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American Airlines' First Ruined 737-800 is Now in Service

May 15, 2018
4 min read
American Airlines' First Ruined 737-800 is Now in Service
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Some travelers love the Boeing 737. Other travelers aren't fans as the narrow cabin requires 17-inch wide economy seats. No matter where you stand on the matter, all travelers can agree that more pitch and fewer seats in the aircraft is better. American Airlines is doing the opposite by installing more seats and reducing legroom in its 737-800s.

The first AA 172-seat Boeing 737-800 has just entered service, with 12 more seats than the other 737-800s in the fleet. The aircraft registered as N979AN returned to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) from AA's maintenance base in Tulsa (TUL) on Sunday May 13, ready to start flying revenue services after cabin modifications.

Currently, American Airlines has 304 Boeing 737-800s in its fleet. For years, these aircraft have been flying with 160 seats: 16 first class, 30 Main Cabin Extra and 114 Main Cabin seats. But now the airline is executing a revenue-maximizing plan to shove 12 more seats into almost all of these. (737s that will be retired in the next couple of years won't be retrofit.)

The plan — referred to as "Project Oasis" by the airline — is to "harmonize and optimize" AA's massive fleet of Boeing 737-800 so that it mirrors its new but panned 737 MAX. By having the same number of seats installed on both aircraft types, the airline can increase operational efficiency by making the 737-800 and 737 MAX interchangeable for fleet planning purposes.

And AA isn't just doing this with its 737-800 and 737 MAX. The airline is going to rotate all 219 of its A321 aircraft out of service to install three to nine more seats.

Rather than listening to passenger and flight attendant complaints about the 737 MAX being too tight and "harmonizing" the 737 fleet at 160 seats, the airline is plowing ahead with its costly retrofit of 280+ Boeing 737-800s. In order to shove 12 more seats into the 737 frame, AA is having to install the same tiny Rockwell Collins bathrooms and cut pitch throughout the plane:

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American Airlines Boeing 737-800Before retrofitAfter retrofitChange
First Class Seats1616--
Main Cabin Extra Seats3030--
Main Cabin Seats114126+12
First Class Pitch38-40"37"-1-3"
Main Cabin Extra Pitch34"33"-1"
Main Cabin Pitch31"30"-1"

On Tuesday afternoon, the first 737-800 with the new, tighter cabin was assigned to its first flight: AA flight 925 from Dallas/Fort Worth to New York's LaGuardia (LGA). When the aircraft was assigned to the flight, we were able to confirm on ExpertFlyer that it had indeed been retrofit with 172 seats:

While aircraft assignments are always subject to change, the airline currently has this aircraft scheduled on the following flights the next few days:

For now, if you're scheduled to fly on an American Airlines 737-800, you only have a 0.3% chance of getting the tighter-fit jet. But, as AA churns out more "harmonized" 737-800s, it's going to become increasingly more likely that you're going to end up on a plane with 1-3 inches less pitch, smaller bathrooms and no in-flight entertainment screens. Because Project Oasis.