American Airlines Resumes Project Oasis Cabin Densification Program

After pausing Project Oasis back in May, American Airlines has announced that it is restarting its aircraft retrofit program. The US carrier planned to harmonize the seating in its fleet of 304 Boeing 737-800 aircraft and most of its 219 Airbus A321-200 planes.

Short Final, MIA
American Airlines is restarting project oasis. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

The goal was to make the seating arrangements on all of the aircraft the same, so that the airline could replace like for like during any operational issue.

American stopped the retrofit following the two 737 MAX crashes

This, of course, was before the grounding of the 737 MAX back in March following the two fatal Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.

Lion Air 737 MAX
The retrofit was stopped after the two 737 MAX crashes. Photo: PK-REN Wikimedia Commons

Following the two crashes, aviation authorities around the world grounded the 737 MAX which left American Airlines short 24 aircraft with summer fast approaching.

In a predictable move, the Dallas based airline stopped the retrofitting of seats preferring to have the aircraft in service rather than in the hangar being fitted out.

Aviation website a View from the Wing also claims that the fit-outs weren’t going as well as expected by Aviation Technical Services and not up to the standard American Airlines expected.

Project Oasis is now back on

Now with summer officially over and the kids back in school, American Airlines is once again taking the bulk of its domestic fleet and giving them the same kind of interior that you would find in their 737 MAX aircraft.

Before the merger with US Airways, American’s fleet of 737-800s had 150 seats that then increased to 160. Now under Project Oasis, they will have 172 seats.

American Airlines project oasis
American 737-800s will now have 172 seats. Photo: AA

Where is that extra space coming from? Yes, that’s right, you guessed it: legroom. The way American plans to squeeze in the extra seats by reducing passenger space.

The way American has achieved this is by removing the bulkhead wall between first class and economy, reducing the size of the toilets and opting for hard, slimline seats. It is not something most airlines would consider, but by eliminating the padding on the seats you gain more space.

American Airlines are also removing all seatback entertainment screens and replacing them with holders for personal portable devices like tablets and phones.

 American has a nice way of saying we want to squeeze in more seats

A View from the Wing attributes American Airlines with saying:

“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.”

American Airlines 737 MAX
American Airlines says it is for smoother operations Photo: Paul Lowry via Flickr

While American Airlines put a nice spin on how it is going to be better for smoother operations and how wonderful it will be with more power outlets and bigger overhead bins, they fail to mention the rock hard seats and the loss of legroom.

C’mon American Airlines you are not fooling the public with your retrofit, so why not just come out and say we want to squeeze more seats in so that we can make more money.