Etihad Launches First A380 And New Corporate Look

New-look UAE National Airline unveils the first of 10 A380s which aims to fly from December

Etihad Airways has unveiled its first livery revamp in 11 years at an event at Airbus’ Finkenwerder facility in Hamburg this evening.

The yellow, brown and silver geometric tailfin designs, created by brand consultants Landor Associates, are inspired by traditional Emirati patterns, the desert landscape and Abu Dhabi’s modern architecture. The new look, unveiled on the airline’s first A380 – which is due to enter service to London Heathrow from December 27 – will be rolled out across its fleet.

The UAE national emblem is moved from the tailfin to the fuselage, next to the Etihad name, and the national flag is also moved forward near the cockpit, while the tips of the vast wings are coloured yellow.

James Hogan, president and CEO, Etihad Airways said the livery continues its desire to “break from convention”, following on from the much-trumpeted Residence and First Apartments launch on board its A380s in Abu Dhabi in May. He said it has sold the Residences for its first flight. “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,” he said.

As well as being featured on upcoming A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft, the new look is being rolled out across the airline’s corporate branding – from advertising to brochures and premium lounges.

Etihad will take delivery of seven wide-bodied aircraft in 2015 – four A380s and three Boeing 787-9s – and seven narrow-bodied aircraft (one A320 and six A321s). Two subsequent A380s which will be delivered early 2015 will also service London Heathrow, making it a triple-daily superjumbo operation.

Fabrice Bregier, Airbus’ President and CEO, acknowledged that the innovative nature of the Residences presents “some risks” but said he was extremely confident it will deliver Etihad’s first A380 on schedule. “It’s not an option – we have to make it,” he said. Qatar Airways received its first A380 last week after delays.

Later in 2015, A380s will operate to Sydney and New York as Etihad Airways receives its fourth and fifth aircraft. The airline has currently 10 of the double-decker airliners on firm order.

Comment

On a blustery Hamburg evening, the symbolism was irresistible: with the roll-out of this sparkling A380, which pulled back sedately from hangar 221, amid music and strobe lights, the winds of change are sweeping the UAE national airline as it prepares to enter a new superjumbo, widebody phase.

The colorful tailfin, which merges into the fuselage, is eye-catching and reflects a more contemporary image, which should particularly appeal to younger travellers as it continues to expand its global network.

Despite the ‘divergence’ claims however, airlines have been down the art route before: remember British Airways adopted ethnic liveries in 1997, although in that instance the designs covered a range of themes – and were dropped after four years.

In this case, the colours are more subtle, designed to reflect the dark sands of Liwa and light sands in the Northern Emirates and the ‘edgy’ geometry ties in with Abu Dhabi’s avant garde architecture, such as the upcoming Guggenheim Museum.

Not that I imagine most people will realise the underlying meanings, but from a brand perspective, it’s relevant.

Livery changes will never appeal to everyone, but I think this one will be favourably received by passengers.