Skift Take

Critics and dubious rating services be damned. We can’t help but admire this airline’s guts.

Rumors surrounding new branding initiatives from Etihad have been swirling around the industry and all speculation answered today during a special Etihad reveal via live broadcast from Hamburg.

The big news was the live unveiling of a bold new jewel for the skies, reflected in a yellow diamond livery come to life through a striking faceted graphic on the tail and back of the fuselage, with a neutral cream body.

The new livery is the product of leading brand consultants Landor Associates in partnership with Etihad Airways. It is inspired by traditional Emirati design patterns, the landscapes of the desert and the geometric shapes found in the modern architecture of Abu Dhabi.

As the airline describes it:

“The new design uses a colour palette which reflects the varying hues of the landscape of the UAE, from the darker sands of the Liwa desert to the lighter colours seen in the Northern Emirates. The result of extensive research, the design will also be a key feature of the new cabin interiors being introduced on Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380 aircraft.”

James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Airways said of the new design: “Only a few months ago Etihad Airways unveiled the new cabin interiors for our A380 aircraft and we are now proud to show the world how this aircraft will look on the outside. The striking new livery also continues our commitment to breaking from convention and doing things differently. This is a real divergence from the norms of traditional airline livery design and will stand out in the sky and at every airport we fly to.”

The reveal was made with fan-fare, dramatic music and a special light show.

The company presented the world a teaser, prior to transmission of the broadcast: “Etihad continues to reimagine flying.”

After reimagining flight by introducing unprecedented levels of luxury with The Residence, and First Apartment on the A380 and First Suite on the B787, we were titillated to learn just what the world’s golden carrier would do next.

Etihad was very secretive about the revelations and had only this enticing short description to add to their big-show teaser:

“Our pioneering spirit and traditions of hospitality, drawn from our home Abu Dhabi, have been harnessed to create contemporary living spaces in the air, and provide all guests with unparalleled comfort and service.”

“Our goal is to transform how you see air travel and make each journey with Etihad a remarkable one.”

While Etihad has catered to a higher-level of product expectations, it has done so universally, across the board, in all cabin classes. Etihad provides a unique and comfortable features to Business Class passengers in its Business Studio—an idealized office at 30,000 ft with plenty of room for productivity, entertainment and rest. What the airline calls: “intelligent living in the sky.” Even the Economy Class benefited from the concentration on comfort and luxury details, with the airlines’ unique Economy Smart Seat and Economy Lounge.

What is notable of Etihad’s activities today is that the airline has once again demonstrated its showmanship. When Etihad revealed its new cabin interiors earlier this year, it did so after maintaining a great deal of secrecy over the process for years, with the final revelation far more dramatic as a result.

When it partnered with Jet Airways, and singed the long-awaited agreement to invest €560 million in Alitalia, as part of a €1,758 million investment deal to build a rescue the troubled Italian carrier and transform it into what Etihad describes as “a competitive, sustainably profitable business,” Etihad did so also through a special Live Broadcast.

For Etihad, the operations, aircraft and cabin are the setting, the marketing, social media engagement and service are the show, and the product is highly entertaining.

Whatever you feel about the cabin design or of this new livery, there is no denying that Etihad has re-defined flight in an important and lasting way. As Airbus’ Fabrice Bregier said during the reveal: “Etihad has established a revolutionary business model which has transformed the entire industry.” He also credited Etihad with “pushing us to reach new heights in aircraft manufacturing and design.”

As both Bregier and James Hogan, CEO of Etihad point out, the airline has been operating since 2003, and in eleven years has managed to redefine aviation.  Hogan emphasized the investment Etihad has made in European carriers, and other carriers around the world, as reflecting its ongoing commitment to continue changing aviation.

Etihad has demonstrated that an airline can be run shrewdly, as a profitable and sustainable business, and that a strong brand, no matter the industry, crafted carefully and perfected, generates a strong emotional bond has enduring resonance.

More About Etihad’s New Branding

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Tags: branding, etihad, livery

Photo credit: Artists' rendering of Etihad's new livery. Etihad

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