American Airlines New Tail Conundrum

american-airlines-new-livery-design-2

It’s no secret that we weren’t fans of American’s new livery when it came out, and although we loved the new 777 premium cabins, we thought the livery was missing the mark, being overtly American, one thing that Internationally has always been a nationalistic stereotype picked up on by the rest of the global community.

It was a story that was picked up on by newspapers, commented on on news channels and had fans up-in-arms, causing a huge amount of controversy, however the outgoing CEO of American at the time said the new livery was here to stay. Now that the merger has completed between the two American carriers, new American CEO Doug Parker kept getting asked one question in his interviews.
Are you going to keep the livery that American unveiled last January?

His reply was to offer it to the staff of the airline, with a vote taking place currently (finishing in a few days), announced in an internal memo. In a lengthy and well constructed letter, he mentions “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.” Whilst this comment isn’t wrong, it is in our instance a little short-sighted. The livery, is by essence the biggest billboard for the airline possible, it needs to impart the personality of the airline, especially in countries where American is less known. A big American flag, no matter how it is described, can be seen as a negative, and no other major carrier uses their national flag so blatantly on their aircraft for the same reason. Carriers now have to appear international and less country-centric to appeal to a broader audience and show a more culturally sensitive approach.

He further goes on to describe that for financial and technical reasons, they won’t change the entire plane look, but only focus on the tail. We have to agree, that is a sensible move. Not only is it financially a more viable and logical step, from a branding perspective, a rapid change in a brand image can be damaging, showing an instability at the airlines core. However, he has offered his staff two choices, that both seem perhaps a little unconsidered.

american original1

One option is to offer the current livery design that has been rolled out over 200 of the 620 aircraft currently in the fleet.

american original2

The other option, offers the original Masimo Vignelli “AA” initials with eagle crest which is because “we have heard from many employees that they miss the old AA with the eagle.” Now if you ask us, this is a step backwards, as we are now looking at two contrasting logos on one aircraft. Now whilst here at thedesignair.net we would love to see the old logo and livery forever (It won our top livery 2012) we can also see the need for change. What we can’t understand is why there weren’t other options offered for the tail fin design that managed to feel a little more considered.

Even us here at thedesignair.net, quickly knocking up in a morning, seemingly have been able to create something that may be able to replace the flag tail, without having to step back to the past.

thedesignair american airlines tail 1 thedesignair american airlines tail 4

In our versions (above) the new ‘Eagle swash’ design is perfectly designed to match the tail fin angle, and when the eagle’s beak is taken off, the logo cleverly becomes ‘all things American’ but in a more subtle way. A star can now be seen, along with the red, white and blue of the tail – forming all the elements of the American flag. Wrapping the logo around the fuselage (as in the first image) will also help balance the livery design, connecting the tail fin with the fuselage. Whilst we our ideas aren’t perfect (and will probably come under fire), they showcase the fact that more can be done with the jet than just these two options that Doug Parker wants to offer. Infact, we are holding this open to a vote…

6 comments

  1. Honestly, Jonny, you’ve hit the mark. That was precisely the reaction I had when the tail-vote came up. Why would they ever want to go back to “AA” when the new swash logo is so ideally suited?

    I don’t even understand why they didn’t just extend that swash to the tail in the first place, avoiding such literal use of the flag.

    I prefer your first redesign proposal, where the red swash curves around the base of the tail, but either of your proposals would be a good third choice for the American Airlines vote.

    That said, it did occur to me that the flag tail incorporates USAirways former grey flag logo, and that as result of the merger between them the tail suddenly seems a bit more congruous. Look at this picture of the three tails side by side in this article on The Post and Courier:

    http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20130224/PC05/130229589/1010/in-path-to-american-x2019-s-merger-1-ceo-had-to-leave

    You can see a transition from the design lines of one to the other. From this perspective, the flag-tail appears to harmonise the livery of both airlines.

    My vote is still strong for The Design Air tail option #1.

    Doug Parker’s comments would indicate that there will be limited consideration given to this decision. I suspect that if they do opt for change, we’ll see the “AA” back on American’s tails soon. Domage.

  2. Mr. Jazz J. Salcedo

    Personally it is time for change. True the old one is very iconic and many of us grew up with it. But alas who cares about the having the IATA code as a logo. The eagle is what should have been used in a more modern and forward vision using it as an ambassadorship of the airline and the country. Not using it with the flag as something elitist. Yet of course something simply, clean yet thought provoking can be designed. But one must remember the days of using all that paint which made it the aircraft much heavier which cannot be done these days. However I have seen other options that may work. Using the actual logo.

  3. Kevin DeKarski

    I hope they don’t use that 1960’s AA on the tail! It’s time to move in 2014 with a modern design!

  4. Tom

    While I am not a huge fan of the new AA tail – I have to disagree with this statement in the article above:

    “A big American flag, no matter how it is described, can be seen as a negative, and no other major carrier uses their national flag so blatantly on their aircraft for the same reason.”

    If United or Delta’s livery featured the American flag, it would come off as forced (at best), pompous (at worst) or just overly-patriotic. But for AA, it isn’t unreasonable to feature a tail design evocative of the American flag – It’s American Airlines.

    And plenty of carriers feature elements of their country’s flag – some to a much greater degree than AA. Air Canada, BA, SWISS, Korean and Etihad immediately come to mind.

    Disliking the current AA tail is one thing, but to argue that it’s somehow a negative reflection of the US is a little misguided.

  5. Pingback: American Airlines Tail Finalised | DesignAir

  6. Ross Brown

    I loved the new American Airlines colour scheme the first time I saw it – it’s smart, modern, undoubtably “American” yet still keeping the famous eagle modernised on the fuselage. It would be crazy to bring back the AA logo simply because a lot of aircraft were already reprinted and you would have 2 different logos on the same aircraft plus the airline now wants to promote itself as “American” not “American Airlines”!! TheDesignAir liveries are great however the flag tail works perfectly for me!

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