When Continental took over United they kept the Continental reservation system, website, and leadership. And they painted the planes with the Continental globe, dropping the United tulip. They even considered abandoning “Rhapsody in Blue.” Thank goodness they didn’t throw George Gershwin overboard.
Thinking at the time was United was a basket case and Continental management savvy, but Gordon Bethune and Larry Kellner were already gone and the airline was being run by a Chief Executive that would ultimately promise “Changes You’re Going to Like” but become embroiled in an FBI investigation over bribing a public official.
The airline was supposed to be reborn under new Chief Executive Oscar Munoz who had experience in rail transportation and as an airline board member but not as an airline executive. In some sense that might have been a benefit. He was quickly sidelined with heart surgery, but his early moves and his dedication when he returned to work won over many of the carrier’s employees.
He rolled out some of the customer-friendly moves that had been developed under previous leadership, like Polaris, and early wins were Illy coffee and Stroopwafels. However Scott Kirby and Andrew Nocella were brought over from American Airlines and with it came backsliding from a customer experience perspective.
Nothing renews an airline like new planes but absent a giant plane order there always seems to be the thought that the airline can be refreshed by painting planes. However,
- Painting planes always matters less than airlines think it does.
- Almost no one reacts positively to changes in livery at least initially.
You do want planes to be painted with the name of the airline after a merger, and there can be paint jobs that feel particularly dated. Nonetheless it’s a years-long process and a costly one to undertake.
American’s was especially controversial.
- Almost no one liked it when it was revealed. The airline replaced their unpainted metal look, which wouldn’t have worked on the composite materials of their new 787s.
- When US Airways management took over they let employees vote and the new livery barely won, though the alternative was closer to the new livery than the old one.
I couldn’t make it to the United event launching their new livery (paint job) today in Chicago, but I’m not sure I would have gone in any case. Aircraft paint jobs just aren’t as big a deal to me as perhaps they should be. I’m glad I didn’t make the commitment, because the new paint job leaked early in any case – making the event pretty anti-climactic.
And since it was out anyway United shared video of it online.
Our next livery has been cleared for takeoff. Stay tuned right here for more from our celebration in Chicago tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/n4CJrAJERG
— United Airlines (@united) April 24, 2019
The Continental globe remains on the tail. It also adds some previous United elements,
In another change, the airline is painting its name in blue lettering in much larger letters across the aircraft’s fuselage. It will paint its engines, now gray, in blue.
United is also adding a dark wavy line, below the windows, from the aircraft’s nose to its tail. United introduced a similar line in 2012, in gold, on its Boeing 787s. United has put that gold line on all of its 787s and Boeing 737 Max 9s, but never added it to other aircraft.
Long-time United observers noted on social media and message boards that the new livery shares some similarities with the paint job United used just before its merger. United used a lot of blue in that look, including blue engines.
Ultimately though it’s just an evolution. So for me at least it doesn’t induce a strong reaction at all, which is good. But that leads me to wonder why bother at all?