American Airlines is Done Painting Planes

American Airlines is done painting planes — updating the old bare metal legacy American Airlines livery, and repainting US Airways planes to say American. MD80s, slated for retirement, haven’t been painted.

With American’s order for new Boeing 787s with composite skin instead of aluminum, they decided the ‘bare metal’ American Airlines look couldn’t survive. They didn’t want a paint job for those planes that differed from the rest of the fleet, so they adopted new livery and embarked upon a repainting program for aircraft. This began five years ago.

The livery was hugely controversial, many customers, critics and employees didn’t like it. With the merger they’d be repainting even more planes, adding 299 legacy US Airways aircraft to the project.

At the time it was an open question whether they’d keep the new livery that American rolled out before the merger. Airline CEO Doug Parker said liveries don’t matter and he didn’t care what they chose, so he put the decision to an employee vote.

About 200 legacy American planes had been painted in the new livery when the merger closed. And they wanted to save on cost. So employees only got to vote on the tail.

A majority of employees (52%) chose to keep the new American tail, of course there were more American than legacy US Airways employees so it may have been a matter of ‘ours’ versus theirs. They lost control in the merger, they could at least keep their new livery (even though many existing employees hated it).

American had 8 paint lines going at one point, and the final US Airways mainline aircraft was re-painted on November 22, 2016. More than 300 new planes were delivered in the new livery since it was introduced. And the rest of the non-MD80 legacy American fleet was repainted as well.

Painting was a priority for the airline. Implementing a new devalued award chart, reducing mileage earning for flights, and combining mileage programs and reservations systems was a priority. Adding seats onto planes (‘densifying’) was a priority. Things that have not been a priority:

  • Adding Main Cabin Extra seating to legacy US Airways aircraft
  • Adding seat power to legacy US Airways aircraft (US Airways planes will have seat power eight years into the merger)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary if you are so unhappy with AA fly an OAL in 2018.

    You rip on the company but keep coming back for the overly generous industry leading AAdvantage program.

  2. Don’t bother repainting those old legacy aircraft! Send them to the desert and put the savings towards new fleet replacements.

    Don’t go to the bother of repainting those old legacy claptraps. Just send them to the desert and put the savings towards some new additions to the fleet. God knows AA need them!

  3. @Josh G

    To be fair he keeps coming back to AA because they have an outsized presence in his home base of Austin. This isn’t unlike my kvetching about UA, who I used to fly extensively despite loathing them, because my airport is DEN.

  4. There are countless other airlines at AUS that well serve the market. He even said he flies WN to DCA nonstop.

    Everyone knows the LUS fleet is deficient and Parker is in no rush to address it.

  5. Rather than spend money lookin’ good, they should invest in customer comfort – MORE LEG ROOM!

  6. @ Mallthus

    If that is Gary’s reason for flying AA, than that means he is the dummy. If AA is so bad, than he would fly another airline and vote with his wallet. Instead, he is falling in line with their strategy of offering an inferior product at about the same cost. So AA seems to be the smart one in this relationship.

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