A tale of two very different American Airlines Boeing 737s - The Points Guy (2023)

Many travelers don't pay much attention to the aircraft type when selecting a flight. After all, whether you're flying an Airbus A321 or a Boeing 737, it's understandable to assume that the onboard experience would be similar between the two on the same airline. At the very least, you might expect that the experience would be similar from one American Airlines 737 to another.

But that's not the case on American Airlines right now. The airline is working to retrofit the interiors of its domestic workhorses, the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A321. On the 737, AA is adding 12 more economy seats per aircraft, with "slimline" seats have thinner padding and installing bathrooms that are 7 inches smaller.

Once the project -- ironically named "Project Oasis" -- is complete, those cramped conditions will be found throughout the fleet. In the meantime, there are some drastic differences between American Airlines 737s.

I've recently flown both a Legacy American Airlines (LAA) and a Project Oasis Boeing 737. Here's how the Project Oasis planes are different:

Smaller Lavatories

One of the most drastic differences between the two aircraft was found in the bathroom. Airplane bathrooms aren't known to be spacious, particularly on domestic aircraft. But AA opted to install much, much smaller bathrooms as part of the Project Oasis makeover.

While the pre-retrofit aircraft have bathrooms that measure 31 inches from wall to wall, the new Project Oasis bathrooms have been shrunk to just 24 inches at their widest spot.

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After the inaugural American Airlines 737 MAX flight, I wrote that it was perhaps the worst aspect of the plane. Shortly afterwards, AA flight attendants voiced their complaints about how small the bathrooms were. That didn't stop AA from installing the same bathrooms on the Boeing 737s as part of Project Oasis.

So, I decided to take a tape measure and see just how the two compare:

Economy lavatoryLegacy American Airlines 737Project Oasis 737
Maximum width31"24"
Minimum width18"18"
Door width19.5"19"
Sink12" x 8.5"13" x 5.5"

Interestingly, the minimum width of the two bathroom types measured identically. That was surprising considering I saw a passenger of size struggle to get out of the 737 MAX bathroom on the inaugural flight.

(Video) American Airlines 737 MAX First Class Review

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However, the main difference is definitely noticeable when it comes to the sink. The un-retrofit aircraft sinks are large enough to comfortably wash your hands.

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However, the Oasis bathroom sink measures no more than 5.5 inches long. That can make even the smallest hands feel large. Although I didn't measure the depth, the Project Oasis sink is noticeably less deep.

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Note that American Airlines didn't opt to install a smaller bathroom in first class. The only difference in the measurements that I found between the two configurations can be chalked up to rounding.

First Class lavatoryLegacy American
Airlines configuration
Project Oasis
Maximum width31"31.5"
Minimum width19"19"
Door width19"19"
Washbin12" x 8.5"12" x 8.5"

No Inflight Entertainment Screens

This is likely the first difference that passengers notice between the two aircraft types. While many Legacy American Airlines aircraft have crisp and bright inflight entertainment screens, the Project Oasis aircraft don't have any screens.

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A tale of two very different American Airlines Boeing 737s - The Points Guy (4)

In case you're wondering: yes, that means that American Airlines is removing seats that already had relatively new screens and replacing them with newer seats that don't have a screen. This decision is hitting AA's financials too. AA had planned to use these screens for at least a few more years, but now it must accelerate writing off their cost.

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On the Project Oasis aircraft, American Airlines encourages passengers to "Bring Your Own Device" and watch the movies and TV shows available for free through the Wi-Fi system. But, unless you travel with a tablet or want to watch on your laptop, you're going to be stuck watching the entertainment on your phone.

However, the good news is there are nearly identical entertainment options whether you're watching it on a seatback monitor or on your own device. In September, there are 175 movies on the built-in monitors and 173 movies available through the ViaSat system. Both also offer around 143 hours of TV programming.

Less Pitch and Smaller Seat Padding

You may remember the firestorm that American Airlines set off when it shared plans to install seats with just 29 inches of pitch. While it backed off that plan, both AA's 737 MAX and Project Oasis aircraft have 30 inches of pitch in standard economy and 33 inches of pitch in extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra. That means there's less pitch in AA's extra-legroom seats (33") than JetBlue has in some standard-legroom seats (34").

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In first class, there's supposed to be 37 inches of pitch, although I only measured 36 inches on my Project Oasis flights.

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Despite this, American Airlines points out that there's more personal space and more legroom in this new interior than the old interior. And I was surprised to see a 6 foot, 4 inch man sit in AA's 30-inch pitch seats and not have his knees touch the back of the seat in front of him.

How's this possible? Part of it is accomplished through the shaping of the seat. But there's only so much that can be accomplished that way. The rest of that knee room is created by reducing the seat padding. On my Project Oasis flights, I measured just 2 inches of seatback padding in economy and 3 in first class.

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A tale of two very different American Airlines Boeing 737s - The Points Guy (8)

That's a stark difference from the Legacy American Airlines 737 aircraft, where I found more than 3 inches in economy and a whopping 5.5 inches of seat back padding in first class.

A tale of two very different American Airlines Boeing 737s - The Points Guy (9)

Overhead bin space

One of the advertised benefits of Project Oasis was "larger overhead bins." While some of American Airlines' aircraft could really use some more overhead bin space, the legacy 737s weren't exactly lacking.

A tale of two very different American Airlines Boeing 737s - The Points Guy (10)

In my flights on both versions of AA's 737, I didn't notice -- or think to measure -- the overhead bins. But an AA spokesperson confirmed that the Project Oasis overhead bins are indeed bigger. The not-yet-retrofit 737s have "Boeing Sky Interior pivot bins" while the Project Oasis are retrofit with Boeing's new "Space Bins."

Those may sound similar, but there is a difference. Boeing advertises the Space Bins as holding six carry-on bags instead of the four that would fit in the previous Sky Interior pivot pins. That means 50% more bag capacity -- at least if everyone puts their bags in the right way.

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What's Not Different

Wi-Fi: From when the first Project Oasis aircraft entered service in May 2018 until June 2019, one benefit of flying on a Project Oasis aircraft was that you knew you'd get access to high-speed satellite-based Wi-Fi. That's because AA would install a ViaSat Wi-Fi antenna at the same time as it completed the Project Oasis retrofit. However, there's no longer a difference. All 304 Boeing 737-800s now have satellite-based Wi-Fi.

Seat Width: The Boeing 737 isn't known for being spacious, and the Project Oasis retrofit isn't working any miracles to make it any bigger. That said, the Project Oasis armrests are much smaller -- giving you a little more hip space but not really serving much of a purposes as armrests.

How to know if you're booking a Project Oasis aircraft

After learning about the differences, you probably have a preference about which aircraft type you want to get. However, the two aircraft are nearly identical when booking flights, checking in for flights and viewing the flights in the AA app.

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The aircraft type is listed as Boeing 737-800, abbreviated to 738 on the website. For example, here's a flight on a Legacy American Airlines 737 aircraft -- featuring in-flight entertainment screens and comfortable seats:

A tale of two very different American Airlines Boeing 737s - The Points Guy (12)

And here are two Boeing 737 flights with Project Oasis interiors.

A tale of two very different American Airlines Boeing 737s - The Points Guy (13)

Eagle-eyed readers may notice one difference: the Wi-Fi symbol on the Project Oasis aircraft has an indicator showing high-speed Wi-Fi where the LAA aircraft has a Wi-Fi symbol without the needle. As AA has now completed its satellite-based Wi-Fi retrofit and all 737 aircraft, all of the 737s should now have high-speed ViaSat connections. However, the two arrangements are currently showing different Wi-Fi indicators.

However, there's one reliable way to tell Project Oasis 737 from non-retrofit aircraft: the row numbers in first class. Project Oasis flights have rows 1-4 in first class where LAA aircraft are numbered 3-6. And, as you'll see below, the same flight can vary between the two arrangements from day to day:

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Bottom Line

Flying the two aircraft arrangements in close succession provided a poignant example of the direction American Airlines is going with its domestic fleet. American Airlines could have "harmonized" its Boeing 737 aircraft at 160 seats and provided industry-average pitch, inflight entertainment screens at every seat, humane-sized bathrooms, large overhead bins, comfortable seats and satellite-based Wi-Fi.

Instead, American Airlines is removing seats with inflight entertainment screens and fairly-new bathrooms from its fairly-new Boeing 737 aircraft and installing 12 more economy seats with less pitch, no IFE screens and smaller bathrooms. I'm sure that this decision looks great in the financial spreadsheets that management used to plan this retrofit, but it's not great for the passenger experience.


How can you tell the difference between a 737-800 and a 737-900? ›

The 900 has nine percent more cabin floor space and eighteen percent more cargo space than the -800; however, Boeing opted to use the same NG emergency exit layout, with four main exit doors and four overwing exits, thereby still restricting the maximum passenger load to 189.

What's the difference between a 737-700 and a 737-800? ›

The 737-700 is stretched by around 2.4 meters, and also offered a convertible cargo option, the 737-700C. The 737-800 is stretched further than the 737-700, making it a good replacement for the 737-400. It takes passenger capacity up to 189.

Are 737 MAX and 737-800 the same? ›

While the average passenger might not notice many major differences between the two, the MAX is a major improvement over the 737-800 especially in terms of overall efficiency and range, and passengers can expect to continue seeing more MAX aircraft over the coming years as Boeing continues to fill its backlog of orders ...

Is there a difference between 737-800 and Max 8? ›

Comparing the 737 MAX 8 directly to the 737-800 on numbers alone, it quickly becomes evident that the newer MAX series has a longer range and the ability to carry an extra 18 fare-paying customers in a two-class setup. The MAX 200's high-density layout also allows it to hold more passengers than one-class 737-800s.

How can you tell if you have a 737-700 or 800? ›

The 700 has one emergency exit door over the wing, the 800 and 900 have two. The 900 has an additional emergency exit just behind the wing on each side. More likely than not: If its a Southwest livery, its a Boeing 737-700.

How do you tell a 737 MAX from a 800? ›

Engine Chevrons

Most of the 737-800 models have no chevron and they have a simple straight line at the back of the engine. The engines of the 737 Max have chevrons. If you look at the engine from the side it looks almost as if there are sharp teeth coming out of the back of the engine cover.

What is the best seat on a 737-800 American airlines? ›

On domestic aircraft (such as a Boeing 737-800), you'll find economy class seats laid out in a 3-3 configuration, where seats in the bulkhead and exit rows are the best picks.

How many Boeing 737 crashed? ›

As of March 2022, there has been a total of 503 aviation accidents and incidents involving all 737 aircraft, including 219 hull losses resulting in a total of 5,717 fatalities.

Why is the 737-800 so popular? ›

Its success lies in its flexibility and compromise. It doesn't have the longest range or the highest passenger capacity on the market, but its compromise between the two has made it an excellent all-round choice for airlines.

Which is safer 737-800 or 737 MAX? ›

According to experts, the model (737-800) is considered to be the safest aircraft ever made. The 737-800 belongs to the aviation giant's next-generation aircraft which also includes 600, 700, and 900.

What is the 737 MAX 8 called now? ›

Since then the aircraft has been referred to as both the 787 and the Dreamliner. The naming convention that Boeing now applies to its aircraft such as the 787, which comes in the 787-8, 787-9, and 787-10, will also be applied to the 737 MAX.

Why was the 737 MAX a failure? ›

It's been widely reported that Boeing's decision to use a flight control software fix known as MCAS in its 737 MAX planes was one of the key factors that led to two crashes that killed 346 people.

Are there still issues with 737 MAX 8? ›

The 737 Max remains under intense scrutiny. The plane was grounded for 20 months from March 2019, after being involved in two major accidents, in which 346 people died. Its flight control software was modified, to remove a serious flaw implicated in both crashes. Other physical changes were made to the aircraft.

What is the best seat on a 737 MAX 8? ›

If you're flying on a Boeing 737-700, the absolute most legroom is in seat 12A which is missing the seat in front of it. On a Boeing 737-800 or Boeing 737 MAX 8, the seats with the most legroom are 16A and 16F.

What is a Boeing 737 MAX 8 worth? ›

Average prices for Boeing aircraft as of March 2022, by type (in million U.S. dollars)
Aircraft typePrice in million U.S. dollars
737 MAX 8121.6
737 MAX 200124.8
737 MAX 9128.9
737 MAX 10134.9
9 more rows
Aug 29, 2022

Which Seat on 737-800 has no window? ›

The riser ducts are the same on every 737-800 built, two on the left but one on the right. Row 9 is left side only, row 10 is left and right side. This means row 10 is effectively windowless.

Is the 737-900 the same as the 737 MAX? ›

The 737 MAX aircraft are not the same as the older 737-700, 737-800 and 737-900 variants.

Is Boeing 737-700 the same as 737 MAX? ›

Featuring the shortest length of all the MAX variants, the Boeing 737 MAX 7 is only about 2.4 meters longer than the Boeing 737-700. But despite its short fuselage, this aircraft variant has the greatest range compared to the MAX 9 variant.

Has a Boeing 737-800 ever crashed? ›

The Boeing 737-800 was cruising at high altitude when it suddenly pitched into a near-vertical descent, plummeting into a mountain at extreme speed. Data from a black box recovered in the crash suggests inputs to the controls pushed the plane into the fatal dive, these people said.

How many 737-800 are there in the US? ›

Orders and deliveries
Model seriesTotal2019
3 more rows

Where is the safest place to sit on a 737? ›

Although some researchers have calculated that aisle seats may be safer than middle or window seats, the Time analysis found that at least in the middle of the plane, they were the least safe. And middle seats near the back appeared to be the safest.

What is the least popular seat on a plane? ›

OK, so the back row is the single worst place to sit on a plane and you should steer clear of it at all costs. But which other seats should you avoid? All middle seats are unpopular for obvious reasons, and the seats in front of an exit row aren't ideal either.

What is the smoothest seat on a plane? ›

“The smoothest place to sit is over the wings,” says commercial pilot Patrick Smith, host of AskThePilot.com. These seats are close to the plane's center of lift and gravity. “The roughest spot is usually the far aft. In the rearmost rows, closest to the tail, the knocking and swaying is more pronounced.”

Which is the safest plane? ›

The Airbus A340 is also one of the safest, with no fatal accidents involving any of the 380 units since its introduction in March 1993.

Is the 737 unsafe? ›

There are differences in the aircraft, and Aerovise aviation expert Josh Verde told USA TODAY the Boeing 737-800 is a "tremendously safe airplane." Most accidents involving the plane have been runway-related.

Did the families of the Boeing crashes get money? ›

The January 2021 agreement included a $500 million compensation fund for victims' relatives, $1.77 billion in compensation to the airlines and a $243 million criminal fine.

What is the oldest 737 still flying? ›

Nolinor Aviation Boeing 737 From 1976. The oldest plane in service is from Nolinor Aviation, a charter airline in Canada, that operates a Boeing 737 that first went into use in 1976. Despite the age, this plane still works like any newer one as a result of numerous updates throughout the years.

How far can a 737 fly on one engine? ›

While not generally used for ocean crossings, the Boeing 737-800 and MAX are certified with an ETOPS rating of 180 minutes, which means airlines like Southwest can now use them to fly from the United States mainland to Hawaii.

Should I be worried about flying on a Boeing 737? ›

By endorsement of the FAA, Boeing and its pilots, the 737 MAX has been determined as safe to fly.

Which 737 plane has crashed the most? ›

For the two MAX accidents these are: Indonesia, for Lion Air Flight 610 as the state of registration, state of occurrence, and state of the operator. Ethiopia, for Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, as the state of registration, state of occurrence, and state of the operator.

Can I refuse to fly on a Boeing 737 Max? ›

If a customer doesn't want to fly on the 737 MAX, they won't have to. Our customers will be able to easily identify whether they are traveling on one even if schedules change. If a customer prefers to not fly on this aircraft, we'll provide flexibility to ensure they can be easily re-accommodated.”

Has a Boeing 737 Max crashed? ›

Boeing has told a US court it was not guilty of concealing information about flight control systems on its 737 Max aircraft, which led to two crashes, killing 346 people.

What is 737 MAX being renamed to? ›

"The aircraft family is still the Max, but Boeing calls the model the 737-8 for the first time in a deal announcement," Jon Ostrower of The Air Current, an online aviation news operation that closely watches the airline industry, noted in a morning tweet.

Will the Boeing 737 MAX 8 ever fly again? ›

After manufacturing issues led to two incidents in 2019, the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded across the world. In 2021, after rigorous testing, Civil Aviation Authorities in many places in the world cleared the Boeing 737 MAX to fly again, including the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, Brazil, and the EU.

Is 737 MAX still flying? ›

Despite all the worries about the reputational damage done to the type from the two high-profile accidents, Boeing's flagship narrowbody has been inducted back into service with confidence.

Who is to blame for the 737 MAX? ›

"Boeing failed in its design and development of the Max, and the FAA failed in its oversight of Boeing and its certification of the aircraft," the 18-month investigation concluded.

How much did 737 MAX victims get? ›

Boeing To Pay $2.5 Billion Settlement Over Deadly 737 Max Crashes. Investigators found that both crashes were caused in part by a flawed automated flight control system called MCAS.

Why is the 737 MAX allowed to fly again? ›

After a 20-month review that included design and software changes as well as enhanced training, the FAA agreed in late 2020 to allow the plane to fly again. Airlines around the world began returning them to service last year, though they remain grounded in some countries, most notably China.

How many 737 MAX 8 crashes? ›

The 737 Max

Boeing's 737 Max suffered two fatal crashes, in 2018 and 2019, that were shown to be caused by a design flaw and led to a global grounding of the aircraft.

Does Delta fly 737 MAX? ›

Delta will add 100 state-of-the-art, fuel-efficient Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to its fleet, with options for 30 more.

What are the two 737 MAX 8 crashes? ›

In 2017, the 737 MAX entered service. Since then, 346 people died in two 737 MAX crashes: a Lion Air plane crashed on October 29, 2018 after taking off in Indonesia (189 died) and an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed after taking off in Ethiopia on March 10, 2019 (157 died).

Where is the loudest seat on a plane? ›

When deciding either window or aisle seat, the window is found to be the loudest on the plane. While aisle seats are quieter, do note there's also a higher chance that other passengers from the inner seats might interrupt you if they need to go to the washroom.

Where is the best place to sit on a large plane? ›

Exit rows, aisle or window seats, and anywhere close to the front are typically considered the best seats on a plane. On a short business trip, you might want an aisle seat near the front of the plane so you can debark as quickly as possible on arrival.

Where is the most stable seat on a plane? ›

So, what seat should you pick to ensure a smooth ride? A seat directly over the wings (typically found in rows 10 to 30) is your best option to reduce the sensation of turbulence, says Dr. Quay Snyder, the president of the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service.

How much does an old 737 cost? ›

Depending on numerous factors, the average price for a pre-owned BOEING 737-300 is $2,700,000.00. A $625,000.00 loan over 120 months including $2604.17 per month in interest equates to a $31,339.82 per-period payment.

How much does it cost to keep a 737 in the air? ›

Based on 450 annual owner-operated hours and $7.00-per-gallon fuel cost, the BOEING 737-700 has total variable costs of $3,343,860.00, total fixed costs of $357,370.00, and an annual budget of $3,701,230.00. This breaks down to $8,224.96 per hour.

How much is a retired 737? ›

Depending on numerous factors, the average price for a pre-owned BOEING 737-200 is $1,595,000.00. A $797,500.00 loan over 120 months including $3322.92 per month in interest equates to a $39,989.61 per-period payment.

How do I identify a Boeing 737? ›

Identify the nose.

The nose of a 737 is pointed, unlike the A320, which is rounded. It looks a lot like a cone and can be easily identified.

How do you tell if your plane is a 737 MAX 8? ›

These markings are typically placed under the last few windows, under the cockpit windows, or even on the front landing gear door. Not all airlines place these markings on their aircraft and some airlines also may not include the Max name, simply writing "737" instead.

Why does a 737-900 need a tail stand? ›

Known as a tail stand, this device is used to stabilize the rear of an aircraft when it is at rest. The stand is placed beneath the tail during loading and unloading to prevent instability. But why? Without it, some aircraft are at risk of tipping longitudinally, as weight shifts during loading and unloading.

What is the most popular 737 model? ›

The most-ordered variant was the 737-800, with 4,991 commercial, 191 military, and 23 corporate, or a total of 5,205 aircraft. Boeing stopped assembling commercial 737NGs in 2019 and made the final deliveries in January 2020. The 737NG is superseded by the fourth generation 737 MAX, introduced in 2017.

What is the 737 MAX called now? ›

Since then the aircraft has been referred to as both the 787 and the Dreamliner. The naming convention that Boeing now applies to its aircraft such as the 787, which comes in the 787-8, 787-9 and 787-10, will also be applied the 737 MAX.

Does a 737 have keys? ›

No modern commercial jet aircraft have keys. They also don't have door locks.

How many versions of the 737 are there? ›

This generation comprises of four main variants – the 737-600, the 737-700 (and 737-700ER), the 737-800, and the 737-900 (and 737-900ER). Almost seven thousand 737NG aircraft were delivered by Boeing.

Are all Boeing 737 the same? ›

While they share a name, 737s have evolved constantly and enormously from the machines that first flew in the 1960s. Today's 737s are very different airplanes from those made in the past. The MAX variants use new CFM LEAP-1B engines, while previous generations of 737s use older CFM56 engines from the same manufacturer.

Should I be worried about flying on a 737 MAX? ›

One year since Boeing 's embattled 737 Max returned to service — following the largest grounding in aviation history — there appears to be a broad consensus in the industry that the plane is as safe as any flying today. “The question I get asked most frequently is, 'Would you get on a Max?

What is the hole in the tail of a 737? ›

The small hole you see on the back of airplane tails is part of the auxiliary power unit. Like other auxiliary power units, it's designed to produce power for airplanes.

Why does a 737 have no landing gear? ›

No landing gear doors on a B737

This allows ground staff working in small domestic airports to service and prepare the aircraft easily under the limitations of those airports in the 1960s. With such a design, Boeing deemed landing gear doors infeasible from a safety standpoint.

Why do planes tilt when taking off? ›

During takeoff you may hear a clunk when the plane's nose tilts up and you lift off. That's the landing gear shock absorber extending to its limit. The plane is designed to allow for a steep lift off. You may worry the tail will drag on the runway.


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