End Of The Plain Plane? Has The ‘Eurowhite’ Livery Hit Critical Mass?

Air Canada-Air Canada Unveils New Livery Inspired by Canada

As Air Canada’s revealed its new livery reveal, we raise the question, has the continuing trend of ‘Eurowhite’ liveries started to draw to a close? It was actually back in 1965 that Braniff International launched their ‘End of the plain plane’ advertising campaign – pointing out that their brightly coloured aircraft and Pucci uniforms were a unique selling point in the market.


While the past few years has seen a wave of simplified liveries join the skies, many have attributed the paired back designs as a result of cost cutting. It’s not that different paints cost dramatically different dependant on the colour, but it is the complexity of the designs that adds extra time to the painting process, meaning aircraft are on the ground for longer, not generating revenue for the airline.

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The new LATAM Livery revealed In August Last year replaced more colourful liveries of LAN and TAM

Other factors come in to play as well. Light colours reflect heat, while darker colours absorb, so APUs have to work harder on the ground to cool aircraft in hotter climates. Lighter colours show dirt more, and need more regular attention to keep them looking clean.

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The Air New Zealand 787-9 special ‘All Blacks’ aircraft is one of the only commercial aircraft flying with an almost fully-black design

There has also been a recent consumer trend across all industries to simplify the visual language. Some of this can be attributed to the clean utilitarian UX and visual language of leading brands such as Apple. Anyone who remembers the apps from a few years ago, will remember their reflective, almost 3D icon designs. All brands are quickly adapting to Apple’s new, flat, simplistic design language. There is no doubt that consumer trends are reflected in the graphic design – and therefore – liveries of late.

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Cathay adopted a simplified and unified design language last year to bring Dragonair and Cathay Pacific in line for their closer relationship 

But as Braniff tried to buck the trend back in 1965, could it be that we are about to see a new wave of more colourful, playful, regionally inspired liveries fly the skies once again? Design led airlines like Virgin continue to boldly fly metallic colours, large billboard type and this bold brand identity is reflected in their onboard product and ground product too.

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Delta are adopting some design cues from their partner, Virgin Atlantic

But perhaps the most exciting region to look at is the Pacific rim for bold identities, where small ’boutique’ carriers are vying for the attention of potential consumers. Fiji Airways, Air Calin, Air Tahiti Nui, Air Calédonie, PNG, and even Alaska Airlines, are all embracing local design inspiration, and using their aircraft like Birds of Paradise to work hard for their marketing efforts – especially when their budgets are much smaller than the legacy carriers that fly straight across the Pacific.

ohana-islandair-fijiairways

There is some excitement that Hawaiian Airlines have announced they are soon to reveal a new livery, and we hope that the airline continues to honour their local routes, bright, pacific heritage and reveal a stronger, equally colourful design that doesn’t continue this rising trends of ‘Eurowhite’ liveries around the globe. After all, if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

With a sea of similar looking liveries, similar ground and onboard products and safe, smart uniforms, brands are becoming diluted, and it’s becoming harder to distinguish brands and what they stand for. It is now, more than ever, that airlines need to embrace their differences, celebrate what makes them unique and broadcast that to the world with exciting, colourful designs that reflect how exciting the industry truly is.

The employment and trust of a design director is one way that airlines can truly adopt a design language that differentiates and resonates without being diluted by board approval. A singular strong voice and brand image that speaks up in a highly competitive landscape is the key to bringing the end to the ‘Plain Plane.’

6 comments

  1. Apple did not invent flat, symplistic UI design.

    They were one of the last mobile OSs on the market to leave skeuomorphism behind. Apple’s apps still had wooden bookshelves, glassy buttons and green felt backgrounds when Microsoft introduced Metro and even later when Android started rolling out Material design.

  2. Kenneth

    I’m pretty tired of the ‘plain plane’ myself. But one Eurowhite scheme that still works well – in my opinion – is that of Air France. Even after 40 years, the barcoded Tricolour still looks smart; the tail’s white stripes artfully blending with the all-white fuselage. This scheme has been subtly updated over the years (the red, white and blue stripes are fewer in number now), but I hope Air France sticks with what I consider to be an iconic livery.

  3. It seems to me, we are overdue for some more interesting color schemes. The simplicity of Eurowhite makes sense for, say, SAS or Swiss, but seems out of place for Air Canada.

  4. NICO

    Yes, livery maintenance costs, overhaul visual aspects in time, APU etc.. has always been a lonnnng debate at airlines’ decision boardrooms, and that is why Eurowhite concepts wins hands up all the time (by the way we did not see any others concepts Winkreative submitted during the project dev … please, do not lay the blame on them totally ). I am sure that Air Canada new livery will save a whole bunch of dollars with paint decals that were necessary to realize the complexe design of the actual-past “dot gradient” apple leaf (this was probably part of the creative brief Brûlé received from them). AOG is determinant with airlines scale economy and cost chasing culture (hum..hum :-/). If an airline goes to massive Alu use then, they better know who is going to do the paint job. It not so rare that an airline refuse airplane delivery or send back plane to hangar just because the “Alu” or “Glitter Fx” spraying failed…
    Additionally the larger the fleet the less complex the livery make common sense. That is the reason why small carriers in need of strong brand differentiation and awareness can (and must) push the boundaries of “eyes catching” livery design further up. They have the good numbers with them. I have no problem with Eurowhite as long as it is used as the base canvas for great brand identity and livery design.

    Strangely, if we look at aviation history the liveries are kind of economical (and emotional) barometer.
    Funky liveries are usually coherent with an opulence economical times. Second, there is the Trends. If one airline leader goes with something new, the others are quickly getting the “me too” pandemic.

    To its defense Eurowhite keeps it simple and “on” brand identity focus. Air France, Lufthansa liveries are timeless (ok their brand have been here for ever (almost), but with out important changes they keep their brand longevity and integrity. And that is what branding pillar and purpose is, right ? … So, no worries there will always be once in the while breakthrough Event Branding spectacular liveries, here and there, or some gusty airlines to jump ahead with livery design for the Aficionados lovers and spotters. Keep the faith 🙂

  5. Pingback: » Daily Aviation Brief – 13/02/2017

  6. Well, I like “eurowhite” liveries. They are simple and direct. Name/logo/tail.
    Of course, some may be considered iconic ( or easy to identify) like LH or AF. While others are major catastrophes leaving one wondering what is that and why they changed livery? Like, for example IB.
    A beautiful eurowhite gone was SAS “stripes” livery. Smart, colorful yet discrete.
    But who knows, perhaps the stripes a la Pan Am from the 60’s are the next big thing.

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