American responds to criticism over new livery; says it is not rethinking the design

January 26, 2013

Ambiance, Services

American Airlines livery 5 150x150 American responds to criticism over new livery; says it is not rethinking the designNEW YORK: Change is sometimes necessary, sometimes feared. In the case of American Airlines, a change to its iconic 45-year old livery seems to be out of necessity, though public response has been extremely mixed.

The old livery – designed by Massimo Vignelli and featuring red, white, and blue strips on bare aluminium with a stylized eagle on the tail – is no longer possible to duplicate on newer generation aircraft, which make use of composite materials.

American had the choice of either painting its new aircraft silver, or taking the opportunity to redefine its public image. The carrier, which has hundreds of narrowbodies on order, chose the latter, and took a full two years to develop and fine-tune its new public identity.

American Airlines livery 4 American responds to criticism over new livery; says it is not rethinking the design

The new livery, unveiled today at New York JFK in advance of a possible merger with US Airways, “represents a clean and modern update to the core icons of our company”, says American. The airline was aiming for a refreshed look, which they describe as “light, vibrant and modern”.

The well-known symbol of the eagle has now been integrated into what American calls the “Flight Symbol”, appearing next to the carrier’s name.

American Airlines livery 3 American responds to criticism over new livery; says it is not rethinking the design

The new livery has been painted on a single Boeing 737-800, which is being shuttled around the country to show off the design to American’s employees, as well as select media. But all new aircraft deliveries – including the carrier’s first Boeing 777-300ER – are expected to include the new livery, as well as any aircraft that is not yet slated to be scrapped. When all is said and done, American plans to fully convert to the new look within several years.

The new tail design, which resembles an American flag, has drawn the brunt of criticism. “The logo is amazing though, and I love that, but the tail just kills it,” suggests Brandon Farris of Airlinereporter.com. Passengers passing by the event similarly remarked that the new tail design would take some getting used to.

American Airlines livery 5 American responds to criticism over new livery; says it is not rethinking the design

Mary Kirby, editor of this blog, disagrees, saying the new logo and tail design reminds her of the saying “business up front, party in the back”. She adds, “I love it.”

American VP of New York and international operations Timothy Ahern says, “The idea behind having the colours on our tail is that we believe we, from an international standpoint, are the flagship carrier to the world for America. The name American and the name America are synonymous, and we think it’s a great imagery of who we are and what we stand for, in a very modern look.”

But has the public criticism about the new livery prompted American to take a second look at the design, or possibly even halt the repainting of aircraft? Absolutely not, says Ahern.

“For the most part, much of the commentary that we’re seeing is very, very positive. Obviously, when you look at change in iconic brands like American, something that’s been there since 1968, and has a history of 80 plus years, it’s important that you do it right,” he says.

American Airlines livery 2 American responds to criticism over new livery; says it is not rethinking the design

Change isn’t easy, but it is also inevitable. With a brand as well known as American Airlines, the travelling public is bound to have strong opinions, both positive and negative. The change to American’s dated, yet iconic livery has hit an emotional note with many people. Will this rebranding be successful in helping American to reinvent itself? Only time will tell.

(Now that American has unveiled its new livery, the carrier is updating its uniforms, and has tapped a designer for help. Check out the carrier’s video below.)

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About Jason Rabinowitz

Jason is a New York City native who has grown up in the shadow of JFK International Airport. A true "avgeek", Jason enjoys plane spotting and photography, as well taking any opportunity he can get to fly on an aircraft. You can also find him writing about the aviation industry for NYCaviation.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AirlineFlyer to discuss anything aviation related, and catch all his photos at Facebook.com/AirlineFlyer.

View all posts by Jason Rabinowitz
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14 Responses to “American responds to criticism over new livery; says it is not rethinking the design”

  1. Psi Says:

    As with most new airline liveries over the past 10-15 years, AA has missed the mark. Maybe it is a generational thing. I see the same dificiencies in automobile designs over a similar time period. The AA body is ok (boring but ok – at least it’s not white). The tail? Horrendous. Beyond horrendous. That they took 2 years to come up with this design is mind-blowing. Hopefully, if the criticism is widespread (similar to BA), pride won’t prevent them from admitting the mistake and making a necessary change.

    Reply

  2. Alex T Says:

    It’s a funny to way create “Brand American” for the world. Replace the word American on the fuselage with Aeroflot and 90% of people wouldn’t notice.

    Reply

  3. Michael Gofberg Says:

    Who christened American Airlines the flag carrier of this country?
    Arguably, that title belonged to PanAm, and no entity since.

    This tail is… shameful. The fact that little (if any) scientific research or panel group discussion went into this release is also shameful.

    American Airlines, please fix your tAAil. This is a mockery of a brand, a design, and an emotion.

    There’s a petition and exchange of opinions happening at our Facebook group: fixthetAAil

    Reply

    • Jason Rabinowitz Says:

      I did find it quite interesting that AA is billing itself at the flag carrier of the US. That just seemed to come out of nowhere, but it is something they are pressing hard.

      Reply

  4. Drew Cooper Says:

    “Timothy Ahern says, ‘The idea behind having the colours on our tail is that we believe we, from an international standpoint, are the flagship carrier to the world for America…’”

    His reference to “flagship carrier,” intentionally or not, sidesteps the legal definition of a “flag carrier,” and likely refers back to AA’s long use of the word flagship, i.e. Flagship Service on their transcons or naming aircraft Flagship such-and-such.

    Their whole branding exercise, livery and all, in a word…ick. Merely underscores the la-la land senior management lives in.

    Reply

  5. J grimes Says:

    Typical AA management. They ignore the outpouring of negativity and claim it isn’t there. These guys/gals don’t get it. Still tone deaf to anything they don’t want to hear. This is why we are in the predicament we are in. This just goes to show that with another colossal mistake staring them in the eyes, they still can’t see the forrest through the trees to change what has turned into a fiasco! Timothy Ahern and the rest of Tommy boy Hortons underlings are just following the party line till Doug Parker kicks the losers to the curb in short order. They are just riding the wave at this point.

    Reply

  6. JR Says:

    I think AA has lost its unmistakable logo and replaced it with another very vulgar and unattractive.

    Reply

  7. Mitch J Says:

    The new “flight symbol” looks like the old Greyhound bus logo. Similarly, the whole aircraft livery looks low-class. If this is branding for America, its a shameful way to do it. They’re making themselves into the Wal-Mart of the skies.

    Reply

  8. Mike A Says:

    All the criticism fails to take into consideration that the merger with USAirways would have required a rebranding anyway. The new tail design is actually a great melding of the American colors and the USAir stripes.

    I think it all actually looks quite good.

    Reply

  9. Michael R Says:

    When I first saw the new livery of American, I was flabbergasted. The DULL awful gray fuselage looks more like a military jet and the tail is an absolute eyesore. Gaudy, loud and cheap looking. And what is with the “American” painted in black ??? They at least could have done it blue or red to match the tail. I can`t believe they went for this look. I also do not understand why United and old Northwest had previous liveries with that same DULL gray. White is so much better. This one reason that people who witnessed the United jet crashing into the second building of the WTC thought it looked like a “military plane with no windows”. Anyway, that`s my opinion.

    Reply

  10. Kevin E. Says:

    If you count the number of stripes on the flag on the tail, you’ll notice that they are short one stripe…

    Reply

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  1. American Airlines Shows Off Their New Style | Airline Reporter | Blogging on the airline business - January 26, 2013

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