Great News: American Suspends 737 “Refresh” Program

Filed Under: American

American Airlines has gotten a lot of flak for the way in which they’ve been configuring their narrow body aircraft.

This started with the Boeing 737 MAX, as American configured these with more seats than the 737-800. As a result, American’s cabins are not only tighter, but the seats are also quite uncomfortable. In particular in first class the new seats are much less comfortable than the old ones.

American’s 737 “Oasis” cabin

While the 737 MAX planes were delivered with these new seats, American has also been in the process of reconfiguring the rest of their 737-800s with these less comfortable cabins (the project is known as “Oasis”), resulting in the seat count being increased from 160 seats to 172 seats. Here’s how to tell if you’re on an Oasis 737.

American’s 737 “Oasis” economy class cabin

American suspends 737 retrofit project

American Airlines president Robert Isom has today confirmed that American has stopped their Boeing 737-800 refresh program, and is putting it on hold until 2020. So far American has reconfigured 71 of their 737-800s (American has 304 737-800s).

The reason American is putting this project on hold? Due to the 737 MAX groundings, as well as due to maintenance tech issues with the planes.

It’s logical enough that American is already down about two dozen 737s due to the MAX groundings, so they don’t want to ground even more planes to be reconfigured, especially with the busy summer travel season ahead of us.

American 737-800

Is there more to this, though?

While putting this project on hold over the summer makes sense, the fact that this is on hold until 2020 makes me believe there may be more to this story.

There have been significant rumors regarding American possibly reconsidering the strategy they’ve been using for a while:

American’s 737 “Oasis” first class seats

It sure seems to me like American is at the point where they need to change up their strategy. Their stock isn’t doing well, and their current strategy isn’t delivering the way they had hoped.

Personally I feel like it’s highly likely that American management soon turns a corner, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that includes reconsidering their 737 strategy.

So while the immediate reason here might be to keep planes in service during the busy summer season, I think there’s more to it. I’d be surprised if 737-800s are actually reconfigured with Oasis interiors in 2020.

What do you think — is American just temporarily putting this project on hold for the rest of the year, or is this part of a shift in strategy?

  1. Continue to vote with your wallets. Send a message to management that these “enhancements” will not be tolerated at this once great airline.

  2. 1. Can i fly an AA 321 or another aa flight with IFE? If yes i book.
    2. If no then search on southwest or another airline.

    Keep the TVs

  3. This is absolutely GREAT news. Oasis has been an absolute negative for American. You can’t have a great international product with your 77Ws & 787s and then this terrible Oasis product domestically.

    Now if they can just find a way to replace D0ug Parker they can continue trending in the right direction. They’ve still got a ton of work to do to get operations under control.

  4. I hope so, that would be great news! I definitely can’t sit in the new slimline seats – I am already avoiding any Southwest planes that have been updated.

  5. I flew on one of the newly configured 737 800 from Miami to Los Angeles, no video, cramped seating. Made First Class seem not worth the extra fare. What are they thinking?

  6. It’s too late for me I’ve already left the airline after 20 years
    Now flying other carriers
    There is no incentive to flying American uncomfortable seating inflexible customer service
    and a ruined FF program with bad saver availability and over priced redemptions
    Feel bad for anyone that flies them

  7. I do everything possible to avoid American and fly Delta. I live in the Dfw area and will spend the extra or stop to avoid American for so many years of poor service.

  8. Thankfully there is still competition left in the airline industry. I believe they will change the design to something more aligned with DL since they’re getting really bad feedback from their big spenders and there’s nothing compelling people to continue flying AA given the other bad changes they’ve made to AAdvantage. This ship has been taking on water for a long time and someone on the bridge has finally got the word, at least one hopes…

  9. It’s because they realize they can’t command a premium for their product if they take it down to ULCC levels of service. Those new 737s don’t look any different than the last Spirit aircraft I was on.

    I’d fly Delta if I could, but living in an AA hub city, it’s rarely convenient to connect vs a non-stop.

  10. So long as Doug Parker remains at the helm, you can bet there’s nothing more to this announcement than what it says.

  11. Formerly Exec Platinum until the changes (anyway have lifetime Platinum Pro)- but I fly Alaska wherever possible these days for the reasons folks expressed above.

  12. “I feel like it’s highly likely that American management soon turns a corner”

    Is this a prediction that Doug Parker gets fired? Because that might be the only thing that could save AA at this point.

  13. I am based in Phoenix. I used to fly AA weekly to Tampa. Once I found out they were going away with the PTVs and they were doing project oasis I stopped. While it’s hard to compete with AA and their non stop flights, I’ve decided delta is the way to go. PTVs, and friendlier FAs. The extra segments don’t hurt either. Elite status is gained faster.

  14. Anyone else here old enough to remember American’s “more room throughout coach” initiative back in Y2K? They launched it with great fanfare in 2000 and then quietly cancelled it a couple of years later without so much as a whisper. Internally the removal of “more room” was called “density modification program” LOL. Almost all websites (not just have been purged of references to this former generous policy, but I did manage to find one of the TV commercials:

  15. @ Susan J: How do you get Lifetime Platinum Pro? I have been Lifetime Platinum for years but since the introduction of the new tier I haven’t seen a route to have it for life.

    As to the” cancellation” (?) of Oasis, EVEN someone as obtuse as DP may eventually realize that alienating at the same time clients, employees and investors is not the best way to keep his job. As I perused itineraries this week, the magnitude of AA being kicked out of NY by Delta struck me as far more important than I expected. The multiplication of overseas destinations out of PHL, CLT and DFW while stagnating (at best) in NY is not a strategy, only a reaction.

  16. @Charlie McMillan – I remember the commercial showing guys in hard hats throwing two rows of coach seats out the side door of an aircraft with the bottom line being: “we hear you and we’re removing two rows of seats from every plane,” or something to that effect. I wonder how much pitch there was back in the good old days? I never found out because I was living in the south and flying DL back then.

  17. I hate it when a plane doesn’t have a monitor/video/display. I will not use my smartphone to watch a movie. Battery life is short. I find that battery longevity (or lack of) is what kills a smartphone for me. They never last more than 3 years.

  18. @Donna – the economy seat pitch was 33″ to 35″ depending on the aircraft model. Full hot meals were complimentary back then too.

  19. Step in the right direction. I’ve voiced my opinions to AA customer relations when I get the chance about their Oasis project, as many others have. I’m sure on long flights having to bend your head down to watch a small mobile device screen will cause lots of people to end up with neck cramps. Was happy when Scott Kirby left for UA, now just hoping Doug and Robert can jump ships to Frontier/Spirit since they love to compare AA with those airlines. Then I’ll be a truly happy AA EXP again lol

  20. I think this is a hard business, because peoples’ “stated preference” and “revealed preference” are often very different. AA had to move away from MRTC because while people said they wanted more comfort, they weren’t willing to pay for it. Now they’ve come full circle: AA thought people wanted cheap, but apparently there’s such thing as “too cheap.” And competitive environments being what they are, if UA and DL match AA fares, then by definition, they are providing better value.

    BTW, I take one look at those F seats, and my first thought is, “I hope they’re cheap, because it certainly doesn’t make me want to pay for it.” Much like presentation at a fancy restaurant is a thing, I need to look at a nice seat on a plane and say “I want to pay to sit in that.”

  21. No such thing on AA as “too cheap”.

    Just declining levels of comfort and service for the same high price as before.

    And don’t even get me started on the destruction of the DisAAdvantage program.

    Is this marketing strategy working?

    It sure is; from Jan 2018 to today, the stock price is down from 58 to 30. While UAL is up from 75 to 83. That Doug Parker is such a marketing genius. 😉

  22. Their president is stating this is due to issues with the mechanics union and also the grounded MAX planes, but that it will still be their strategy going forward and expect to it to deliver growth.

    No mention of reversing course.

  23. Love the “I’ll fly Southwest ” comment by Steve S. Southwest planes have no TV”s and no power ports. Flying public votes with their wallet. $1.00 cheaper and off they go!

  24. The glory of American capitalism is that it is said to “create demand where none existed before.” It is a rising tide that lifts all boats. People find themselves quite happily shelling out $1500 for a smartphone, or quadrupling their hotel stays or flight miles as they perceive value and necessity.

    What’s interesting is to watch this process run in reverse. AA has devalued AAdvantage and devalued the brand, and in so doing, destroyed demand for their service. Despite the fact that I was a six-time Executive Platinum and still hold Platinum Pro, I fly 1/4th the miles I previously did on American Airlines, and am considering letting my status lapse entirely. The value just isn’t there.

    I’ve redirected my former travel dollars to Hyatt’s awesome World of Hyatt program, which still seems to understand how to reward and incentivize its members. We’ve already stayed 46 nights in Hyatt properties this year, and already have reservations for another 40 nights through the summer.

    Unlike some posters, I’m not bitter at AA at all — it’s their business, they can do anything they want with it. I’m just surprised to see the lack of attention to customer retention. Perhaps they’re making the real money these days off of air cargo, and passengers are something of an afterthought.

  25. I sat in an “Oasis” seat in F a few times and I decided I was done with American. As some one who pays for domestic F, that was the final straw and I moved to Delta. No regrets. I have room again, I actually get served meals on most flights and get a PDB on every flight and the inflight staff is routinely fantastic.

    At this point I don’t see AA winning me just because they’ve decided to maybe not completely destroy their cabins.

  26. Doug Parker is Focusing on getting more money into his pocket and the investors pockets, his idea is to compete against low cost carriers spirit and frontier, thats why they are cramping more seats on the planes to be able to carry more passengers and on doing so, HE IS DESTROYING THE AA BRAND. Parker DOESN’T CARE ABOUT “PASSENGERS COMFORT”, he cares about putting more money in his pockets.
    AMERICAN AIRLINES, used to be a great Airline with great service, but now with Parker as CEO American will become just another low cost airline. Hopefully Parker leaves the company before he destroys it!

  27. The real reason they will suspend the oasis mods is because: 1, the 37 max is grounded. 2, the outsource vendor has butchered the installation causing damage to the aircraft. 3, the lavs are physically too small for some passengers to fit in let alone use, and 4, they are afraid their mechanics will follow maintenance procedures to the letter and ground a lot of planes this summer with none in reserve to move passengers.

  28. I flew AAL twice last month domestic Ally, both on 737s and both in economy class. Now I’m no stranger to uncomfortable airline seats, but these were so bad I decided on the spot to stop flying AAL until they got their act together. I’ll happily fly SWA, even if it means a connection, to avoid those seats again.

  29. The halt has nothing to do with customer outrage. The outsourced vendor performing the modification, have botched many of them. Overhead bins not aligned, oxygen units dropping on passengers heads in flight, tie wraps holding up overhead units where bolts are supposed to, wiring done incorrectly, etc. We’re finding these problems on routine checks and when problems are reported and we have to dig to find out why. One aircraft in particular had over 500 discrepancies and had to be ferried to Tulsa.

  30. Airbus are making better planes. I was never a fan of AA and prefer Delta. I will not book with United either for fear of getting beat up on board and thrown off the flight. I will not get on a Boeing 737 Max because the planes are basically the same with bigger engines and too many issues that the company knew about before the 2 fatal crashes in which they want to say it was pilot error and recently a bird for the Ethiopian flight. Boeing learn from Airbus and make better planes. You even have the AirForce complaining about debris in the tanker planes that you make for them that Airbus should have made.

  31. Paid extra for premium economy, boarded Group 5! All overhead space taken by deadheading AA FA’s. I asked where I could put my bag-FA said “find another place, check it, I don’t care”.
    I politely asked why I spent extra $ for this cabin. The passenger after me was less “demanding” and the FA spent the rest of flight showering her with extra attention, snacks, etc and being nasty to me.
    Then one of the uniformed FA who was travelling with her mother asked me if I would switch seats with her, out of my “premium economy” seat. I gave up and did it.
    One of many reasons I will NEVER give American any business again!

  32. The Oasis product is a failure..Thats a given…I think that stockholders are growing tired of Doug Parker’s “vision” also…And the fact that his cronys are stonewalling at the contract negotiations and then turn around and outright lie about it is unprofessional at best…
    Management is the weak link at AA and its painfully obvious to the employees…Its beginning to wear on the stockholders and hopefully the executive board as well….

  33. I flew last month from the East coast to the West coast on a reconfigured plane with no monitor, usb port or internet!! What a joke American. In addition to baggage charges and no changes even if there is space on an earlier flight. It’s time to wake up or continue to lose customers.

  34. On an A321 flight today with normal seatback entrainment – they should all be made more like this.

    The flight attendants were grabbing how happy they were about this programs suspension. They were calling it “Mirage” instead of “Oasis” which I fully appreciated.

  35. I was a long time US customer and I can still tell which agents and FA’s worked there. They are much more customer friendly and work much harder for you. I have 450,000 miles and was saving for first class round-the-world only to have that rug pulled out from under me. At American, agents hands are tied, they have to call HQ to get permission to do anything for you. If I didn’t have those miles (which I will spend soon) and if I didn’t live in NH where AA is essentially the only real option at MHT, I’d fly away despite being Platinum for years and years.

  36. These reconfigured 737s make the disaster of a 319 retro a few years ago look like a good idea

  37. Engine limitations is the biggest reasons that AA is putting this on hold. The Max can hold the larger number of passengers because it has bigger engines. Putting those 12 extra passengers on the -800s with the old engines essentially prevents these planes from going on longer routes (SEA, PDX, etc) with a full load, necessitating us putting a block on those seats on those routes.

  38. Regardless of the reason for the delay, project Oasis appears to have been a complete disaster for AA. Should they continue down this path then it could possibly spell the demise of Doug Parker. Nobody seems to like the direction he’s decided to take the airline and If he can’t get the stock out of the gutter then it’s the Board of Directors responsibility to remove him as CEO. If the board fails to do their job then any stockholder could initiate an SEC inquiry which could lead to any number of fines.

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