Airlines: Rebranding is an opportunity to redefine user experience, not to only change your logo!

Why do Airlines Rebrand?

 Edited: American has since merged with U.S. Airways
Source: Vanity fair
Image Source: Vanity Fair

Change of vision? Leadership? Disaster recovery?

The reasons can be many. But slapping on a slight variation of Helvetica and a degraded icon doesn’t cut it. It’s an opportunity- one of those rare times in a company’s history where values, strategy, customer service, philosophy and most importantly- experience are allowed and should be revaluated. These are rare moments ( imagine the instability in corporations if this happened every year!) – but maybe it should

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AA made a a big campaign to promote their new image and philosophy

A trend in many airline re-brandings ( and in many other companies) is to go towards a more gentle and friendly font and image. In American’s case, a clear focus on enhanced patriotism is being implemented on the tail design. The eagle, just like the logotype is more subtle and less aggressive. The values of strength and power (now outdated) have been substituted by a more curvilinear, sensitive and clear cut design. The mat silver finish on the aircraft’s body is a successful attempt at luxury with subtlety. Oh and they have new seats, uniforms and tablets for their employes. That’s where it stops.

But there is a hugely missed opportunity here.

As like with most North-American airlines, much of their reputation has been tarnished by the decline of services, amenities and the addition of more and more surcharges, fees. Pitiful food -if any- along with extras on drinks, luggage, leg room, seat selection, movies.. And the list goes on. The seemingly common denominator on these North American carriers ( Delta, AA, Air Canada, to name a few) is to add on-board entertainment screens on the back of every seat, throughout their fleets. But is there a point in watching half of ‘that Oscar winning movie’ on your 1 hour flight?

The reason (excuse) these companies have justifying the way they operate is the current state of the airline industry; incredibly high costs of operation, cut-throat competition and regulations that oblige them to keep cutting costs.

They don’t have to invent something new as much look at what their competitors are doing (particularly the smaller ones). Here are few examples in Canada:

Westjet, an airline from Western Canada that adopted a Southwest Airlines model offers on-board comedy with its flight attendants and Canada’s trademark ‘over-niceness’. Sunwing, a vacation operator, offers a free glass of champagne at 33 000 ft. with a clear message: “Welcome to your vacation, this is just the beginning”. But the most impressive is Porter Airlines.

According to Porter’s CEO, the airline breaks even at 50% occupancy on flights (in 2013). They use turboprops ( yes, the ones that aggressively jump up and down in movies) instead of the jets we are accustomed to. They burn much less fuel, are less noisy and cost less to operate. They don’t offer in-flight entertainment, but offer first-class grade legroom, Free wine in glasses, not in cups! And a premium snack. As they will need jets for longer range destinations in the future, they have selected the quietest and most fuel efficient. Their in-flight magazine (and branding) is done by Monacle founder Tyler Brule’s creative division. It offers a monacle-like experience with true insider recommendations from local corespondents- for all of their flying destination, in every issue! Not your generic airline magazine! Their slogan: “flying refined”. They got it right.

So in conclusion, in American’s case,calling your planes LuxuryLiner doesn’t portray the full scope of a reality. People are not naive anymore and realize that having subpar service and additional fees for everything leave a longer lasting impression on customers, instead of remembering that you have a new logo or renewed fleet of planes. It’s about executing EVERYTHiNG vertically in line with your corporate message- you preach environmentally friendly, do it- it’s not about how many trees you saved in a year while recycling cups (everybody does it) , its about how you’re doing it on a day to day basis!

Service design is in the details, what makes your client chose you over them and most importantly, why they will come back. And creating campaigns that will show how you are investing in your clients, their comfort, well being without forgetting their wallet. And it starts with Economy class, not business.

In American’s case, their soul searching was targeting at what it is to be American. Being crouched on your seat, eating salted peanuts and paying for essentials is probably not what most americans can relate to as American values.

About us:

incubius: The Power of Collective Minds

incubius is a Think Tank aiming to solve and discuss an array of topics in the World around us. We aim to collectively engage in proposing new solutions and ways of thinking. We are designers, service designers, architects, travellers- DO-ers. We are critical observers of the world around us. We are international.

Ideas and individuals are not enough. It’s the power of the collective minds with the will to change and challenge the status quo what make things happen. Design needs designers but it also needs to expand its horizons to integrate creative people from different domains with a critical eye and passion to makes things better. This richness helps expand the thought process to well beyond that of finesse and functionality. Curious minds welcome!


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