When most people think of a Delta airplane, they probably still think of the livery that was introduced back in 1959. Those colors adorned Delta’s aircraft for almost 40 years (38 to be exact), and they served the airline through many different phases.
According to Delta’s corporate history, the “widget” was introduced in 1959. I’m not sure if the familiar colors came about right away, but I know that by the early 1960’s, they were there. At the time, Delta was just a southern airline with grand plans. By the early 60’s they had started flights to the west coast but everything connected into their southern operation.
In 1972, Delta acquired Northeast, and that gave them a foothold in the northeastern US. This was a big change for the airline, but it did not prompt anyone to come up with a new color scheme.
In 1987, Delta again expanded by purchasing Western Airlines. This gave the airline a solid footing in the West with hubs in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Now a truly nationwide carrier, they still didn’t feel the need to change their colors.
Fast forward to 1991. Delta purchased Pan Am’s European route network and that made the airline a global player. Once again no change in colors was seen as necessary.
Now, we get to 1997. Management decides that they need a new, updated look. Well, Ron Allen’s ill-fated regime ended and a mere 3 years later, new management thought that the colors were too reminiscent of the old leadership. So, in 2000, they changed again. You can read the press release here to get some laughs. Some of my favorite quotes. . . .
Fred Reid, Delta’s CMO at the time (and now soon-to-be-former CEO of Virgin America), said that “Ultimately, we are evolving as an airline, and our look has to evolve with it.”
Design-agency Landor’s executive creative director Richard Ford said “Over recent years, Delta has been an airline in transition; it is now the top-performing major U.S. airline in customer service, and its visual identity and more colloquial brand name reflect the confidence they have in their future. The new identity is a strong visual statement that reinforces this leadership position within the airline industry.”
And from the press release text itself, “The refinement of the logo, along with simple, clean and solid typography, contributes to a more timeless image for Delta.”
Timeless? Um, guess not. Because now it’s time for another livery, even though the Landor quote is still exactly what Delta is trying to be today. That’s three new liveries in 10 years, and that’s if you don’t count Delta Express, Delta Shuttle, Song, and some slight variations on the design over the years. So why now?
Well, they’re exiting bankruptcy, and they’ve decided that it’s time for another change. The old look isn’t fitting for the airline anymore and blah, blah, blah. Whatever.
The photos of the new livery have been making the rounds, and I first saw them at Holly Hegeman’s PlaneBuzz. Apparently, these pictures were taken of the model that’s being used for advertising purposes. That’s why I picked up shots of the other colors on models as well. (credit: Gemini Jets). Head over to PlaneBuzz to see a close-up of the new tail.
Do I like the colors? They’re fine. Not inspiring or anything like that, but to be honest, it doesn’t matter. It’s just another thing that will take the airline’s focus off of important matters in the first crucial months after bankruptcy. I fully understand the idea of updating a dated livery, but this is the third one in ten years.Â If the same livery could take the airline from a small southern carrier to a global giant, I don’t see why they feel the need to allocate resourced to yet another one so soon.