American’s Latest Plans To Update Unpopular 737s

Filed Under: American

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

American’s “Oasis” 737 cabins

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, for a while American was also 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

As of May, American had reconfigured 71 of their 304 Boeing 737-800s with these Oasis cabins. However, at that point the airline revealed that they were suspending their retrofit program until 2020. Presumably this was because:

  • 737 MAX planes were grounded, so American needed all of their 737-800s flying to deal with peak summer demand
  • American was allegedly reconsidering their decision to make these cabins so uncomfortable, given how unpopular these cabins are

American 737-800

American’s updated plans for 737s

The always knowledgable @xJonNYC now has an update on what American is apparently planning on doing with their 737s. I’d note that he’s always very reliable, though like everything at American, I imagine this is subject to change:

  • American will resume Oasis cabin retrofits in summer 2020
  • With this change, American will be adding more legroom in the first row of first class, they’ll add more underseat storage in first class, they’ll widen the aisle around the first row of first class, there will be more privacy behind the last row of first class, and they’ll add seatback tablet holders and USB plugs in first class
  • No changes will be made to the economy cabin
  • American still hasn’t changed their mind when it comes to installing personal televisions on the plane, whether in first class or economy
  • Planes already reconfigured with the Oasis configurations will once again be reconfigured with these updated configurations

American’s 737 “Oasis” first class seats

Bottom line

I guess the good news here is that reconfigurations won’t resume for nearly a year. While I’m confident Jon is right about the status of things as of now, I’d also note that airlines also have the tendency to change their mind on things, so I imagine the timeline and details of this can change, especially since the changes are still many months from happening.

It sounds like American will be making really minor adjustments to the plane, but nothing major. The fact that they’ll be reconfiguring some of these planes yet again sure makes you wonder how much thought they’re putting into anything.

Comments
  1. “American will be adding more legroom in the first row of first class” – which translates lets slide all F seats back a half inch!

  2. I know it’s heresy on these blogs, but I am glad that they did not reverse the personal television decision. The current technology requires a big box under the seat that impedes leg room and carry-on storage. I prefer the Oasis electronics holder, accessible power ports, and streaming entertainment to the big box. I wish they could stream a map channel.

    The changes to first class seem to address the most egregious issue with the Oasis/Max configuration, which in my mind, was the awkward and odd underseat storage limitations. I don’t know why this seat was so limiting as it’s mounted to the same “rails” as other seats but it really was possible for only one passenger to put anything under the seat in the middle space. The window passengers’ underseat legroom was very cramped. Plus, the electronics gadget holder on the seat back will be nice too.

    That said, I do not think it’s appropriate to use this configuration on flights like MIA-LIM and market this cabin as Business – which they’re doing. It’s the same seat as Premium Economy but without the footrest.

  3. How are there no changes to Y if they are adding more leg room to the first F row? Where does that space come from? Hard to imagine they make the rest of F even tighter.

  4. AA gets away with this because they have captive hubs. AA fliers in DFW, PHL, CLT don’t really have another option, and as long as they squat on the gates there we have to deal with how awful this airline is.

    This is why they want to pack their bags at JFK- they’re getting eaten alive by JetBlue and Delta (and probably Alaska at this point for leisure fliers) – all who manage to run an operation where they keep check-in kiosks functioning, paper towels stocked in their terminal bathrooms, and are actually investing in making their planes nicer.

    AA only exists because they squat on slots (almost all legacies do, including Delta). If any of their hubs opened up to competition they’d be out of of business so fast.

  5. After 2 trips in F on the AA 737, if I’m looking for a flight, and see it’s a 737 it is not considered.
    AA has lost a number of trips from me.
    Don’t care about tv’s, they are a waste of weight on planes.

  6. I fly 150-200 segments a year. Almost all business. Mostly US, 25% international. I book all my own travel.

    I’m actively booking away from AA because of the horrible planes AND the labor unrest.

    AA doesn’t make it past the initial filter when looking at flight options.

  7. @alpha – In some markets hub captivity is more of a choice. I live south of Philly but still drive to EWR for almost all of my flights (60 Seg/150K mi) because I much prefer United and the *A network in Europe where I travel most. CLT/DFW folks are less lucky, but I hate PHL and AA.

  8. @David that’s an insult to Southwest, which runs a more reliable operation and is at least as comfortable for economy fliers.

  9. Dougie is simply using his regional airline mind and trying to run an international carrier. He is hell-bent on making American the Ryan Air of the US…

  10. I was really shocked to read that they were keeping economy the same. Knowing how discount Dougie operates, I thought for sure he and his bean counters would have realized that they don’t have enough seats in economy compared to Spirit Airlines and would have added at least another 10-20 seats on top of the planned 12. Afterall, he already spent money in the last 5 years reconfiguring these aircraft to have an additional 10 seats and now 12. I guess we will only have to wait a few more years for them to reconfigure these aircraft for a third time with even more seats.

    Meanwhile, like others, I am actively avoiding these aircraft and continue to shift my business to other airlines where possible including Delta, Jetblue, and Alaska for domestic routes. Not interested in flying in these sardine cans with limited pitch and no seat back entertainment.

  11. With this change, American will be adding more legroom in the first row of first class, they’ll add more underseat storage in first class, they’ll widen the aisle around the first row of first class, there will be more privacy behind the last row of first class, and they’ll add seatback tablet holders and USB plugs in first class.

    My prediction:
    -American will be adding more legroom in the first row
    AA will remove or shrink the closet and maybe have just a thin bulkhead.

    -they’ll add more underseat storage in first class
    Either BS or thinner seats?

    -widen the aisle around the first row
    Like above, no bulkhead or maybe a bulkhead that doesn’t extend all the way into the aisle.

    -there will be more privacy behind the last row of first class.
    And what happen to the coat closet. Yep now it’s behind first class. Probably much smaller to give some more room in F. Doesn’t make much sense, a larger curtains may work, but hey it’s AA you never know.

    Based on my prediction, AA might fail to mention that first row of Main Cabin now sucks if they put a coat closet there.
    Again I might be wrong, and AA might just make the original closet more ‘space efficient’. I not sure what is normally stored there so but I’m quite sure it’s too much storage for Doug.

    Oasis is still Oasucks,

  12. Glad to hear the seats in F are being refitted for better under seat storage and legroom.

    One has to wonder when these seats were proposed if they did any consumer testing or even if they had fellow AA employees give opinions on the design. How could such a terrible design get past so many filters? Even Parker flies on his own planes and he didn’t see this coming?

  13. At my height I simply don’t fit in Y and F is hardly worth the premium. I can tolerate a WN Y seat for up to 4 hrs but AA isn’t an option in Oasis.

    I have avoided AA for 2 yrs and hope to never fly again. Absolute garbage airline and FFP. Happy to use more miles on other programs to fly OW than give a dime to AA!

  14. The Oasis planes are terrible. There is no legroom at all! American wants to fight LCCs but people flying American do not expect LCC treatment but they get it anyways.
    Also, in First on an Oasis plane you get no space to stretch your legs under the seats. The seats go too low. Why on earth doesnt AA do a focus group before making stupid changes??

  15. FAA Regs requires that passengers be evacuated from an airliner including the wheelchair bound in 90 seconds. On doing this test the FAA accepted a plane full of young people in tee shirts and no luggage to participate in the evacuation test. This was the only way the 90 seconds could be achieved.
    Now there is also the issue of denying Weight and Balance issues caused by extra seating that was never designed for in the first place. I will not have my children fly on this American greedy corporate excuse of an Airline

  16. Im gonna be honest, i found the Y Oasis cabin pretty comfortable. Im a chubby 5’7 teenager and didn’t have much problems. Sure, me and my wide built seat mate had some arm space issues, but it was completely doable on the JFK-MIA flight. I find the in seat power is conveniently placed and found the BYOD entertainment was sufficient. The second flight to St Kitts which was just the regular cabin with no PTV’s was actually less enjoyable. I would take Oasis over old cabin any day.

  17. Why would someone fly American on domestic flight while Jetblue is giving free wifi and live tv on their aircrafts. JetBlue is the way to go with free wifi and live tv channels at every seat.

  18. The new 737 configuration is torture on AA.

    The “normal coach” configuration is far, far more uncomfortable than Southwest, which says a lot.

    I was Exec Platinum for years on AA, but with the krapppy First and despicable steerage conditions in Coach, should the upgrades not clear?

    It was clearly time to bail Adios, AA$$holes.

  19. @Brian “I know it’s heresy on these blogs, but I am glad that they did not reverse the personal television decision. The current technology requires a big box under the seat that impedes leg room and carry-on storage. I prefer the Oasis electronics holder, accessible power ports, and streaming entertainment to the big box. I wish they could stream a map channel.”

    This simply isn’t true anymore. You’re thinking of old tech. Delta has already implemented new gen IFE that is limited essentially to a tablet installed in the back of the seat with wireless access to all of the content. No box required, and it’s much lighter and easier to replace.

    American just needs to get with the times.

  20. @Kevin

    That’s great if you live in Carson and can use LGB.

    Westsiders NEVER go that far to use LGB over LAX.

  21. “A testament to Douggie’s fellow bean counters taking over the reins of LAA”

    Bean counters: exactly the two words running through my head when reading this

    “American Airlines famously saved US$40,000 a year by removing one olive from each salad in first class. How much money did Northwest Airlines reportedly save in 1987 by cutting limes into 16 pieces instead of 10 for its drinks service?”

    Yep. Here we go again.

  22. I’ve been off AA for 3 years now….this article a great reminder of why never to go back.

    Thrilled to take my dollars to Delta or even UA.

  23. I hope Bernie and Liz reregulate the airline industry. People like Parker are a menace to humanity and cannot be in charge of our lives with their crony capitalist disdain for civilized norms.

  24. I can’t believe they are not putting USB chargers in every seat. Or do they already exist in economy?

  25. @Rob B – agree with you and disagree with Brian. IFE can be a light and affordable option for them without bulky electronics. DL is doing this as Rob B stated.

    To those who prefer to use your own phone or iPad to watch entertainment, ok, go ahead. That option is available. But that is not available to everyone. I have had many delayed flights on AA in MIA and the ones where people stay calm and reasonable are the ones with built in IFE. The ones without, people are far less likely to be reasonable. It’s not a huge cost to get 172 low cost tablets and fix them into the seats. Power is already there. Space is already there. WiFi is already there. This is just being too cheap.

    On another note, are the retrofit/torture tube planes on legacy America West/USAirways any better? Those planes had positively nothing at all. Is this a better plane for those older birds? (That’s pretty bad to think that an oasis plane is an improvement.

  26. On my flight searches I no longer consider AA an option, I always tick it off on Kayak. I’m avoiding AA at all costs from now on with their ridiculous flight delays, cancellations, mechanical issues, and horrible seats/planes, unless i absolutely have zero other choice.

  27. Just flew SAN-ORD on a 738 in First Class. My goodness how the times have changed. Either I need to do more gluteal exercises or there is literally the absolute bare minimum cushioning on this seat.

  28. @Eliyahu Hold on! David might have the right idea. SWA held my plane for passengers that had their connecting flight close their doors on them. Then they held my plane waiting for their luggage to transfer. We took off 6 minutes short of 3 hours delay. But, we’d been boarded and sitting in the hard seats a good 1/2 hour already. Plus, the flight was already delayed 1 1/2 hour due to weather (plane couldn’t arrive). The 737-700 seat had little cushioning. Miserable flight. No service due to turbulence. My thought was that they got the other plane out of there because mine was a non-stop and they couldn’t make any more money with having connections.
    It seems the airlines should at least stop
    having passengers sit on hard boards and calling them “seats,” especially when a short flight turns out to be 4 1/2 hours on board.

  29. @OT: Eh, USB ports are already dated, given the move to USB-C for most new devices. A/C outlets that actually work are what’s critical.

    Now, I’d like to know what the plans are for the microscopic lavatories!

  30. I’m one of those in economy, usually with children. If they do away with seat back IFE, I’m DONE with AA on any coast to coast flights. Not everyone travels with laptops ! I love Jet Blue, just wish they’d publish their schedules 320 days out.

  31. Can’t we just get back to regulating these people and not be pushed into planes like chattle? I am just not able to wrap my mind around how the airlines just keep squeezing more space out and don’t expect lawsuits or passenger rebellion. It seems to defy all market driven logic that people hate the living hell out of seating space, detest the airline, yet next to nothing changes. Maybe we need to mandate and regulate seating space.

  32. @AirSick

    Why don’t you start a class action lawsuit or start a rebellion.
    I think it would be hard to find a lawyer to accept your case for lawsuit.
    But if you’re looking for a rebellion, I thing dumb kids like @Aaron can be easily brainwashed to do it. Just tell them to fight for their freedom of seat, their democracy of flying. They will start throwing bricks and closing airport in no time.

    It doesn’t defy market logic. It is a case with very few competition, it is arguably an oligopoly with outliers like Spirit that makes it even worse.

  33. I am surprised that nobody mentions the utmost vulgarity of the AA Safety video. That, more thann anything else,sums up whom we are dealing with. Apparently QR has included the video in one of its training summaries on how NOT to treat or speak to customers.

    Meanwhile, the ONE important safety factor stressed upon by an increasing number of carriers, all window shades up and/or clear for take-off and landing, is still weoefully ignored.

  34. I’d thought American had done the right thing for once. If anything this seems like more of a publicity stunt so they can claim to changing these cabins. Still they could start refitting the 737 Max’s because they’re not doing anything at the moment.

  35. “American’s Latest Plans To Update Unpopular 737s” — to make them just as unpleasant as before.

  36. I have been AA Platinum for years.
    UA million miler plus because of years with Continental. Since the CO/UA merger, I prefer AA. But, now I am retired, so unless it is overseas, or to Hawaii, I prefer to drive my C7 2017 Corvette Stingray. Since I live in Texas, this can be done very easily to anywhere in the continental USA. Commercial flying has become such an unpleasant experience everywhere!!!

  37. Flew the Oasis, at 5ft 10inches tall and that is not considered tall at all, it sucked. 2hrs and 56 min flight was all I could tolerate. The seat had power connections but because the seat is so small and the leg room is very limited you could spend a while fumbling around trying to find the plug in. It had to have been the most miserable flight I’ve ever had. SWA seats seem a little wider with more leg room. So is Delta and even United. Ever since that experience I have been actively avoiding AA for any travel. Why pay a legacy airline ticket price for a Low cost carrier like Spirit seat option? Makes no sense. American is making it clear that its customer service comes second to the mighty dollar.

  38. FYI- international routes like JFK-MIA-MVD are few and far between. Right now, despite the aged planes, AA is the best value for that route. We endure the older seats because of pricing.

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