American Airlines Group CEO Doug Parker told employees of both American Airlines and US Airways that they would get to vote on the tail of American Airlines planes. If they prefer, the airline will go with the old tail icon that had been in place since 1968. If they like the new tail, they can keep it. But the decision needs to be made quickly so they can start painting US Airways planes.
Personally the new paint job has really grown on me since it was unveiled. I don’t really like the tail, though… still, the old one seems dated especially after they’ve painted so many planes with an updated one.
Tail and body of an American Airbus A319
Ultimately Doug Parker’s letter — and even this blog post — is spending too much time on the paint job relative to the operation of the airline.
And since it’s a decision that probably doesn’t matter a whole lot for the business, where there’s no right or wrong answer (although if you think there is, you’ll surely tell me in the comments!), it seems a great idea for a new CEO to show he’s listening to his employees.
Here’s the note:
A Message from CEO Doug Parker
It’s time to take care of the question on many people’s minds: now that we have merged, are we going to keep the new American livery (announced in January 2013), or are we going to do something different? It is a relevant and timely question as we now have more than 620 US Airways and US Airways Express aircraft that need to be painted in an American Airlines livery.
My View: You Decide
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. For our team members who work in, around and on these aircraft day in and day out, it matters a great deal, but I have yet to find a customer who based their purchase decision on the exterior design of the airplane. I think our livery should represent the American brand well-it should be professional, and it should be cost efficient – but it is not a make- or-break decision for our airline. And since it is important to our team members, I think our team members should decide.
No More Buffing – We Have to Paint
It is important to know there are some constraints on the decision. For example, we can’t continue with the traditional American buffed silver look as there is no good way to convert the US Airways fleet to polished silver because of the materials used on Airbus aircraft. In addition, the B787 and A350, both of which we have on order, are composite aircraft and that material cannot be converted to a shiny metallic look. This, of course, is the same dilemma American faced last summer as the first of a large order of unpolished aircraft began to be delivered.
Major Changes are Not Cost Effective
A second constraint is cost. One of the great things about the buffed silver livery was its cost efficiency – no paint meant less weight. And we want to continue that tradition. However you may feel about the new livery and branding, the fact is it would be irresponsible for us to start over from scratch. There are currently more than 200 aircraft in the new livery and the new flight symbol or, “eagle” as it’s sometimes called, and the related signage is up in many airports and facilities already. One of our five imperatives at American is, “Provide a Return for our Investors” and we can’t do that by spending their capital redoing a lot of work that has just been recently accomplished.
Two Livery Choices: Flag or AA?
Given those two constraints – we need to paint and we aren’t starting from scratch — we have developed two livery options. First, I think most everyone agrees the team has done an excellent of job of painting the airplanes in a color that is nicely reminiscent of our buffed silver heritage. I think the newly painted aircraft look extremely nice and have heard the same from many of you. So, we aren’t going to mess with the fuselage. That just leaves the tail. As to the tail, we have two options for you. The current flag tail or one with our traditional AA. We decided to include an AA option because we have heard from many employees that they miss the old AA with the eagle. I understand that perspective, and indeed it has some attachment to our goal to “Restore American as the Greatest Airline in the World” because it is harkens back to our proud past. The problem with this design is that it contains two different logos – the old AA and the new flight symbol. Brand experts tell us this is not ideal, that we should stick with just one. But if our team members decide they would like to keep AA on the tail of our airplanes, we will manage just fine.
It’s Up to You
People have already begun to ask me, “Which livery do you hope wins?” The answer is I honestly do not care. I think both look fantastic. As someone who began working at American in 1986, I, like many of you, am fond of the AA and think it reflects the proud history of this airline. But I also think the new branding looks great. It is bold, professional, fresh and represents American well. And the more aircraft I see painted in this scheme, the more I like it.
What I do care about and what I am happy about is that we have found a way to let our team members provide their input to this important decision. So, it is up to you. I just ask that we get it done quickly, so we can start painting US Airways aircraft. Have fun and please vote – we want your input.