When a major global carrier changes its livery, the revised look always becomes a talking point, and such has just happened to United Airlines with opinions differing. The reveal came earlier than expected due to a leak, but United Airlines new colour scheme and branding has been unveiled to the world. The airline has been showing off parts of its revised branding for a while now - new crew uniforms, updated Polaris cabins and airport lounges, new signage, even a corporate colour palette that has introduced more shades of blues and a purple, but has done away with gold. Finally today the first aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, has seen the light of day having been repainted over the last two weeks.
United's most recent colour scheme has remained the same since its merger with Continental Airlines back in 2010. The familiar blue, white, grey and gold has actually been with us since 1991 as it was based on Continental's livery.
Oscar Munoz, United Airlines's CEO, promised the world "an evolution, not a revolution" and that is what was delivered. The new look retains the Continental globe on the tail that has been a feature of the brand for decades, albeit with the style updated and the gold replaced with white and shades of blue. The engine nacelles are now painted blue, and a bold blue swoosh sweeps along the lower fuselage. The United titles are now more prominent and overlay the window line. The slogan 'Connecting people. Uniting the world' appears below the flight deck windows.
The restyled globe on the tail recognises the airline's part history in Continental Airlines while the blues and whites are a reflection of United's early 2000s 'blue rising' look. The swoosh comes from the Boeing 787-8, -9 and -10 and Boeing 737-9MAX aircraft already in the fleet.
The new look has been revealed on a Boeing 737-800 and will be applied to the rest of the fleet as they become due for repaint. New aircraft, including a 787 currently being painted, will also get the new look. It be several years before the entire aircraft fleet is rebranded.
Editorial opinion: United's new image is certainly the evolution that was promised. It is a bolder look that the recent Continental-inspired livery, and with it majoring on blue it arguably draws a final line under the two separate companies and finally sees the airline emerge with a unified brand.
The tail looks fine, although the lightening of the blue at the top seems a little unnecessary. The billboard titles play to current trends and increase name awareness although the font size United has chosen can look a little disjointed against open windows.
The blue swoosh is a bizarre feature that seems largely superfluous; with the engines now adding colour, the new look would stand on its merit without the wavy blue line. And cheat lines that dip under and wrap around nose cones tend to interrupt the balance and shape of aircraft's noses (KLM's revised livery is another culprit of this).
Overall though I struggle with this new look. I was a big fan of the current American Airlines livery as soon as I saw it, but United's revisions don't have the same impact. United's organised blue and gold suggested quality and consistency, even if the inflight service didn't always match. The new look seems much more disjointed and the swoosh has more of an ethereal, flighty (pardon the pun) feel than the previous solid gold demarcation between grey and white. Swooshes and curves seem more appropriate to the low-fare and holiday airline sector.
The Aviation Oracle has long been a loyal Star Alliance customer and a member of United's frequent flyer program, Mileage Plus. Contrary to the experience of many, The Aviation Oracle has never had a bad experience with United despite have made more than 100 flights on the carrier. Although the Continental-inspired look seemed to be a retrograde step from the multi-tone 'blue rising', United's most recent livery has stood as a symbol of a reliable brand. It seems less certain what the new look says. Maybe it will grow on the dissenters. The Aviation Oracle reserves final judgement - the new look is not a disaster, but neither is it overly inspiring.
Text © The Aviation Oracle, screenshot © United Airlines' video on Twitter