United Airlines has unveiled an updated version of its globe livery, the latest in a larger transformation of its product and services.
The livery, unveiled on a Boeing 737-800 in a ceremony at the carrier's Chicago base, features a white fuselage with a sans-serif "UNITED" emblazoned in blue over and above the window line. A blue swoosh, a design concept first introduced on the Boeing 787 in 2012, separates the white from a grey belly, and the tail features a blue-and-white version of the globe.
A notable change from the current globe livery, which United inherited from Continental Airlines through their 2010 merger, is the addition of blue engine cowlings – a throwback to the airline's last pre-merger tulip livery.
"It is the biggest canvas that we have to symbolise and summarise who we are about connecting people and uniting the world," says Oscar Munoz, chief executive of United, at the event.
FlightGlobal first reported the livery update in March, which Munoz described at the time as an "evolution".
The livery update comes as United continues to focus on improving its products and services for customers. It introduced a new business class seat and suite of premium lounges, dubbed Polaris, in 2016 and began offering a premium economy cabin on select widebody aircraft earlier this year.
However, a big focus for the airline has been on improving customer service. This became a critical issue for United after a passenger was forcibly removed from a flight in April 2017 that prompted a national outcry, and resulted in changes to overbooking and customer accommodation policies across US carriers.
The livery update features four colours from United's palette, including so-called United Blue, Rhapsody Blue, Sky Blue and Runway Gray. It was designed by PriestmanGoode.
Continental first introduced the Lippincott-designed globe livery in 1991.
Andrew Nocella, chief commercial officer of United, says the new scheme is cost neutral and will be phased in as aircraft come naturally due for repainting, which can be up to seven years. However, there will be an initial "bow wave" of repainted aircraft as the airline catches up on repainting that has been postponed for the past 24 months.
New aircraft will begin delivering in the updated scheme this summer, he says. This includes both the Embraer 175s due to ExpressJet Airlines, and the Bombardier CRJ550s that GoJet Airlines will introduce by late-summer.
The last livery update at a US carrier was Alaska Airlines, which unveiled a modernised version of its "Chester" eskimo brand in early 2016. American Airlines debuted its "soaring spirit" livery, which replaced the iconic Massimo Vignelli-designed scheme, in 2013.