American Airlines 737-800 Cabin Upgrades Nearly Complete

American Airlines 737-800
Credit: Joe Pries

ORLANDO, Florida—American Airlines is on track to complete its long-running Boeing 737-800 cabin reconfiguration in the coming weeks, ensuring the entire fleet will be available to support the carrier’s growing summer schedule. 

“We will have all of our 737s completed by May,” American Airlines COO David Seymour told attendees at Aviation Week’s MRO Americas conference.  

The multi-year project, dubbed Oasis, adds 12 seats and several other cabin amenities to American’s 737-800s so they match the airline’s 737-8s. The program faced several hurdles, including a pause in 2019 when the 737-8s were grounded along with the rest of the global MAX fleet following two fatal accidents.  

A drop in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic combined with government-provided payroll support gave American an opportunity to fast-track the final airframes, Seymour said. 

“We’ve been able to advance that program forward, in taking advantage of some of the lighter flying periods,” Seymour added. 

Another part of Oasis—modifying Airbus A321ceos so their cabin configurations match the carrier’s A321neos—will be finished by the end of 2021. Upon completion of the project, 266 of American’s 737-800s and 202 A321s will be retrofitted, an airline spokesperson told Aviation Daily. 

“Aside from a better customer experience, these projects will provide significant opportunities to improve revenue production and lower our unit cost now and well into the future,” American CFO Derek Kerr said on the carrier’s April 22 first-quarter earnings call. “When demand returns to more normalized levels, we’ll be able to fly 2019 levels of capacity with approximately 10% fewer aircraft.” 

American is targeting a summer schedule that has it flying 80% of comparable pre-pandemic capacity. 

Meanwhile, Seymour said American’s experience with the modified 737 MAX had been flawless up until the electrical issue that has grounded part of the fleet, including 18 of American’s 41 737-8s. 

“The aircraft was performing extremely well,” Seymour said. “We would see operational reliability that exceeded the 737-800s.” 

Customers were not shying away from the highly scrutinized model, he added. “We were not seeing any book-away whatsoever,” Seymour said. “No calls into our reservation center with anybody having any concerns.” 

American was the first U.S. carrier to return 737 MAX variants into revenue service following a 21-month grounding that the FAA ended in November 2020. 

“Even with this temporary grounding affecting the subset, we’re not seeing any concerns coming from passengers,” Seymour said. “We’re working closely with Boeing as they work with the FAA and the other operators to get these aircraft back up in the air, hopefully in the very near future.” 

This article has been updated to correct the number of American 737-8s affected by an electrical issue.

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.