Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Southwest Airlines has a new look

It's very, um, blue.
Southwest Airlines on Monday unveiled a new logo amid a brand overhaul that includes a new look for its aircraft. The new "Heart" paint scheme will be the carrier's first new livery since it introduced its current "Canyon Blue" look in 2001.
                                                                                                                                                            photo: Southwest Airlines
                                                                                                                                                        photo: Southwest Airlines
 The Chronicle's Erin Mulvaney explains ($) that the airline's new look is intended to signal a new era for Southwest as it finishes its absorption of onetime low-cost rival Airtran and begins international service of its own:
The Texas-based carrier on Monday unveiled a new heart-themed logo that will be branded on everything from the underside of its aircraft to its in-flight magazines. Showing off the design change with a pair of freshly repainted 737 jetliners at Dallas' Love Field, Southwest's home hub, executives said the changes represent not a rebranding but a restatement of the airline's customer-friendly nature even as it embarks on a new era that includes international flights.

"It's not a new Southwest, it's an evolved Southwest," the president and CEO, Gary Kelly, said during an event at company headquarters here.

The new aircraft design is dominated by a deeper blue and includes a striped red, yellow and blue tail. The name is emblazoned on the side in a bold sans serif typeface, and the heart-shaped logo of blue, yellow and red is displayed near the door and on the belly.

Southwest, traditionally a low-cost, short-haul carrier, will introduce international flights to the Caribbean and Mexico and celebrate the end of restrictions for longer nonstop flights out of its Dallas hub in the next several weeks.

In Houston, it is funding an international hub at Hobby Airport that will allow it to offer flights to Latin America by 2016.
                                                                                                                                                        photo: Southwest Airlines
Personally, I'm not sure I like the new look. The fuselage looks bland and boring without the red underbelly, and removing the airline's name from its tailfin - were it has been since the airline's inception - seems almost blasphemous. Then there's the heart logo: yes, I get that a heart has always been part of the airline's iconography, but putting it on the airplane's belly just seems cheesy. Perhaps the new look will grow on me over time.

What's more interesting is what the look might represent for Southwest as it completes its evolution from a short-haul, regional carrier to the nation's fourth-largest carrier offering international service. Already, there is evidence that one of the things that made Southwest unique  - the so-called "Southwest Effect" - no longer exists. Does this new look signal that Southwest is about to become "just another carrier" that assigns seats and charges for bags? I shudder at the thought.

Southwest officials say that it could take as long as seven years for the entire fleet to be repainted. Along with the new paint scheme will come new branding at airports, new uniforms for flight staff, and a new marketing campaign. The new logo and look has already made it to the airline's website.

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