Here’s what United’s CEO thinks of the carrier’s new livery

United 737 new livery.jpgSo what does United chief executive Jeff Smisek think of his carrier’s new livery?

With a laugh he jokes at an address in Sydney, “Well I created it so I like it a lot.”

Replacing the name “Continental” with “United” in a new font on an otherwise Continental livery (above) has not proven popular with aviation fans. There’s even a “Save the United Airlines Tulip” petition to bring back the tail logo of United Airlines.

At the request of one eminent aviation photographer Smisek gave insight into his thoughts on the livery:

What we wanted was a livery that reflected both the merger of equals and also took the best of both.

The Continental livery…the globe and colours are associated in the United States with very high quality service, excellent airline, great reliability.


Because Continental is an excellent airline with great reliability and with great service.

However the Continental name is not well-known off-shore. The United name is a wonderful brand, very well known off-shore.We preserved the brand identity as a power of the international brand of United with the vestige brand of [Continental].

Putting down my glass of Corporate Kool-Aid, I was amused to hear Jeff talk about unsolicited suggestions for the livery.

By determining the livery in advance, we stop ourselves from having all kinds of suggestions because everybody has lots of suggestions. Despite the fact we announced it and on day one had an airplane painted this way, I still have about 15,000 e-mails explaining how we could make it better.

The pessimist might be tempted to suggest that if 15,000 people are e-mailing you, perhaps it is for a good reason.


19 Responses to Here’s what United’s CEO thinks of the carrier’s new livery

  1. Frederick Durand 20 December, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    Erm… I must admit that my first thoughts were : that looks quite ugly and old style to be honest and sincere but with time I think the new Continental-repainted planes have a business looking look despite the fact the livery is simple but neat. Everything in aviation has to take time before people get used to it and start liking it to at least a minimum level.


  2. Chris 21 December, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    OK, Continental is a VERY over-rated airline. Their colors are dated, the logo is ugly, and the whole package is just terrible. It’s even worse with “UNITED” slapped on the side. The United name was chosen, therefore, use the United logo and livery. The Tulip is iconic and known all over the world. The generi-globe is garbage and needs to go. If so many people are saying it’s crap, maybe you should listen.

  3. Charter A Jet 23 December, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    I dont think it is a bad livery. Flew with continental from glasgow to newark this year and the inflight service and amenities were far superior to the offerings of AA or US. Delta are the only other us carrier on a par with them.

  4. James 15 January, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    Regardless of the livery selected, he would have received 15,000 emails. You will not make everyone happy.

  5. Andrew 15 January, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    To look at it from a different perspective , out of all the millions of UA customers only about 15000 are upset enough about the livery to complain. That seems to be a pretty tiny proportion of their customers . I wonder by comparison how many emails they have received on other subjects .

  6. solo 15 January, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    livery is ugly outdated and needs all the help it can get

  7. Rob Finfrock 15 January, 2011 at 10:41 pm #


  8. LAXdude 15 January, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

    I am an employee of premerger United and and I was excited about us combining with Continental because then I started seeing a new hope for the improvement of our morale. However, just by looking at how our planes will look like, I feel like we’re not having a new corporate image but merely a well-thought-of CORPORATE IDENTITY CRISIS. I don’t even know how to feel about the gold-plated United pin with the Continental globe they handed to the employees.

    I’d rather Jeff Smisek came up with a totally new image for us – neither the Globe nor the Tulip. Only then would I (and maybe many others) would feel that we’re starting fresh. But then again I don’t have a voice. I’m just a number (even a smaller one now) in the combined airline.

    New United with Old Logo. Self-contradictory.

  9. Jack Arse 15 January, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Since Smisek was at Continental no wonder he kept the basic Continental Livery intact.

    It’s UGLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!But I am completely sure he checked it out with SRBMOD over at so it’s ok……

    [Edited -Mod]

  10. Mario 16 January, 2011 at 1:46 am #

    Initially, I was very excited about this merger, But I soon found out this is Continental with the United name.
    All of the upper management is CO. All the rules are CO, even the employee standby procedures are CO. Instead of all employees traveling for pleasure flying the same priority, management now has priority over the folks who actually do the job and keep the customers coming back. So if an administrative assistant who works for the VP comes up to the gate at the last mnutes, she gets on before a ramp person because she is considered management.
    This is supposed to be a merger of equals. All indications prove this is COntinental with a new name.
    Tilton made sure he gave the UA employees the shaft, and Smisek made sure he got a great title and paycheck. Doesn’t sound equal to me. So what are the Continental employees upset about.

  11. eugene 16 January, 2011 at 2:15 am #

    sometimes, people fail to recognized it’s not all about style and appearance. what’s important also is recognition, brand awareness, economical sense and meaning. Sure it’s not the most aesthetically appeasing logo around, but I think it carries deep meaning with it. you’re combining two legacy airlines, with two set of employees and two sets of customers, by common sense the best thing would be to have 50-50 from both. furthermore, true to all mergers are cost savings. do you want to come up with an entirely new paint scheme and repaint the entire fleet? or should you just control it to a somewhat manageable task/cost?

  12. Patrick Smith 16 January, 2011 at 2:30 am #

    Here is what I wrote in one of my ASK THE PILOT columns on…..

    “….Shortly after United and Continental announced their intent to merge, forming what will soon become the world’s largest airline, a combination paint scheme was unveiled marrying the Continental tail with United’s typeface and bare white fuselage.

    ‘Continented,’ let’s call it. I understand the sentiment, but they managed to get it backwards. This awkward fusion manages to preserve the worst aspects of each carrier’s identity as it jettisons the best. The best being United’s current tail design — a truncated, feathery version of its familiar ‘U’ emblem. Continental’s tail, on the other hand, bland and ultra-corporate, looks like a PowerPoint slide. Continental’s two-tone flanks and thin gold cheat-line, meanwhile, are considerably more handsome than United’s anemic blue and white…”


  13. joel 16 January, 2011 at 4:47 am #

    The livery is outdated and a poor representation of the airline. Why didn’t they hire someone at Pentagram (Paula Scher or Michael Beirut) to redo the brand like United has done in the past?

  14. Charlie 16 January, 2011 at 5:13 am #

    I really find it SO RIDICULOUS that people want to fly or not with an airline based on its colors. There are far worse liveries out there and well let CO at least have something to stand out…..Yes it is a CO livery but it now says UNITED. I think when you lose your name it actually is much worse than a new paint job. United has had bad service from what I have read on threads and comments from friends and well let’s hope that CO’s service product serves the new UNITED to be MORE than just the paint. You wanna have a safe, reliable, honest and GREAT SERVICE airline oh and ON TIME AND GOOD MAINTENACE, so now we have it. If the stockholders did not complain about such change and paint job….then WHO ARE WE TO SAY SO?? 15 thousand emails won’t change it; if the employees both from CO and UA haven’t complained then LET IT BE. I just wanna know that when I buy my ticket I will get to my destinantion ON TIME, SAFE and on a CLEAN acft.

  15. Dave 16 January, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    You refer to CO’s current employee standby travel policy, NOT the new United’s new travel policy.

    In fact, there currently isn’t a new staff travel policy in existence! There’s only the interim policy, giving UA folk travel on CO and vice-versa. Nothing has been decided regarding the new travel policy as yet, so it’s inappropriate for you to publicly talk about something that hasn’t yet been confirmed.

  16. AJ hall 16 January, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    This is what happens when you let the CEO design a livery. It’s a clash of old branding, it looks outdated, and becomes a symbol of merger, rather than a new beginning (like the fantastic contemporary Delta look)

  17. Ben Brooks 16 January, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    Look, I’m not over the moon about the combined livery from a pure design perspective but as a business person I think it makes total sense.
    What’s missing from this conversation is a discussion of the business fundamentals of the industry.

    1 – I have seen no research that the aircraft livery materially impacts purchasing decisions. Price is #1 driver of consumer behavior for airlines. Other factors like schedule, OTP, hard and soft product, and FF program also impact carrier selection. Does anyone have research that supports the theory that consumers would make buying decisions based on how the outside of their 757-200 is painted?

    2 – This is the lowest cost and fastest way for the new United to get a uniformly painted fleet, representing one carrier. Touching up CO planes (as we’ve seen by the quick rate of updating) is very fast and cheap vs. repainting the entire aircraft in a new livery. Either UA or CO were going to have to repaint their entire fleet, and UA still has a significant number (I watched dozens take off from the Westin SFO this week) of a/c in battleship grey. So changing UA’s makes most economic sense as they had to paint grey a/c anyway. CO’s entire fleet is in one consistent livery.

    3 – Jeff Smisek is a very sharp business leader. You may not agree with some (or even all) of his decisions but that doesn’t mean he is a “moron” as someone has suggested. Both CO and UA bring significant assets to the table but most industry players and many frequent travelers will acknowledge that CO’s culture is stronger and overall morale and engagement of workforce is better than UA. That translates into better service and stronger operations. UA’s Tilton said keeping UA name and Chicago HQ were non-negotiable so Jeff had to get something to counter CO employees thinking they were just being sucked into UA. What you all need to realize is the livery is more about keeping CO employees engaged than it is about customers, something I fully support. As a CO elite (and frequent UA pax) I am happy to trade a so-so livery for keeping CO employees engaged and retaining the best of the overall CO pax experience and heritage.

    Anybody with me?

  18. Rik YYC 16 January, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    Let’s see…Continental’s planes are all the same scheme. United’s is a mix of Battleship and “New”. Regardless of the passion for the Tulip, by sheer economy of scale, it’s easier to get rid of the battle ship grey fleet(which, I am sure whatever is left is getting close to repaint time anyway). By painting the battleship grey in the UNITED titled Continental scheme, you much more quickly have a majority of the combined fleet with the same indentity. We all know this is a compromise, but in the end it saves money so the NEW UNITED can focus those extra dollars on fixing the more important aspects of the combined company that needs to be fixed. Within another decade, I am sure we will see something completely different. Let the company get itself on more secure ground. Paint can be changed fleet-wide later.

  19. Daniel 28 February, 2011 at 5:54 am #

    Amateurish attempt to appease. Looks like a type scheme used out of Russia post Soviet Union.

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