On Sunday, a Thai International Airways A330 carrying 280 passengers skidded off the runway while landing in Bangkok. There were 14 injuries but, thankfully, no fatalities.
A regrettable accident, to be sure. But the world might barely have noticed if ambulances and fire trucks had been the only vehicles to respond to the emergency. Instead, within hours, Thai also dispatched a bucket truck. In the dead of night, airline workers painted over the logo on the tail and the titles on the fuselage — in full view of photographers.
There’s one facet of airline branding that’s subtle, yet intensely symbolic. And best of all, it doesn’t cost a thing. It’s the flight number.
In the age of rail, railroads often reserved lower numbers for their most prestigious trains. By the jet age, Pan Am used “flight 1″ for its fabled round-the-world service (flight 2 flew the same route, but in the opposite direction.) The flight an airline designates as “flight 1″ has powerful meaning. It may reflect the airline’s history (as in the cases of Southwest, JetBlue, and American.) Or it might reflect present priorities (as for Air Canada.) Sometimes flight 1 can give you a deep insight into an airline’s soul. And sometimes not.
Welcome to the second issue of The Work This Week, a weekly roundup of new advertising, identity, and brand experience work from around the airline industry. This week, design flies with Finnair, art flies with airBaltic, and aspiring pilots fly with Alitalia… sort of.
News leaked this week that United Airlines is polling its current and former employees on which classic livery to feature on a 757 next year. The livery will celebrate the airline’s 85th anniversary. Thanks to @GordonWerner, you can see the five options here. I don’t want to unduly influence the voting, but the Mainliner colours sure look sharp…
When United’s “retrojet” takes to the skies, it will join dozens of other airplanes painted in the bygone colours of dozens of different airlines. It seems almost every airline has a retrojet these days. The trend started ten years ago, and is only gaining momentum. Read more
These are photos of the end of an era. Continental is the last major U.S. carrier to serve meals in coach on domestic flights. Starting this fall, there will be none left. Continental will replace free meals with buy-on-board options, reflecting “today’s market and consumer preferences.”
Now, I’m not sure consumers would rather buy a $5 can of Pringles than get a free meal, but still, this decision seems a long time coming. (You can see what you’ll be missing at airlinemeals.net.)
Continental is also the last major U.S. carrier to operate its own flight kitchens. Chelsea Food Services is wholly owned by Continental. At the airline’s Newark hub, Chelsea prepares about 28,000 meals a day for 200 flights—half the total number of flights at Newark every day. Read more