I flew American Airlines for the first time on one of their Boeing 737-800s that’s been converted to a “Project Oasis” interior — meaning it’s been retrofit to have the same lack of legroom and smaller lavatories (but larger overhead bins) as their new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
I wrote only days ago that these are planes to avoid but right now it’s really difficult to do so. You book a flight on a 737, and there aren’t enough ‘new’ 172 seat 737s to know consistently where these torture tubes are going to turn up.
My flight was operated by N805NN, one of the 737-800s that’s fresh out of the shop. Here’s something I didn’t realize but shouldn’t have surprised me. The new planes (1) have more rows of seats and (2) the numbering scheme is different. Instead of rows 3-6 being first class, it’s rows 1-4. And American Airlines didn’t handle the seat re-assignment well.
I’d been booked into seat 6F but there was no more first class row 6 so I lost that assignment. They didn’t just move everyone in the first row (3) to the new first row (1), everyone in the second row (4) to the new second row (2), and so on. Instead I wound up in 1F, a bulkhead window, my least favorite seat. Fortunately 2A was still available.
If you’re flying an American Airlines 737-800 you need to watch your seat assignments because when the airline assigns a tail to your flight — a specific aircraft — it may be one with more seats and a different seat numbering scheme. So you may wind up in a different seat than you thought you had reserved.
Of course that’s not all that’s wrong with the project. I’ve written at length about the new slimline coach seats with less padding and less distance between seats.
However it’s important to point out that even the legroom in ‘Main Cabin Extra’ has been reduced. Those seats now have 33 inch pitch.
And first class has been made materially worse, too. They’ve taken away 3 inches from first class. I was sitting up front and fortunately even with the passenger in row one reclining I was still able to open my laptop.
The tray table didn’t want to stay fully level. It doesn’t stretch all the over to the other armrest for support and it kept falling down at an angle. Even when it was level it bounced around as I typed. And there’s no pivot to the new tables, you have to fold them back up in order to get out and use the lavatory.
There is a bar across the lower portion of the first class seat that protrudes and spent the flight digging into my back.
There’s simply no thought put into these seats. And American wonders why they have a premium revenue problem.
I do have to give them credit for the inflight internet, though faster satellite internet installs are happening on a separate track and faster than the torture tube retrofit. They market a ‘living room experience’ though guests in my living room don’t watch shows on a six inch phone or sit on slimline seats. The internet isn’t as fast as it is at home, either, but it was definitely functional.
Net net I definitely want to avoid these planes, even with the larger overhead bins and faster internet. They’re installing internet on planes much faster than they’re doing retrofits so I hope to fly on old-configuration aircraft with more Main Cabin Extra seats and better pitch in first class. Functional internet is a top priority for me.
However if there’s a swap out for one of these 737-800s with 172 seats instead of the current standard 160, be sure to watch your seats!