Last week, Fort Worth-based American Airlines tweeted a picture of its first new 777-300ER aircraft in production, although not in full livery (yet). This is leading some speculation as to whether or not AA will introduce a new livery when it receives its first new aircraft later this fall. American will be the first US-based carrier to operate the 777-300ER.
Back in May, a Bloomberg article hinted at the possibility that American was considering a livery change for its jets. American has long used the polished-aluminum scheme since the 1930’s.
The brand renewal initiative has actually been under consideration for well over a year, and is not directly related to any of the more pivotal changes in the carrier’s history over the past few months. American filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on November 29, 2011, and merger rumors with Tempe, AZ-based US Airways have been circulating for months.
While some people are speculating that American will be introducing its new livery and brand when the first 777-300ER arrives this December, others believe that there isn’t enough lead time remaining for the carrier to make this move. For one, it appears critical for American to exit Chapter 11 as a viable carrier before announcing any major branding decisions. From a public relations perspective, it might not reflect well on the carrier unless the days of painful labor negotiations and other restructuring moves are far behind them.
Above: Google Image search of publicly-designed sketches/speculations on American’s new livery.
There is also the added factor of a potential merger with US Airways. Even though it is rumored that American will be the surviving name *if* the two carriers choose to merge, it is critical for the combined airline to roll-out a livery in tandem, similar to what United Airlines did when it merged with Continental. US Airways also went through a branding and livery transition this past decade when it merged with America West Airlines in 2005.
Still, it is interesting to discuss the potential ramifications. I personally am a huge fan of American’s current livery: I think it is very sleek, iconic and classic. However, the reality is that it is not sustainable. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, of which American has 42 on order) is made from composite-plastic, which is not compatible with the polished-aluminum look on American’s current fleet.
Luckily, American has already worked around this issue previously, back in 1988 when it received the Airbus A300 series. Airbus worried that polishing the aluminum on these widebody frames would expose the metal to corrosion, so American painted the planes a special “gray” color to avoid this concern. However, the Airbus A300 wasn’t a new, sleek and ostentatious aircraft, even in 1988, whereas the 787 is. As such, painting the Dreamliner gray, then applying the current color scheme, will probably look dull and unappealing, as it will lack the bold, shiny metallic luster that is proudly displayed on AA’s current fleet.
Interestingly, this video that provides an interior tour of the new 777-300ER and Airbus A32X planes show a simple, silver, blank livery on the exterior of AA’s planes.
It will be interesting to see what the changes bring about. What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments space below.