First Look: Inside American’s New Domestic First Class

When American Airlines launched its plan to cram more seats into Boeing 737s – going from 150 seats before US Airways management took over to 172 seats today – they didn’t just steal space from each coach seat. They shrunk the space each first class passenger got. They put in less padded seats. And all that seemed to matter was that the seat fit the space, not how it actually functioned.

So as American brought new 737 MAX aircraft online, and retrofit old Boeing 737-800s with their new “Project Oasis” interior, everyone started complaining. American listened to the premium passengers, though, who told them about how little thought clearly went into the product. The airline 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.

The Current “Oasis” Domestic First Class Seat

Here’s what the seats currently look like:

Here’s how the seat is currently attached to the floor of the aircraft, leaving almost no underseat storage:

And here’s how the (lack of a) divider looks between the forward cabin and coach.

American’s ‘New’ New Domestic First Class

In their 2.0 Oasis domestic seat they’ve created better under seat storage. They’ve fixed the issues with row 1. And they’ve changed 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).

This is some of what has changed:

Here are the first shots posted online publicly, via legendary AA-leaker Jon NYC.

It’s been pointed out to me that this new divider is what TWA used in the late 1990’s to save spance when they went to 20 first class seats on their MD80s.

This does look like an improvement, especially with first class getting underseat storage, though I don’t expect the seats to be all the much more comfortable and the loss of a couple of inches between seats in first class means the new cabin is less of a premium experience overall than American Airlines used to offer.

What do you think of American’s latest effort?

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. […] The airline densified aircraft, and didn’t even bother doing a mockup of their new domestic cabins before rolling them out. So they were taken by surprise at how much customers – including first class customers – hated them, and how challenging they were for flight attendants. They re-retrofited planes they’d just retrofitted to fix some of the problems. […]


  1. I think enough of American’s effort that I don’t remotely regret my decision to move nearly 100% of my domestic flying to Southwest.

  2. Are you sure it isn’t Premium economy or the big front seat like Spirit ?
    Maybe American decided to do away with First Class?
    Looks cramped with no place to store anything
    Douggy Parker innovation?

  3. Yeah that Premium Economy all day- American American is $hi!Ting but my home airport is PHL so its the only thing I fly lol

  4. Those dividers are a HUGE improvement, DL is using the blue plastic too and it sucks (so why is no one on their case?). They also widen the last first class seat back to limit noise from coach. Keeping the coach under seat storage is a good deal, not really worried about that. Space? can’t tell from these picture of the after, will have to wait and see.

    I like the sliver eagle on the divider, looks more upscale then the blue plastic.

  5. Better cabin divider than the plastic bug deflector, better under seat stowage but largely agree with first comment – lipstick on a pig

  6. Is the first row now a narrower seat than the rest?

    Love the new bulkhead and widened seatback though, a HUGE step up. It only seems odd that they’d only add branding to the front of the bulkhead and not the back as well. Glad they’re starting to remember that they might have a brand, however minute the application of it may be.

  7. @ roundtree I’m glad you made that switch: be sure to enjoy the excellent first class cabin on Southwest! 🙂

  8. Can we just Call this what it is across all US airlines.

    It’s Premium Economy

    This isn’t business. It sure as hell ain’t first. It’s premium economy

    Why do we all fall for the US airlines stupid branding and marketing. It is not remotely first class in any way at all. Not a bit. So we do we call it that?

    “First class” is just their branding and marketing moniker like “upper class” or “Select Class” or “big front seat” or “first class”

    This in every shape way and for is PREMIUM ECONOMY

    On AA, United and Delta

  9. Why is row 1 offset away from the aisle? Did they reduce shoulder space for row 1?

    How will back row recline with that divider right up against?

    The filled in seat looks retro.

  10. Just flew on these seats between PHL and MIA, I say the seats are definitely an upgrade but nothing exciting. The soft product and service is still inconsistent. The forward journey was nice, the stewardess was being proactive taking care of the first cabin passengers well.On the return flight, it was the opposite – typical I dont care much abt your premium experience attitude. Oh well !!

  11. Guessing most people pounding the table and whining haven’t flown “business class” in Europe. Nothing like getting off an LH 747 in F, hanging in the FCT for a few hours, and then getting a Porsche ride to your 29” pitch seat for the next couple hours, lol.

  12. That vinyl curtain and side bolsters on the seats look like a cheap attempt to satisfy the folks who feel a semi transparent divider is insufficient. I wonder how they really feel about the mesh curtain closure on the aisle or the constant romp of people from the lower class coming to use the lav.

    Of the many times I’ve flown in forward cabin l, I’ve never seen anything happen that requires such exclusive privacy. I guess I’m missing something. Try flying up front on BA within Europe. You’ve got it good here in the USA.

    If you want a really nice front cabin, try American’s E-175. I was in it yesterday and it was surprisingly spacious and comfortable.

  13. I’ll take a “cheap attempt to satisfy the folks who feel a semi-transparent divider is insufficient” versus not having anything but the previous mud-flap attempt.

    Call me an elitist, but a proper bulkhead divider (with a curtain, although seems like its never used) is really needed for flights in the USA.

    Too often people in Y are used to the WN “all of us is equal” mentality that seems to dispel with the notion that a lavatory in F is reserved for that cabin. Yeah I get that if there is a cart in the aisle blocking the Y lavs that if you’ve got to go, then you use what’s available. But more often than not its not the case and its just a steady stream of people going back and forth up and down the aisle; with no divider and just a “mudflap” it feels like a NK BigFront seat layout and there is really no distinction between F/Y.

  14. Nothing to move me from buying exit row aisle seat. Even when they offer an upgrade.
    I’m long done paying for this crap.
    I had 3 different first class configs on my most recent trip, and the shortest leg had the old-old first class where the seat slides and you’ve got decent pitch. That’s the only thing I’ll pay for.

  15. My family and I have been AA NONREV for the longest time since my Father worked for AA. I lived and breathed AA and always chose to fly AA over all other US-based airlines. However, this Project Oasis and Project Kodiak has left quite the sour taste in my mouth and has left me yearning for so much more of a sliver of a decent coach and first class travel experience.

  16. It’s American Airlines in name only, really it’s US Airways as people use to know. They clearly have an identity crisis, not sure if they want to be an elite airline like it once was or operate like an low budget airline…with the latest ranking, more like the latter. Since Parker’s experience is running low budget airlines ( America West, US Airways), I doubt he can change!

  17. I really don’t understand the thought process of American. It makes no business sense. They’ve created a low cost carrier product, but continue to charge top tier airline prices.

    I was an American loyalist starting back in the 80s, but saw this coming long ago and got the hell away from them. I’m very happy with Delta now after a brief few years with United.

    The downfall of AA continues.

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