American Airlines. The Brand.

Airlines. Whether full service national carriers, or budget carriers, many people have an opinion and story to tell, often relating to the company or brand used. However, it is an airline’s  safety, reliability, service and price that are the key attributes customers will continue to associate with the airline and its brand.

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The old and new logos of American Airlines


The brand and identity of American Airlines

People who are familiar with American culture or have traveled on American Airlines (AA) would identify the distinct raw metal fuselage and AA logo on the aircraft tail of the American brand. The livery and logo were synonymous with the brand of American Airlines from 1968, a period that saw further advances in the jet age, countless bankruptcies and mergers, and turmoil in the aviation industry following the September 11th terrorist attacks (two American Airlines jets were hijacked).

Following the merger with US Airways in 2013,  American Airlines determined they needed to revitalise their brand and consequently a new logo was born. This was the first major change since 1968. “We thought it was time to update the look – it’s been 40 years,” Thomas Horton, CEO of American’s parent, AMR Corp., said in an interview (CBS News 2013).

ORD AA.jpg

The old livery of an AA MD80 (background), with the new livery on a Boeing 737. Photo taken Chicago O’Hare 20 April 2016

So what is it that American Airlines is trying to achieve?

The US is a dynamic aviation market, where full service carriers compete rigorously with low-cost carriers, especially  Southwest Airlines (now the second largest US domestic carrier). It’s clear that American needed to improve its branding and service offering in order to  compete with the other full service carriers (United & Delta) and the budget carriers Southwest and Virgin America.

From logos, television advertisements and sporting sponsorships, branding is vital to an airline. When we see the flying kangaroo of Qantas, it instantly resonates with Australia, and the sight of the AA logo has been the case for American Airlines for decades. Therefore the decision to change their logo and brand would not have been easy.


Perhaps American is aiming to revert to the glory days of flying when the jet age was exciting and there was a certain status to flying? As Mark Kingsley of the Under Consideration blog stated, “Flying used to mean something.” More specifically, flying American Airlines used to mean something. It’s therefore evident that American’s strategy, following the merger with US Airways, was to create a brand that is an assurance of reliable quality, remembering that successful brands identify company production and ownership (Iacobucci 2013).

Building American’s brand to increase customer loyalty

Good brands can induce loyalty (Iacobucci 2013). To an airline, loyalty from a corporate account, or infrequent leisure traveler is everything! As Iacobucci, 2013 articulates, most customers are willing to pay premium prices for brands they value. Customers appreciate the reliability, high quality and status of their favorite brands and they are less price sensitive (music to the ears of bean counters and economists in an airline)! This is also supported by Chen & Hu, 2013, noting that the delivery of high-quality service to passengers is important for airlines to survive and further help customers gain more relational benefits that can strengthen airlines’ competitive advantage.

American’s new brand strategy is adhering to all these factors. Their plan to procure new, modern, Wi-Fi enabled aircraft with a new business class, enhanced food offerings, improved check in experience, and new airline lounges (Admiral’s Club) will all contribute to the customer’s appreciation of the new brand. Their hope is that the investment in the brand will pay dividends in returned loyalty.

Video detailing the new logo and livery of American Airlines.

By ensuring their target market of frequent corporates, and the infrequent leisure traveler remains, it is clear American are now taking their branding and product development to new heights and changing the perception of an American legacy carrier.

Will the new branding of American Airlines work?

As Iacobucci 2013 details, the concrete features of a brand are easiest to deliver and explain to customers, however they’re also easily matched by competitors. American it seems,  have considered this in their decision to remain true to their historical brand identity: the company name of American Airlines remains constant. In addition, the promise of a greater experience with new lounges, new aircraft, new destinations and improved customer service will ensure a positive branding exercise, and will lead to customers proudly stating that they fly American.

Author Lachlan Cruise WordPress ID @lcruis. Deakin University ID 2000129368

Reference List

 CBS News, American Airlines introduces new logo , viewed 24 April 2016.

Chen, P, & Hu, H 2013, ‘The mediating role of relational benefit between service quality and customer loyalty in airline industry’, Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 24, 9/10, pp. 1084-1095, Health Business Elite, EBSCOhost, viewed 25 April 2016

Dallas News, American Airlines finally absorbs US Airways’ brand, viewed 24 April 2016.

Iacobucci, D 2013, Marketing Management, student edition, South-Western Cengage Learning, Ohio, USA

Liquid Agency Blog, ‘Your Logo is Not Your Brand’, viewed 24 April 2016

The Economist,The world’s largest airlines., viewed 23 April 2016


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