Bizarre: American Airlines Spending Now To Add Seats To Planes, Only To Spend More To Re-Do Them

With air travel at an all-time low and with a new premium being placed on extra space between passengers, I’ve failed to understand American Airlines moving forward with ‘Project Oasis’.

They continue to spend money they do not have in order to squeeze more seats onto planes that they cannot sell. American is densifying aircraft to prepare for a future in which passengers demand the ability to buy more space for themselves.

American is even reducing the number of ‘extra legroom’ (i.e. more distanced) coach seats, and reducing the amount of space between first class seats too, all while installing uncomfortable ‘slimline’ seats with less padding – right as they are going to have to compete more than ever before to attract customers because planes aren’t going to be full for awhile.

As perplexing as it is to continue capital spending burn on this project at this time, it’s even stranger perhaps that they are continuing to invest in ‘Project Kodiak’ which gives firs class better under seat storage; better seat cushions; pop out drink holders; fixes issues with row 1; and changes the color of the divider between first class and coach, bringing it down further so that it is below the top of the first class seat in row 4 (there is still no bulkhead between the cabins).

The original Project Oasis seating is flawed. It’s almost as though no one sat in the seats before signing off on an investment to retrofit their entire narrowbody fleet and call it their new standard domestic product. So they have ‘Project Kodiak’ meant to at least improve first class on these planes.

  • They run through a full Project Oasis retrofit, including installing a new flawed first class
  • And then run through Project Kodiak, ripping out the new first class to put a new one back in.

That process makes little sense in normal times. It makes even less sense in 2020. And yet they are continuing Project Kodiak retrofits now as well. Boeing 737-800 N901NN just completed its Kodiak retrofit.

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. It has been many times before how does Parker keep his job? The board of director need to wake up and fire Parker!

  2. They could at least prioritize the LUS A321 fleet to get power and a proper MCE to all those seats vs make a mediocre 737 worse.

  3. Umm. might want to check your facts. . .current Oasis are going through Kodiak; future Oasis are getting the new first class seating arrangement. Also, they are getting money from the supplier over the faulty seats. The Oasis pitch is the same (better IMO) than DL or UA already has on it’s planes. A fact that you continue to skip.

    BTW. . .you have run this same story for several months now. This horse has been beaten to death, move on.

  4. AA has the most debt among its US-based peers, one of the lowest customer satisfaction, subpar profit margins pre-Covid, and is burning $50+ million per day. So lets spend money to squeeze more seats on our planes (which probably won’t get filled), spend more money to fix them, cut space and perks, and cut elite benefits (when we need our elites more than ever).

    Makes no sense. Parker must go.

  5. AA is the most poorly postioned US airline. The have the worst margin per seat mile in the industry. Their answer to that is to squeeze more seats on. There should be a complete federal takeover of this airline.

  6. I have to believe that AA Leadership is steering the airline towards a Chapter 11 filing in the Fall. Nothing else makes sense. Their debt load will be too burdensome to manage. And decisions like continuing Projects Oasis and Kodiak prove the airline doesn’t have an effective strategic plan to deal with the future. I don’t see how they can move forward beyond CARES Act requirements without a bankruptcy filing.

  7. I’ve been very loyal to AA for many years (2MM & longtime EXP), but have been increasingly unhappy with the airline. Oasis will likely be the final straw for me (even the name is absolutely insulting).

    In fairness, UA seems MUCH worse but look who’s running it (former AA exec & Parker underling).

    So, I’ll be watching Delta and AA to see who wants my business more – comfortable planes, good service, loyalty program.

    I’d honestly like to stick with AA, but Oasis is taking it too far – and simply a tone deaf project to continue considering the current environment for many reasons…

  8. Thank heavens I sold all my AA stock some time ago.
    It looks like Parker is the corporate equivalent of Adam Schiff.

  9. @Jake – Much worse, Trump. Schiff is intelligent, eloquent, and can read.

  10. Excellent overview! Doug Parker and his management team are oblivious to reality! Continuing with Project Oasis is unwise in today’s environment and years to come. The public is more conscious of the coronavirus threat and absolute need for social distancing. Doug Parker and his team have severely damaged American’s reputation with their ill-advised densification programs and other unfriendly consumer endeavors. Let’s not forget the company’s sad relations with its unions! Where is American’s Board of Directors?

  11. @sunviking82 — Gary is trying to be the CNN of American Airlines news.

    Of course, even if you knew nothing about this project — but knew something about how AA is run — you’d know Gary’s version of the facts is incorrect. AA has a management team known for being frugal. They used that frugality at America West to manage themselves to profitability — and take over 2 much bigger airlines — during the 9/11 crisis. And now we’re supposed to believe they’re wildly and foolishly spending money on seats? Um, it’s easier to believe in Santa Claus.

  12. Greed is taking over common sense – how can we have social distancing on a plan when space between passages is almost nonexistent!!!
    They’ll be more fights on planes – we’re already up the other persons nose on the flight!!! Dumb and dumber doesn’t even cover it, American Airlines you should think of your passengers health -that’s how global viruses travel- wake up!!! I will not be flying any planes until this virus has been eradicated because nobody wants to sit for two hours with a mask on!!! Wake up- Who wants to travel with somebody’s elbow in their side as it is now-This happened to me

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