American Is Now Retrofitting 737s AGAIN To Fix Poorly Thought Out First Class Cabin

The original retrofit of Boeing 737-800s to match the new 737 MAX interior – more seats with less padding, less room between seats, bigger overhead bins and smaller lavatories – was called “Project Oasis.”

American calls it a success because customer feedback (likelihood to recommend scores) is no worse for these planes, that lack seat back video, than for the old US Airways narrowbodies which lacked extra legroom coach seats and offered little legroom in first (and also had no seat back video).

I call it a shocking failure because brand new planes (the MAX) and planes with new interiors, and enough bin space for everyone to bring on a bag don’t cause passengers to want to recommend the airline materially more than before. When US Airways management took over American Airlines, Boeing 737s had 150 seats. They quickly added 10 seats, and this project adds another 12.

Project Oasis Economy

There’s one place where even American admitted the project failed: first class was awful. They put in seats that were less padded, without seat back video, and with less legroom that didn’t even have standard usable underseat storage space.

Oasis Underseat (Lack Of) Storage

American created ‘Project Kodiak’ to tweak first class: Fixing row 1’s legroom, fixing underseat storage, improving separation between first and coach, and adding tablet holders and USB power to first class.

Project Oasis First Class Seat – Bare Bones MiQ

So-Called Divider Between First Class and Coach

That project is now underway with several planes in for a ‘Kodiak’ refit, both planes that had never gotten a refit before and refits of planes that had already received an ‘Oasis’ refit.

One surprise is that it appears there’s a plane with seat back video in for retrofit, ripping out TV screens. American had previously said that these planes would receive their retrofits last so that customers could keep screens as long as possible. That appears not to have been accurate.

Meanwhile they continue to retrofit planes with ‘Oasis’ first class that will then need to be retrofit again

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. Just did a round trip cross country in a new American A321. Got upgraded on the way out using 500 mile upgrade stickers (second time ever in 30 years of flying with AA, nearly 150 of these things in my account).

    First class is genuinely a joke. The seats are not only cramped but they seem extremely cheaply made, like something you would buy at a furniture store in a college town and use in your dorm for a year then throw out because it’s not worth lugging home.

    On the other hand service was friendly (though extremely infrequent) and the breakfast eggs and muffin were actually quite good.

    Economy in row 23 (no seat in front) with the middle seat empty was more comfortable than “first” class.

  2. What is it with these airlines that they can’t get the design right the first time? Don’t they have a team of test subjects, or can’t they recruit members of the general public (and pay them) to trial the profile seats every day, over the course of a week? Give these faux passengers a carry-on, a big purse or backpack, a coat, and tell them to sit in the seat for a half-dozen hours. Ask for their input and listen to it.

    Really I think the design execs just plop their butts into a seat (like bouncing on a mattress in the mattress store) for a minute or two and say, “feels okay to me, I’ll take it”.

  3. American: you can eliminate either seat back screens or power outlets at the seats but not both.

    Alternatively, add a section to American Way called “Spoilers” that would tell you the ending of every movie in the entertainment system. The guy next to me on my last AA flight was 10 minutes from the end of his movie (which I couldn’t help watching), the action was going down fast and furious and suddenly his screen went blank and showed the battery symbol, leaving us both wondering whether the hero survived.

  4. Delta has the same under seat stowage problem with A220 MiQ seats in first and the lack of much of a divider between first and coach. The lack of divider gives the DL A220 first row of coach more legroom than first. If Delta does not fix under seat stowage, then DWDD means AA will have to go back to Oasis arrangement.

    AA scheduling 737s with video last for Oasis acknowledges passenger preference for video screens. But I thought AA’s position was passengers prefer using their own devices.

  5. It’s a mystery who thought the oasis first class layout was ok. No power?!?! Do they think laptops magically recharge while you hang out at the gate? Sighs… makes me miss the old “cigarette lighter” power ports.

  6. Duggy has Really made a mess with his cabins. What’s next? Squeez another row into J?

  7. It’s pathetic with these well thought out projects names for something so horrible. All of this is bonehead management and as always, it is money first (remember Boeing?)!

    So, basically, we are screwed, if you need to fly American!

  8. Andy 11325… The first class seats do have power outlets, both conventional AC plug and USB… The new outlets being added refer to an additional outlet at each seat, installed in the seatback near the tablet holder, that provides for more convenient charging of the device in the holder.

  9. I just got off an A321 with PTVs … with a useless broken headphone jack for me. And the passenger behind me jabbing the back of my seat repeatedly for half the flight.

    The sooner they go away the better.

  10. I agree with SeanNY2. First on AA is a joke. I would also add that on AA’s regional aircraft, the window in first doesn’t even align with the rows. Several times, I had no window. All in all, how many people like to pay more, and get less?
    I’ve been using Frontier and purchase all seats in a row. Even with all the add-ons, it’s still less than a FC seat on AA. Not only do I have tons of room, but there’s no one sitting next to me. I do this on DL in basic economy too.

  11. Regardless of what Boeing or any of the airlines do now, after all that has happened and been discovered, as far as I am concerned, any airplane with the number 737 is as jinxed as if it was numbered 131313. I’m not getting on it!

  12. I’m amazed this is even happening. You don’t need more overhead space. What you need is to grow a pair and limit the carry-on. People carry these “carry-on” luggage that’s bigger than it should be and you guys say nothing. Unless you can prove you travel for business. Guess what…check your freaking bags. This is why they are doing this. People don’t wanna check bags. They wanna be comfortable so instead of putting a bag under the seat in front of them they put in the overhead bin. Now we have to pay MORE for LESS.

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