly is.

  43. Nobody even mentions the people who are “oversized” and have to buy 2 seats. If an average person cant use the bathroom..what is someone bigger than average to do ? Wear a diaper ?

  44. Sadly, the current management and Board of Directors at AA seems to think that if they repeat the fantasy they tell themselves that everything is going according to plan enough times, magically everything will turn out to be as they wished it to be so everyone will eventually believe them – you know, just like the folks over at Boeing who kept insisting the 737 MAX would be flying by: May, June, July, August, “Early 4th Quarter 2019”, early December, “for sure by year’s end…”

    Uh-huh, American.

    Guess they’re NOT bothering to read the withering criticism by industry experts in mainstream media & bloggers, and passengers alike in places like Seatguru, Trip Advisor, etc.

    Proving yet again that “Denial is much more than a river in Egypt.”

    Yep, right behind Boeing there’s American Airlines in desperate need of new management and a new Board of Directors.

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