February 7, 2013

Is the "New American" growing on you yet?

In all honesty, I was never a big fan of American Airlines' polished aluminum airplanes and I'm trying very hard to embrace the new look.  While the polished aluminum was classic, simple and beautiful on a new airplane in the right light, I've always preferred a painted fuselage and never thought American took enough time and effort maintaining the aluminum to keep it looking the way it should.  It's been a couple of weeks since the new livery was unveiled and I must admit my opinion is beginning to change.  I'm not sure if the "New American" is growing on me or if I'm simply responding like a parent defending his child. My kid may have issues and may be far from perfect, but I don't need someone else to bring those deficiencies to my attention.

Virasb Vahidi, American's Chief Commercial Officer, reportedly told Today in the Sky that he thought people would "love it" but acknowledged "we are prepared for the diverse set of views we're going to get from customers."  Personally, I think the logo is simple and classy, with hints of the old design while representing the airline with an attractive and improved new look that I hope will carry over into more important things like improved operational performance...which is where I wish the airline would concentrate its efforts.

Unfortunately, the new look still brings to mind a number of images that I don't think American is intending to emulate...

...just to name two.

The most controversy seems to revolve around the tail design, which looks like Liberace's patriotic piano keyboard...but without stars! I've always wondered why the US Airways logo depicted an American flag minus stars, and now I'm left wondering why American Airlines has done the same thing. With a merger between the two still a significant possibility, I can't help but winder if that wasn't an intentional nod.

Where the new design really falls flat is with the grey paint on the body of the jet. The images offered online by American are artist renditions of the real thing and have taken some liberty with reality. The drawings and computer generated images suggest a fuselage painted with a pearlescent look similar to the most recent Northwest Airlines livery in use just prior the company's merger with Delta in 2008.

I'm sad to say that I saw the real thing on the ramp at DFW last week in an unattractive flat finish that is simply boring and uninspired.  If you happen to be standing in just the right spot...clear skies with the sun shining directly on the fuselage...you will see that there is some fleck in the paint, but not enough to be seen from any distance.  As a matter of fact, I stood directly beneath American's newest Boeing 777-300ER this week and honestly thought the paint was flat until the sun finally broke through the clouds. AMR CEO Tom Horton said American's redesign was in the works for two years, long before the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2011. The paint looks more like a base coat of primer than a finished product two years in the making.

In the shade, the paint appears completely flat.
Only in direct sunlight is the fleck noticeable.

There were so many good choices.  The obvious option was to leave a good thing alone, but that ship has sailed.  Another idea, pictured below, is my personal favorite. Of course I've already said that I like new logo, so it isn't surprising that I like this one the best.  It is simple and doesn't remind me of a Greyhound bus or Wladziu Valentino Liberace.

In the end, what really matters is that American finds a way to improve the daily operation. What management doesn't seem to understand is that if they continue to alienate the traveling public, no amount of fresh paint will save the airline from a second and possible life ending trip through bankruptcy.  At the moment, American is at the bottom of all measurements of importance, lagging behind in on-time performance, flight cancellations and customer satisfaction. In the Department of Transportation's November 2012 on-time performance rankings, AA ranked dead last, 15 out of 15. In the Wall Street Journal's full year 2012 operational performance ranking, AA again ranked last in on-time performance, had the highest cancellation rate of all "major airlines," and was ranked number seven in a report titled the Ten Most-Hated Companies in America.  American Airlines is on life support, and while a fresh new paint job may look nice, it isn't what the doctor ordered.

While working its way through bankruptcy, American appears to have concentrated almost solely on improving the airline's financial health while ignoring items that might actually improve the customer experience.  While it may be both common and important to revamp the image of a bankrupt company, American will not survive in the long run if it does not make improvements more directly appreciated by its customers.


  1. I agree with many of your comments here, Brad, especially with the "Liberace" piano and your preference for the other mock-up with the new AA logo. The tail looks so much more aesthetically pleasing!

    When American and US Airways merge, which sounds like it will officially announced next week, do you think the newly merged airline will embrace both color schemes/logos (i.e., the new United), just take over one (i.e., Delta), or create a new one entirely?

    Thanks for this blog, I really enjoy learning from you!

  2. Honestly, who really cares? As the post finally hints, the livery will have no affect on their safety, operations or on-time performance. And only a fool would purchase a ticket based upon an airplane's paid job. Nice pix, but...

  3. Funny you ask if it's growing on you...that's what I've been saying! It's growing on me...but VERRRY slowly. I agree about the Liberace tail, lol! And yes it looks like they went with that "model airplane silver" stuff that NWA went with...

    Unlike you, I grew up LOVING the original design, and dreaming of flying the big silver birds one day....

    Tho, for the first time, I saw the OLD paint job and thought, hmm...boring, LOL!

  4. First I just wanna say your blog is awesome. I'm also from the DFW area (Grapevine) I'm super envious you get to fly my favorite airplane of all time for a living! It'll be a sad day when I don't hear the sweet serenade of PW JT8D'S flying over 114, only to be replaced with the boring fatboy (737) most vanilla airplane of all time.

    To your topic though I grew up as a todler in the 90's and just caught the end of what I call the glory days of aviation. When airplanes were beautiful and had flavor first flight ever was on a Delta L1011 to SLC. I've actually rode all the tri jets. Loved the 727 but the DC-9 series has always had my heart lol. I think the polished chrome was very sharp and I hate to see it go but to me it's just another way to further make flying boring and stale but it's all about making money and spending less so I understand.

    Keep up the great work I love reading about your adventures in the maddog!

    1. I too will miss the MD80 and those glorious JT8D's. I love the rumble both heard AND felt as one roars down the runway. I'm not sure you will like my next post though. My time on the 80 is coming to a close and you may not like where I land next.

  5. Question: does the MD-80 have one of the best climb ratings? I notice that the maddog and the 757 climb what seems to be steeper than the rest of the birds.

    I figured you'd be switching over to the 737 since AA is phasing out the MD-80. It'd be cool if you did a comparison between the two and which one you enjoyed flying more.

  6. Hi Landon, The climb rate depends on a lot of factors like temperature, altitude and weight of the jet. I've seen climb rates on the MD80 greater than 6,000 FPM (that's as high as the VSI goes) but I know the other jets are capable of that as well. I don't have enough experience on other equipment to provide an accurate comparison.

  7. I was thinking the same thing about the piano keys on the tail the day after the AA and US merger was official. Honestly, I would've liked the bird to stay on better than the piano keys but it's all a done deal now. I will also venture to say that the 777-300ER looks good in anything.. PS, Awesome angles of N718AN!

    Jeremy | CaptainAboard.com | @CaptainAboard