Skift Take

Southwest Airlines emphasizes how it cares about its employees yet it chose to ignore the legacy of AirTran in designing Southwest's new "Heart" livery. It wouldn't have taken much to include AirTran, and it would have meant a lot.

Southwest Airlines has come to believe that it may have more heart than it initially gave itself credit for.

The airline, which executed only the second overall rebranding in its 43-year history with the unveiling last month of its new Heart aircraft livery, logo and airport experience, is seriously considering again tweaking the livery of its planes.

Speaking at the Skift Global Forum in Manhattan October 9, Southwest chief marketing officer Kevin Krone said customer feedback about the heart on the fuselage near the door at the front of the aircraft is that it is too small and subtle.

Reveal Event Photos

“We are thinking about ways to enhance where it is displayed on the outside of the fuselage,” Krone said.

Krone told Skift after the session that the airline may enlarge the heart on the fuselage near the door as planes come in for their paint jobs in their “natural cycle,” but aircraft that already have received the new livery wouldn’t be immediately altered.

Of course, the heart on the belly of the aircraft is large enough already.

Heart One

Altering the heart anew on the fuselage of Southwest aircraft would not be too disruptive because for cost reasons Southwest is only repainting liveries on a schedule where aircraft would have regularly come in for a touch-up anyway, Krone said. He added that the process to get the new livery on all its aircraft would take several years.

Southwest introduced the new livery September 8 because it wants to stand out and to highlight changes such as international service in “a current style,” Krone said. At the same time, Southwest tells its employees “we are the same exact airline that we were before. We are not walking away from our DNA.”

Although the heart is designed to show customers and employees how much Southwest really “cares,” Krone acknowledged that the new livery does not have any visible representation from merger-partner AirTran’s legacy, although such a move had been discussed. Southwest acquired AirTran in May 2011, and the full integration with Southwest is on track to be completed by the end of 2014.

Krone said such visual inclusion of AirTran was discussed when the new livery was designed, but he noted that the AirTran brand will “sunset. We wanted to move forward with all our focus on Southwest.”


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Tags: airtran, livery, rebrand, sgf2014, skift global forum, southwest airlines

Photo credit: Southwest's heart logo on the belly of its aircraft is plenty big, but the heart on the fuselage near the door at the front of the aircraft has been judged to be too subtle, and may get altered. Southwest Airlines

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