We tried American’s new-and-improved domestic first class
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As the largest airline in the world, American Airlines has a huge fleet. A good chunk of the jets come from its merger with US Airways, which created a problem for AA: Many plane types didn’t share the same interiors or number of seats.
American launched Project Oasis in 2017 to solve that issue. The goal was to standardize cabin interiors and seat count for AA’s domestic workhorses, the Airbus A321 and Boeing 737. This harmonization would also help with scheduling aircraft and swapping them when operational issues arose.
But Project Oasis wasn’t well received by passengers. AA reduced the standard economy pitch to just 30 inches in order to accommodate more seats.
American also removed all in-flight entertainment screens and downsized the lavatories to some of the smallest in the skies. It wasn’t all bad news, though, as AA added power outlets and larger overhead bins to planes that were desperately lacking them.
Unsurprisingly, many passengers complained about the Oasis retrofits, and American listened to their feedback. Though coach won’t be changing, AA launched Project Oasis 2.0, internally known as Project Kodiak, with seven customer-driven updates to first class.
The first plane to receive these improvements, a Boeing 737-800 with registration N979AN, is already in service, and what follows are my impressions after flying this bird from Washington D.C. (DCA) to Miami (MIA).
New privacy divider
The most noticeable change is the addition of a privacy divider between the front cabin and coach.
Previously, there was no divider at all, so this is a welcome improvement.
AA installed a flexible-leather, semi-hard divider instead of a true bulkhead. This adds some padding to the back of Row 4 without reducing the recline. And coach passengers in row 8 don’t have to worry about losing under-seat storage or legroom.
All in all, this is a win-win for everyone.
More seat padding
When I first flew on an Oasis 1.0 plane in the front cabin, one of the issues I had was how uncomfortable the seats were. And that wasn’t due to the reduced pitch or minimal storage space. Rather, that was because of the limited padding.
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
That’s changed with Oasis 2.0. Though it’s tough to quantify how much more padding AA added, it’s a marked difference from the previous generation.
Larger under-seat storage
Another problem that AA addressed is under-seat storage. There used to be a fairly large box protruding from the seat support beam that encroached on the available storage space.
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
And now that box is gone. There’s still a small protrusion from the center support beam, but I had no issue storing my backpack under the seat in front of me.
Combined with the large overhead bins, first-class passengers should no longer need to gate-check their carry-ons.
More legroom at the bulkhead
Many passengers hate sitting at a bulkhead since there’s typically no floor storage and less legroom. But with Oasis 2.0, you don’t need to actively avoid Row 1.
You still won’t be able to store your belongings on the floor, but at least AA added more legroom. I purposely sat in Seat 1F for my flight and was delighted to measure three more inches of legroom than before.
Though three inches may not sound like much, it was certainly noticeable on this 737. American accomplished this by converting row 10 from Main Cabin Extra to standard coach seating.
When the A321s undergo the Oasis 2.0 retrofits, the first-class bulkheads will also offer three inches of additional legroom, thanks to a cutout from the forward closet.
New tablet holders
With the elimination of seat-back screens, AA’s been heavily investing in personal-device entertainment. The airline now offers a wide assortment of movies and TV shows through the onboard Wi-Fi network.
For added convenience, American installed tablet holders in the literature pocket on its latest Airbus A321s. With Oasis 2.0, the airline is bringing that improvement to the Boeing 737 fleet.
Previously, the only place to prop a device was on the tray table, but that wasn’t ideal when eating.
While it’s no replacement for a seat-back screen, I appreciated the new tablet holder.
All seats already had AC power outlets, but now there’s another way to charge your devices. Alongside the tablet holder is a new 5-volt USB port that’s located to the left of the seat-back pocket. This port is identical to the ones on the reconfigured A321s.
I particularly appreciated its placement next to the tablet holder, which allowed me to charge my device without creating a tripping hazard. Note that the bulkhead row 1 didn’t receive the USB ports.
One of things I like most about flying up front is the added space. And if you’re like me, Oasis 2.0 will be great for you.
In addition to the improved under-seat storage, AA also installed a new cocktail tray on these planes. This means that there are now two dedicated places to put your beverages, leaving the tray table clear for everything else.
Though it’s just a small win, I liked the attention to detail.
The first step in getting the Project Oasis 2.0 retrofits installed on more planes is securing certification by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Once that’s done, the updates will be outfitted on the already reconfigured 737-800s by year-end. The remaining 737-800s in American’s fleet will receive the updated first class during their Oasis overhauls.
The improvements to first class are not limited to the 737-800s. American will add extra under-seat storage room, cocktail trays and more bulkhead legroom to its A321s. It’ll also incorporate all seven improvements on its 737 MAX 8s after the jets are cleared to return to the skies.
Project Oasis 2.0 is a welcome change for select American Airlines flyers. The carrier has listened to (some) customer feedback and is making enhancements to its domestic first-class cabin.
The improvements include a new privacy divider, added legroom and under-seat storage, a tablet holder and USB port, better padded seats and a cocktail table. Though each individual change may not be drastic, all together they represent a step in the right direction.
Sure, it’d be great if AA totally reversed course on Project Oasis, decided to re-install personal entertainment screens, redesigned the lavatories or made similar changes to coach, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen.
While I’ll continue wishing for those changes, at least those sitting up front will rest assured that their feedback was heard.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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