Being able to identify an airline through its livery
Asides from possibly the uniform that air-stewardesses wear, it is possibly the most distinctive feature that an airline has tying it to its corporate name. In some cases, such as with South African Airways and British Airways, the color schemes can resemble all the colors of the rainbow; in others, as with American Airlines, it’s a case of being a rather dull gray. It is – the airline livery!
Today’s aircraft livery can, at times, resemble a futuristic advertising campaign. Indeed, with airlines that are owned by multi national conglomerate corporations, such as Virgin, that’s exactly what they are – flying advertisements of the brand name. But, essentially, an airline’s livery, it’s corporate design, is it’s most visible corporate identity; both on the ground and in the sky. After all, how many times have you looked up in the sky and been able to tell not only the type of aircraft being flown, but also the corporate identity of the airline flying it? Too many to tell – I’ll bet. So, how did this all start?
Well, the first set of airline livery started to appear shortly after the Second World War – with the same intention that continues to this day – to identify the corporation/airline flying the plane. At the outset, European airlines -like BOAC and Air France- took up the mantel. However, never ones to see a good marketing ploy pass them by, American airlines soon followed suit.
Ever since the inception of an airline livery, it has generally been accepted that airlines identify three parts of the plane: namely, the tail-wing, the fuselage and the engine. Originally, due to the huge amount of paint that is required for each aircraft, simple colors, such as white and blue, were the colors of choice. However, following the oil crisis in the 1970s, a number of airlines, such as the previously mentioned American Airlines, decided to cut back on this and to keep to the more traditional skin gray color. Today, of course, airlines try and identify with a particular color scheme.
In fact, the aircraft livery scheme has become such a dominate success factor for airlines, some aircraft, which don’t even fly commercial flights, such as DHL, still ensure that their aircraft are identified. Furthermore, even those airlines that no longer fly can still be remembered by their livery; for example, who will ever forget the Pan Am livery! Also, there are some airlines that simply have not changed their airline livery. A perfect example of just such an airline is Ethiopian, which has had the same aircraft livery since the mid 1950s, making it the oldest livery flying the skies today.
However, even if an airline wanted to change its livery, this would be no simple task as it takes approximately two years for a complete fleet of commercial aircraft to change their livery.
Finally, aside for the external livery on the aircraft, the livery inside the aircraft also identifies the airline you’re flying with. Airlines around the world today spend huge amounts of money ensuring that their interior deign, from first class, through business class, to economy class, clearly identify, from the interior, which airline is flying that plane – all of which takes a large amount of time and effort to achieve.
So, next time you look up in the sky and see an aircraft you can recognize, remember, more likely than not it is because of the airline’s livery on the plane that you have been able to do that!