December 17, 2013

The New American Airlines Livery - Will it Stay or Will it Go?

Start lobbying the employees...
they get to decide!

For decades, American Airlines has flown unpainted, polished aluminum airplanes.  The outgoing livery, introduced in 1967, outlasted mergers, shifting tastes and the test of time, but it's time for something new...or is it?  The "New" American livery, introduced earlier this year, dropped the company's signature bare-metal skin that dated back to the era of propeller-driven airliners. Polished skins were declared fuel-saving because an unpainted plane weighs less. But, as with so many other arguments, there are two sides to the story. Cost estimates from Boeing indicate that an unpainted aircraft will actually cost more money to maintain over time due to the increased cost of washing, polishing and painting a polished fuselage through its service life. (Click here to read more on that subject.)

Yesterday, American Airlines Group CEO Doug Parker sent the following message to the employees:  "While I enjoy debating the merits of certain aircraft liveries as much as anyone, I have always believed they are not particularly important to the success of an airline. For our team members who work in, around and on these aircraft day in and day out, it matters a great deal, but I have yet to find a customer who based their purchase decision on the exterior design of the airplane. I think our livery should represent the American well - it should be professional, and it should be cost efficient - but it is not a make or break decision for the airline. And since it is important to our team members, I think our team members should decide."

But wait!  When I went to the site to register my vote, the following note was prominently displayed: "This isn't a ‘vote’ on the new livery … rather it is a way to get your thoughts before we make a decision on how we are going to paint the planes in the future."  Well, at least they're asking for our opinion, even if they don't necessarily plan on abiding by it.  Oh...there's more. Part of the decision has already been made.  There will be "no more buffing - we have to paint."

There are numerous reasons for this decision. American can’t continue with the traditional polished aluminum because, well, their planes are no longer made solely of aluminum. "There is no good way to convert the US Airways fleet to polished silver because of the materials used on Airbus aircraft."  US Airways was the single largest operator of Airbus A320 series aircraft in the world, and the new American has orders in place for many more of the type. Also, in addition to continued deliveries of the A320, American has orders in place for the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, both of which are composite aircraft that cannot be converted to a shiny metallic look. 

Here's the real kicker.  The decision is between two possible options (pictured below). The body will remain the same - only the tail is up for discussion.  So choose your favorite and make your opinion known.  It's in the hands of the employees.

Questions Answered...

Mr. Parker has said in the past he liked the brand work and didn't anticipate an immediate change. Did he change his mind?
Doug has stated many times his support for the brand that American introduced earlier this year but employees have continued to reach out to him to share their thoughts on the tail of the aircraft livery. The other components of the livery – painted fuselage, new logo and flight symbol – are all here to stay, in addition to the other brand elements introduced including the refreshed color scheme and font. This discussion is only about the tail. The new branding on the whole is professional, bold, fresh and represents American well.

What will you do with the results of the survey?
If employees want to keep the new look, we’ll keep it.  If they want the AA tail, we’ll go back. The bottom line is we want our employees to have input in what our new company looks like.

How many employees are you surveying?
We are surveying all of the employees of the combined airline.  As we build our new company, we want all of our employees to have a voice in who we are as an airline, and that starts with how we present ourselves to the world.

So much has already been done, how much would it cost to revert to the old imagery on the tail?
The overall cost to go back to the previous tail imagery is small and may even be more cost efficient in the longer term.  But the important thing is for all our employees to have input in the decision.

Why only the tail?
Major changes are not cost effective. However you may feel about the new livery and branding, the fact is it would be irresponsible for us to start over from scratch. There are currently more than 200 aircraft in the new livery and the new flight symbol or, “eagle” as it’s sometimes called, and the related signage is up in many airports and facilities already. One of our five imperatives at American is “Provide a Return for our Investors” and we can’t do that by spending their capital redoing a lot of work that has just been recently accomplished. The rest of the branding elements are excellent and will be left in place.

Why can’t we return to a polished fuselage?
We can't continue with the traditional American buffed silver look as there is no good way to convert the US Airways fleet to polished silver because of the materials used on Airbus aircraft.  In addition, the B787 and A350, both of which we have on order, are composite aircraft and that material cannot be converted to a shiny metallic look.  This, of course, is the same dilemma American faced last summer as the first of a large order of unpolished aircraft began to be delivered.

How many planes have been painted to date?
By the end of Q2 2014, a total of 275 mainline and regional aircraft will have the new livery, including new deliveries.

What about the livery for American Eagle aircraft?
Whatever choice is made by all employees (American Eagle, PSA and Piedmont employees are participating in the vote as well) will also influence the livery decision for our regional fleet.

1 comment:

  1. I don't mind either of the American color schemes. What I am VERY happy about - is that the heritage US Airways schemes are being retained, as well as a TWA retro scheme is being introduced. Having gone through the events of the TWA merger in St Louis when we lived there - it is OVERDUE to have one of those!!!