American Airlines is in the midst of “Project Oasis” to take the bulk of its domestic fleet – Boeing 737-800s and now Airbus A321s – and give them an interior similar to what they introduced on the Boeing 737 MAX.
- Boeing 737-800s, which had 150 seats before the US Airways merger, are going from 160 seats post-merger up to 172 seats.
- They squeeze in these extra seats by reducing the amount of space each passenger gets, squeezing seats closer together. That’s true across coach, Main Cabin Extra, and first class.
- Since the seats are closer together they’re using rock hard “slimline seats” with less padding since less padding takes up less space. They’re also shrinking the size of lavatories, and they eliminated the bulkhead wall between first class and coach.
- These seats get no seat back video screens, the planes will all be watch content on your own device. Old US Airways planes at least get seat power in the process.
American had paused the project because of several problems. In the spring they discovered poor quality conversion work by Aviation Technical Services.
- Overhead bin issues were being reported on aircraft and when they were inspected mechanics found bolts missing and half-tightened and zip ties used to hold things in place.
- I’m told that life vest compartments were installed upside down and as a result the compartment doesn’t come all the way open.
- In addition wiring was run improperly from the E&E compartment (electrical and electronic) aft of the cockpit.
This story got buried by the grounding of the 737 MAX. That was another reason for pausing the project. They couldn’t take Boeing 737s out of service for weeks at a time during the peak summer season while being down 24 737s while unable to fly the MAX.
During that time the airline finally came to grips with customer-facing problems in the retrofits. They committed to fix some of the dumb design elements in the first class seat which left it, among other things, with almost no underseat storage. After a huge capital outlay they were going back to spend on fixes that were obvious to everyone the first time they sat down in the MiQ seat.
American Airlines MiQ First Class Seats
MiQ First Class Seats Are Attached to the Aircraft in a Way that Prevents Use of Underseat Space for Storage
Well even without the MAXs back in service American is sending 737-800s in to be retrofit with the new ‘Torquemada’ interiors. That means flights being pulled out of the schedule, attributed to MAX cancellations, are in some cases really being removed so that the airline can densify interiors with less room for each passenger.
What’s more the ‘fixes’ to first class don’t appear to have been certified yet. That means American is spending money to put the problematic seats in, only to have to rip them out spending money to replace them again later. That’s almost the definition of insanity.
Boeing 737-800 ship 3GS has already been in for retrofit. Ship 3GT is at Greesnboro for Oasis retrofit now, having flown there on Thursday. It’s expected to return to service on October 17. They’re putting in first class seats they’re going to rip out again in a year.
American Airlines shares,
We currently have one 737 and one A321 in for the original modification. The second round of mods, with the changes to First Class based on customer feedback that we outlined last month won’t begin until early next year.
We are restarting the original modifications in order to more quickly install items like larger overhead bins and in-seat power at every seat in more aircraft – items that our customers have told us are most important to them. This will also help us to standardize the fleet, minimizing seating disruptions when aircraft swaps take place.
These modification lines have been planned into the schedule, so we are not disrupting customer travel by removing the aircraft from service.
In fact, pushing forward with the modifications increases the chance that an aircraft swap will cause seating disruptions. Over 70% of the airline’s Boeing 737-800s are in 160-seat configuration today. Adding more 172 seat-configured planes means a greater likelihood that when a swap occurs customers get moved from their currently-assigned seats.
Furthermore it’s absolutely false to suggest that Boeing 737-800s lack seat power today. And while customers may like bigger overhead bins, they do not like less padded seats that are crammed closer in together.