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Southwest Airlines Unveils New Livery and Brand

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Southwest Airlines Unveils New Livery and Brand

Southwest Airlines Unveils New Livery and Brand
September 08
12:42 2014

MIAMI — Southwest Airlines unveiled a new brand and livery Monday, marking its first brand refresh since introducing its present logo and canyon blue livery in January 2001. In an event dedicated to Southwest employees at its maintenance headquarters, the Dallas-based airline unveiled a new aircraft livery (named Heart), airport experience and logo. The new brand enhancement—which has been in the works for about a year—and a new take on Southwest’s famed “ding” mnemonic were developed in collaboration with advertising and branding partners GSD&M, Lippincott, VML, and Razorfish and Camelot Communications.

The new brand image appears to have been prompted by several substantial changes in the Southwest Airlines business model, including major expansions at Northeast airports New York La Guardia and Washington Reagan, the end of the Wright Amendment in October of this year, the first international flights in the company’s 47-year history, and the completed integration with AirTran Airways later this year. At the event, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly highlighted these developments, also crediting the inspiration for the heart motif to Southwest’s team of 46,000 employees:

Gary Kelly on stage at Southwest's announcement. (Chris Sloan)

Gary Kelly on stage at Southwest’s announcement. (Credits: Chris Sloan)

“2014 is a big year and today puts an exclamation point on it, especially with the Berlin Wall of the Wright Amendment coming down in 1 month,” said Mr. Kelly. “The world has changed and we have had to evolve. The heart has stayed the same… and you are the heart. We have a record 2014 and it’s all because of you… Southwest Airlines is built on love by our people and for our people. Our heart is strong and healthier than ever.”

The first plane on display at the event was a newly delivered Boeing 737-800 (registered as N8642E) and dubbed “Heart One,” following the naming convention for all of Southwest’s new and special liveries. A second Boeing 737-800, christened as “Heart Two,” performed a flyby at the event.

Overnight, Southwest also unveiled a new branding concept for airports at its home base at Dallas Love Field. Implementation of the new airport branding will be spread over the next two and a half years through the end of 2016, and integrated into existing and upcoming airport improvement projects so as to remain cost-neutral. Three airports are expected to be converted by the end of 2014. Southwest’s employee uniforms, aircraft interiors, and customer facing brand elements will also be updated to match the new brand image. New service items will be introduced later this fall, while the divisive Evolve seats will begin to be replaced as early as next year. The carrier’s Spirit inflight magazine will be renamed Southwest, and a new edition featuring the new brand will be released on September 15.

Southwest's new airport branding, which was unveiled today at Dallas Love Field. (Credits Southwest Airlines)

Southwest’s new airport branding, which was unveiled today at Dallas Love Field. (Credits: Southwest Airlines)

Repainting of aircraft is expected to take place over seven years, slower than rivals such as Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines or Chicago-based United Airlines. Southwest operates a fleet of 637 Boeing 737 aircraft, including 136 classic 737-300s and 737-500s, 427 737-700s, and 74 737-800s. It also has 285 737s on order (40 737-700s, 45 737-800s, and 200 re-engined 737 MAXs) with purchase options for a further 227. Given the extended timeline of repainting, it is unclear whether the 737-300s and 737-500s earmarked for retirement will be repainted. However, Southwest’s special liveries such as “Arizona One” will be repainted to incorporate the new Heart paint scheme.

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-200 in the 1971-2001 livery. (Credits: Aero Icarus)

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-200 in the 1971-2001 livery. (Credits: Aero Icarus)

Founded in 1967, Southwest has had just three brand identities in its lifetime. Until 2001, its primarily livery was Desert Gold, red, and orange, with the word Southwest written along the upper edge of the tail, as shown in the photograph at right.

urrent Southwest Airlines Livery on a Boeing 737-300. (Credits: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

Current Southwest Airlines Livery on a Boeing 737-300. (Credits: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

In 2001, Southwest introduced the “Spirit” livery that graces most of its airplanes today, retaining the red and orange stripes on the fuselage and tail but replacing Desert Gold with Canyon Blue. The “Southwest” title remained on the tail, and the aircraft’s belly remained red. The “Spirit” livery is shown at left.

The new livery unveiled today features Bold (not Canyon) Blue, Warm Red, Sunrise Yellow, and Summit Silver. While the two tail colors are similar to the present tail, their order has been inverted, with the lighter Sunrise Yellow placed higher than Warm Red on the tail forward of it on the fuselage. The Southwest title has been removed from the tail and moved to the fuselage; a first for the carrier. Another major change occurs along the belly of the fuselage, where the red line extending the length of the fuselage (and covering the belly) has been eliminated in favor of a simple heart, dedicated to Southwest’s employees.

Southwest’s cabins will also see an update in color and style, but Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Krone stated there are no imminent changes to Southwest’s passenger experience. “Free bags are a part of the airline’s DNA,” he said, “People have a right to take stuff with them on vacation. We don’t see this going away.” He also doesn’t see a place for premium economy style seating in the near term.

The branding in the cabin will get a refresh, including Southwest’s snacks, as seen here. The cabin will include more blue with silver accents and feature Southwest’s heart prominently.

 

As part of Southwest’s changes, new advertising focusing on Southwest’s employees premiered during Monday Night Football. Other ads, including “More than a Machine,” seen here, will show in markets around the country.

(Credits: Stephen M. Keller / Southwest Airlines)

(Credits: Stephen M. Keller / Southwest Airlines)

At a panel conducted after the unveiling event Monday, Southwest Chief Commercial Officer Robert Jordan stated that the airline wanted to avoid the “white” and bland liveries that so many other airlines have opted for and retain its “bold” color scheme. Additionally, Mr. Jordan noted that Southwest has several different logos and branding elements in airports, onboard its airplanes, and in advertising. Reducing brand confusion was thus a key impetus behind the redesign. “No other airline can put a heart on a plane and have it look authentic,” said Mr. Jordan, “The heart is now our symbol at Southwest Airlines.”

 

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About Author

Vinay Bhaskara

Vinay Bhaskara

Senior Business Analyst, Big Airline Enthusiast, Avid Airport Connoisseur, Frequent Flyer, Globetrotter. I Miss Northwest Airlines Every Day. vinay@airwaysmag.com @TheABVinay

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