Picture 85As promised, here at DesignAir we evaluated airlines around the world to compile our definitive Top 10 list of Cool Airline Brands. Let us know if you agree, whether you think we’ve missed one, or what your top 10 would be at the bottom of the page!


10. Southwest

Southwest Airlines could be seen as a weird choice to include in the Top 10, but as far as low cost carriers go, Southwest have a great ethos which transfers into a really positive brand. Cool and quirky individuality is promoted in their staff and this shows in the airline experience. They’ve been known on YouTube to generate some serious hits with their slightly less othordox safety announcements. Met with a general sense of ease, and not trying to be anything more than they are, they have a solid brand and product that isn’t generally disliked by many. Well done Southwest, and well deserved placing on the list!

9. Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian have received many awards for their service, no wonder they are proud of their heritage. Their first class offering between west coast America and the Hawaiian Islands is second to none, flying wide body planes and investing into their fleet, they really do offer a modern and fun product. The brand experience starts the moment you step onboard. No ‘silly’ Hawaii games on these flights that other American airlines provide, there is a real sense of getting to the islands once you are at your seat, as the Ukelele music is softly piped through the cabin, Hawaiian shirts adorn the cabin crew, and leis can be seen everywhere. With the launch of new smaller interisland routes and more and more A330s joining the fleet, the Hawaiian airline brand continues to get ‘Hula’ by the minute.

8. Singapore Airlines

This airline is more about prestige than actual cool, but still deserves its place on the list. It’s the fact it makes you look cool for flying with them, rather than the brand itself being cool. Whilst the product is slick and contemporary, it’s still about providing a sense of luxury. It’s an airline you can mention you travelled with or are about to travel with, with pride. The first to offer the A380, always a step ahead with their cabin product and timeless uniforms created by Pierre Balmain, the emphasis is on chic rather than cheap. Singapore‘s product is classic, and for that we salute the airline. They stand by their product and haven’t cheapened their service, even in this cost cutting environment that most airlines are struggling to perform in. Plus we “love” their business class seat.

7. Virgin America

Still relatively young compared to most airlines operating today, Virgin America have really turned continental US carriers on their head. Soon after launching, using a cool ‘iPhone generation’ advertising campaign, they have pitched themselves as the airline for the fashionistas, bar-hopping-fun-loving and the super trendy creative industries. Their network is dripping in cool almost as much the planes themselves. Order at seat dining? Yes please! Loads of entertainment at the touch of a screen? Yes please! More mood lighting than the whole of Manhattan? Definitely! Whilst they still only have a small fleet, they continue to expand and bolster their current routes, making them the airline of choice on many US routes now.

6. Air New Zealand

Any airline that has Richard Simmons on their in seat TVs wins our vote. For that reason, and purely just that reason, Air New Zealand have whisked up the rankings to number 6. But seriously, fantastic premium economy, new products such as the “skycouch” and naked flight attendants in their previous advertising are plenty enough reason to be in the cool list. Air New Zealand, who have just launched a new livery, offer business class meals in premium economy, sexy white seating in their business class cabin and a host of entertainment options that make their mainly long haul route network a breeze to while away the hours with. Air New Zealand is a cool and contemporary brand, and we agree, just as their brand motto states, that with Air New Zealand… ‘future takes flight’

5. Virgin Australia

As only recently mentioned on DesignAir, Virgin Australia have had a brilliant 2012. A rebrand, new products, new planes, everything that they are doing right now is top-dog awesome. Their latest advertising campaign, finalises what the airline has completed in the last 12 months. Bringing together what was a slightly misaligned brand between Virgin Blue and it’s sister airlines and V Australia. Their brand now fits even closer with Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic, unifying the experience as travellers now become more and more international, experiencing the other Virgin brands. Virgin Australia, like Virgin Blue, always had a bit of a cheek to it, and we applaud that. No bland airline here, just true Aussie spirit, bottled. Less ‘cool’, more ‘kewwl!’

4. Kulula

Africa doesn’t always get the image it deserves, and Kulula is doing what they can to set the record straight. Although the fun Kulula branded aircraft are less about fun and more aboout slick now, the spirit of the airline stays strong. A modern 737 fleet with Boeing’s ‘Sky’ Interior now are pride of the fleet, shaking away the image of older smokier aircraft that used to fly the skies of the African continent. Their tone of voice is quirky and their website does what it can to relieve the tension in an area of what probably has a higher proportion of first time fliers. Any airline that can paint ‘This Way Up’ on the side of their plane is cool enough for us.

3. Cathay Pacific

Cathay, like Singapore Airlines, showcases Asia for their excellence in customer service and product. Cathay’s renovation of their cabins based on their customers concerns shows a humility and a desire to learn from their mistakes. The coffin like business class herringbone seats were a poor imitation of that of carriers of Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic, and many fliers that we know here at DesignAir made complaints about the lack of space. However, the brand new business class product is steps ahead, and their service and product combine to make a serious, funky, and reserved airline that’s business savvy. Whilst they aren’t an all singing all dancing gimmick airline that follows trends, they, like Singapore, are timeless cool. You’ll be hard pushed to find a bad experience on Cathay no matter what class you fly. To the kings of Hong Kong, we salute you!

2. Porter

So your office desk is made of teak from some unpronounceable country, your bag is made from recycled lettuces and your glasses are trendier than the whole of San Fran and your iPhone was the very first of the production line. So of course you will fly Porter. It’s cooler than the Antarctic. Anything touched by the hands of Tyler Brulé of Wallpaper fame is bound to turn the heads of the ultra-hip. Still years after it’s first prop-powered flight the airline is the epitome of trend-setter. Still small enough to be nimble in the current climate, it’s doing great guns, continuing to launch new flights and routes. And hey, it has a racoon as a mascot. Now why wouldn’t this airline be cool?

1. Virgin Atlantic

Virgin have done it again, and this isn’t much surprise. Great new products coming out this year, a fantastic advertising campaign and a space adventurer as an owner, this recipe makes the perfect blend. Virgin Atlantic recently got 8th place in the CoolBrands List 2012, and it was the number one airline in the list too. No surprises for those regular readers that we would put Virgin Atlantic at the top of the list. Virgin Atlantic since their creation were leaders in the field, and whilst the competition is getting stronger and bigger, Virgin still have an edge that makes you feel proud to fly with them. With more options to fly on their growing routes, brand new planes and better cabins, there is little reason not to take a trip with them right now. Congratulations Virgin, you really are still ‘Red Hot’!

Posted by:Jonny Clark

5 replies on “TheDesignAir Top 10 Cool Airline Brands 2012

  1. Great list and as a matter of fact, I couldn’t agree more. It’s difficult to come op with more airline brands, but I here are a few more of my personal fav’s:

    Turkish Airlines: impeccable inflight catering by do&co, stunning new CIP Lounge in Istanbul and interesting drive towards becoming a major player with feeder traffic from Europe to Asia.

    KLM: great example of an airline which embraces social media with their Meet & Seat concept. The oldest airline in the world and still going strong (with Air France though). In their World Business Class, every passenger receives a Delft Blue miniature house filled with gin which are true collector items. They don’t go for the ‘wow’-factor, but KLM is typical Dutch, where we have a famous proverb: ‘Just act normal, that’s crazy enough’. They work together with Dutch designers Marcel Wanders and Hella Jongerius.

    Icelandair: they truly embrace their country of origin – IFE filled with documentaries about Iceland and Icelandic movies/music (which truly are awesome), quirky information about Iceland placed on different items onboard (pillows, headrests, coffee cups). Incredible deals for travelling from Europe to USA with excellent stopover opportunities in Iceland self and they are one of the main sponsors of the Iceland Airwaves music festivals for years.

    Garuda Indonesia: scorned for many years with a terrible inflight product and questionable safety standard. They completely turned the company over with the ‘Quantum Leap’ project. New image, livery, product and uniforms for their flight attendants. Now everybody in all classes enjoy personal IFE (even on their narrow-body fleet) and service wise on par with the better Asian airlines.

    Lufthansa: totally German. Efficient, and straight to the point. As a matter of fact, I think their ‘no-nonsense’ approach really capture the essence of being ‘cool’ without trying to hard. They won’t surprise you either way, but it’s just how they deliver it to you. The First Class of Lufthansa is in a league of its own. No whistles and bells you see from their Asian/Middle-Eastern counterparts, but refined service in a sophisticated cabin (by the way: I absolutely love how they use their corporate colors in the cabin design throughout all of their classes).

    I also agree with kaiwenwordpress: it would be very intersting to see your list of the top F-class products next

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