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We tried American's new-and-improved domestic first class

Feb. 12, 2020
8 min read
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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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

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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).

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New privacy divider

The most noticeable change is the addition of a privacy divider between the front cabin and coach.

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(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Previously, there was no divider at all, so this is a welcome improvement.

AA first class on an original Project Oasis 737 (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Previously, the only place to prop a device was on the tray table, but that wasn’t ideal when eating.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

While it’s no replacement for a seat-back screen, I appreciated the new tablet holder.

USB ports

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

Drink up!

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Though it’s just a small win, I liked the attention to detail.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Rollout plan

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

Overall impression

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

While I'll continue wishing for those changes, at least those sitting up front will rest assured that their feedback was heard.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more