NEW 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)