What Is American Airlines Project Kodiak? What It Means For You

American Airlines is planning to refit its refit, to fix some of the mistakes that it made with Project Oasis. Before you get too excited, it’s only domestic first set to benefit from the changes, and not all that much even then. Here’s what you need to know about Project Kodiak.

Project Kodiak
What on Earth is Project Kodiak? Photo: American Airlines

The narrowbody overhaul

When American Airlines codenamed its narrowbody overhaul as ‘Project Oasis’, it felt a bit like naming a brand of cough medicine Champagne. Oasis conjures up images of luscious abundance, sweeping space and a respite from the harsh world outside. What Project Oasis actually gave us was an abundance of seats, a sweeping space where the IFE used to be and no respite from anything at all.

Project Oasis saw the airline ripping out seatback entertainment and retrofitting its fleet of narrowbodies with a super dense configuration. It began with the 737 MAX, but slowly rolled out to its 737-800s and A321s also. Its A321neos are being delivered with these super-dense interiors.

Project Oasis
Project Oasis. Image: AA

More seats, less padding, less legroom… none of it sounds like a winner to us, and American Airlines’ passengers agreed. Complaints have poured in from passengers, particularly regarding the lack of padding to the seats. Some also claim that the reduced legroom means the seat in front actually touches your forehead when its reclined! And that’s before we get to the ridiculously tiny lavatory…

Nevertheless, American Airlines considers Project Oasis a ‘win’, because there have been no more complaints with the new cabin than there were with the old. Surely it’s only a win if there are fewer complaints than there were before?

Nevertheless, AA has admitted some parts of their redesign didn’t go well and is therefore looking to implement some changes. These changes are being codenamed ‘Project Kodiak’. In case you’re wondering, Kodiak is either an Alaskan island or a brown bear… please do enlighten me on the connection to aircraft cabins.

What is Project Kodiak?

Project Kodiak promises to fix what went wrong with Project Oasis. Woo hoo, we all cry, the legroom and IFE is coming back! Well, not exactly. In fact, for those of us flying economy, nothing is changing at all.

No, what Project Kodiak is looking to fix is just those seats up the front; what we here in Europe call business class, but what AA likes to call domestic first class. The airline, acting on customer feedback, is looking to improve a few bits and bobs up the front of the plane to bring back a little more comfort to its premium product.

Specifically, it’s looking to fix the first class seats. Passengers had complained about the rigid bar in the middle of the Rockwell Collins MiQ seats, which could be felt clearly through the poorly cushioned seat pad. So, AA is planning to add more padding so that this can’t be felt quite so much.

American also plans to improve legroom in first class. Great news, you might think, but actually it’s only fixing the legroom in row 1, and not changing it at all for anyone else.

Finally, it’s looking to fix the underseat storage space, or lack thereof. Unusable underseat storage is a massive problem, even if the Oasis interiors do have bigger overhead bins.

But there’s no IFE coming back. What you’ll get instead is a tablet holder and USB power so you can supply your own inflight entertainment.

And now for the really bizarre part…

We’re all for improvements, even if it is only to the first product, but the way in which it’s being handled beggars belief. According to One Mile At A Time, the Kodiak changes are being made separately from the Oasis refit. So it seems American is installing the full Oasis cabin (complete with bad first class) then at some point later taking the plane back in to have the Kodiak refit!

Added to this, when AA began Project Oasis, it said it would keep the aircraft with seatback screens already fitted as the last to be refitted. However, it now seems that the airline has backtracked on this. At least one of the 737s in for a refit is one with seatback screens, which will be having its IFE brutally ripped out to make way for Oasis ‘improvements’.

These changes are happening right now, so you could have the pleasure of flying a Kodiak refitted aircraft very soon. Do let us know if you spot one!