To be honest, we’re not really that sure why Icelandair has done this, but it has decided to update and refresh its once elegant brand, simplifying and stripping back originality. Instead opting for a low-cost looking approach with large billboard titles and basic graphic tails.

What’s more baffling is how Icelandair have positioned the dramatic change from their rather elegant, iconic livery. “In 2022 we are updating our airline livery – the way our planes look – with new colours drawn from Icelandic nature, including the beloved northern lights,” states Icelandair on its site.

Icelandair’s existing livery

“This is the first time the whole livery design has been changed since 2006, and is part of a complete refresh of the Icelandair brand. Over the past year or so, we’ve been looking at our brand as a whole and finding new, refreshing ways to bring the spirit of Iceland to the world.”

Quite frankly, it seems that once again, a design approach was signed off, and then the logic behind it was bolted on as an afterthought. After all, since when do basic colours of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow reflect nature?

Quite frankly the set of liveries look more like the lovechild of a Hewlett Packard Printer advert and a Ryanair plane.

In reality this is a massive brand fail. The ethos is admirable, and actually sound. “Our livery is like a flying billboard. And since we spend so much time in the sky, we drew inspiration from what we see in front of us, and what we see in our country from above.” However the execution lets it down like the final result was created on an 1980’s Sinclair spectrum with its glorious 16 colours to pick from.

I mean, this is how they describe the logic behind the colour selection:

  • The midnight blue is our heritage color and the backdrop to the dancing auroras.
  • The snow white represents our glaciers.
  • The boreal blue is a representation of the northern lights.
  • The magenta signifies the collective creative power of Iceland, with just a hint of sunrise.
  • The crisp blue is the Icelandic summer sky that’s filled with light.
  • The golden yellow is the sun reflecting off waterfalls, glaciers, and even simmering magma.
  • The green represents the life that can be found even after the harshest of events.

Errr, ok? The Problem is bigger than just choice of colours.

Icelandair has also inadvertently (or purposefully) visually pitched itself against low-cost carriers. Both Ryanair and Malta Air being clear family members of large logotypes in Uppercase that dominate the fuselage.

In fact, even the Ryanair Harp has similarities to the logo which used to resemble the Icelandic flag, however now in white, rather than gold actually looks closer to Oman Air’s tail fin.

It’s because of an illogical ‘race to digital’ that many airlines are blindly undertaking. Due in part that once-analogue brands are harder to translate in to digital form, such as apps and websites. Sadly, this has led to the over-simplification of brands that have highly complex design ecosystems, and usually the response from core markets is overtly negative.

While subjective perception does fade over months and years, Icelandair have taken a bold dramatic decision to shed all previous brand roots, perhaps nervous of the likes of WOW Air and Play’s impact on their dominant position. Is this right? Well, frankly, our view is that the airline should have ramped up the luxury high-end positioning, and stand above the competition, rather than take them head on. Instead we have a common denominator of low-cost brands serving this important Transatlantic gateway.

In hindsight, Icelandair should have taken a rebrand closer to the approach of upcoming replicant Northern Pacific as that would have resonated better.

Interestingly, Icelandair last rebranded in 1999, moving away from their basic brand which reflected the backpacker demographic it once served, looking to appeal to a more lucrative Business Class market. Maybe the airline is just going back to its roots, and what that means for its Saga Class and lounges is yet to be revealed.

Posted by:Jonny Clark

4 replies on “Ryanair updates its livery. Oops, sorry, we mean Icelandair.

  1. So it seems the basic livery in which the 737MAX was first delivered some 3 years ago (not the one shown on the image in the article) without the blue belly was just an interim livery and the rebranding had been some time in the making?

  2. It’s disheartening to see one airline after another opt for a generic look that says absolutely nothing about the carrier or its country of origin (I’m thinking at the moment of YOU, Iberia).

    Maybe since Icelandic has such a poor reputation for inflight service, they’ve decided to just go ahead and adopt a livery that tells the world “We’re a budget airline”.

  3. Writing this now form Reykjavik as I have finally made the trip to gorgeous and unique Iceland.

    As an airline enthusiast since childhood and one who finds joy (and sorrow) in airline news, it was a pleasure finally catching the iconic Icelandair’s’ 757 with the elegant slightly formal, what I would call the “Landor livery” of Iceland. Only to see this article the day of my trip and indeed seeing that 737 at KEF.

    I couldn’t agree more with your detailed thoughts and analysis on the new rebranding and livery. The marketing jargon says one thing, the execution unfortunately says another.

    Iceland deserves a more well rounded flag carrier by brand and image.

  4. This new livery is so cheap looking. Almost screams ‘please don’t board me’.
    Sorry icelandair but what have you done

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