Southwest’s New Livery Is Official

I don’t really follow Southwest all that much. I’ve flown them once and think they’re a fantastic airline all around, but they offer different things than what I look for in an airline (a global frequent flyer program, lots of opportunities for upgrades, etc.).

More than anything they deserve credit for their brilliant marketing. They’ve convinced flyers that they have the lowest fares, which is rarely the case. Yet I hear over and over “oh I need a cheap last minute ticket, I guess I’ll fly Southwest.” Being able to create that perception among consumers is invaluable.

Southwest just announced a rebranding, which consists of their new “Heart” livery. Here’s how it’s described:

“Our collective heartbeat is stronger and healthier than ever, and that’s because of the warmth, the compassion, and the smiles of our People,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer.  “The Heart emblazoned on our aircraft, and within our new look, symbolizes our commitment that we’ll remain true to our core values as we set our sights on the future.”

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There’s no doubt their new livery is to Wonder Bread as American’s new livery is to Captain America. I’m not one of those people that passionately cares what airplanes are painted like — I didn’t think Southwest’s previous livery was amazing, and I don’t think the new one is either.

But the thing I probably find most interesting is that they don’t have the “Free Bags Fly Here” logo on the new livery.

Free-Bags-Fly-Here

Southwest remains the only US carrier to allow two free checked bags, and to advertise that they’ve had a sign above the cargo hold which reads “free bags fly here.” It’s quite interesting that they don’t have that in the livery, especially given the rumors lately about them eliminating free checked bags.

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So to go full circle here, it’s a bit ironic that the reason for the new livery is that it “symbolizes our commitment that we’ll remain true to our core values as we set our sights on the future,” yet it seems they’re doing less to point out one of the “core” benefits of choosing them over the competition.

Is it just a coincidence, and I’m reading too much into it? What do you think of the new livery?

Comments

  1. To that point, Southwest fares might very well have been cheaper for the average traveler given their likelihood of checking a bag and the likelihood that they would pay a fee for that bag on another airline.

  2. One of the greatest values to me is the no fee for last minute changes. My work schedules often change and the high fees of the other carriers puts SWA out front.

  3. Hummm, I don’t think that “free bags fly here” is on all of their planes.
    A quick google images search shows lots of WN planes with it.

  4. The timing and appearance change is more to draw attention to them while the “Wright Amendment” being lifted this October that restricts so much of their Dallas flights/competition. The bigger value in SWA, while I don’t prefer them by any means, is their flight change policy that is so easy and that it take a hurricane to interrupt their operations since they have so many flights (at least here in the DFW area).

  5. Just a coincidence. “Free bags…” Was only on a handful of aircraft. Southwest has said over and over charging for a bag would cost more in business than a fee could make. (All that invaluable consumer perception you talk about.) Not to mention slower turn times stuffing the overheads full….

  6. looks too much in the vein of AA. thumbs down. and i’m a total livery geek, ranking Aeroflot’s as probably the current #1.

  7. Yes, that “free bags fly here” was just a marketing decal and was not officially part of the old livery, and wasn’t on all planes, so I wouldn’t read anything into that.

  8. Southwest seems to have the opposite of what I value in an airline (I never check a bag so that’s worthless to me; I like priority boarding and don’t like their system because it seems I always have to separate from my travel partner). That said, I did get the companion pass this year because I’ll be flying a lot from the east coast to Reno, NV and their schedule and prices are the best (PHL-LAS-RNO).

    I used to think Southwest had the cheapest fares out there, and I never used to check anywhere else (What marketing genius was able to facilitate that perception!?) I’m glad I got over that because it’s not true, although I do appreciate southwest flights coming into markets and making the fares better for everyone.

  9. One thing WN does not get enough credit for is no change or cancellation fees, even for infrequent flyers. They have recently chipped away at this a little, in their new no show policy where the passenger loses the paid value if they no show on a WGA fare. They also previously chipped away and watered down a bit in not allowing these credits to be transferred to another traveler.

    But still, I think I would recommend WN to a traveler who is not going to attain elite status. I mean a regular pax can buy EarlyBird checkin for $12 and get WN’s version of a “premium seat.” Try that United! With UA no seats practically available if your not elite, and its going to cost you a lot mor than $12 to buy Economy+.

    I just booked my niece BOS-PDX on WN, and PDX-BOS on UA. UA booked on the return because it was < $$$. But WN defenetly wins in the #paxex for the booking and free bags. I will ask her when she gets back, she is not by any stretch an av geek, which airline she preferred? Also WiFi for $8 for the day, she bought that.

  10. When WN completes its IT migration for the domestic side of the operation (already using it for international) you better believe the bag fees will start coming, as their IT system will then be able to handle ancillary fees.

  11. If you truly think that livery is important for airlines than no one would be flying American right now.

    Another homosexual impulse (style over substance).

  12. I think it’s more elegant than their current livery. I only flew them once, long ago in the 1990s, and really had a good experience. Congratulations to them on maintaining the free bag and free ticket change policies. That is truly admirable in today’s market.

    On a tangential note, does anyone know how many of their 737s have the new Boeing Signature Interior?

  13. I don’t prefer the new font/style (at all). The all capital letters SOUTHWEST on the tail was at least credible. The new font/style looks like Romper Room meets Ryan Air.

    What is not impressive is Southwest’s devaluation of Rapid Rewards. Their conversion of the program from Rapid Reward credits (where 16 credits earned you a free roundtrip) to thousands and thousands of Rapid Reward points added unnecessary complexity in an effort to hide the devaluation of their loyalty program.

    Additionally, the type of multi-leg schedule Southwest puts their planes through on a daily basis has taken its toll on the airline’s on-time performance, particularly evening flights.

    Other than that, airline does a pretty good job, but I find it hilarious that someone who travels as frequently as Ben has only flown Southwest once.

  14. Living in BOI, I used to fly Southwest quite a bit since they offered a lot of nonstop flights (SLC, PHX, LAS, SEA, PDX, etc.) and I could snag some of the infamous $29 each way fares. However, once they bought AirTran, they discontinued routes between SLC, SEA, PDX, and they’re now often the highest price airline that serves BOI. I could care less about 2 free bags; I’d be fine with one (or none).

  15. “They’ve convinced flyers that they have the lowest fares, which is rarely the case. ”

    Maybe if you’re in a large market, and you book 6 months out. For the rest of us in flyover country, Southwest is the only thing that keeps the rest of the airlines remotely competitive.

    Southwest saved my ass numerous times this year. I had 2 family emergencies that gave me about 10-14 hours notice for me to get out to my family. I didn’t know what my return flights would be, so I was forced to just get 2x last-minute one-way flights.

    I checked AA and Kayak for flights first-thing the next morning, and couldn’t find anything for less than $1000. This meant I had to lock in a return flight as well, or cough up another couple hundred bucks for change fees. I checked Southwest, and they had one-way fares for under $400 each way. Direct. No layover in ORD/DFW/DEN. No extra fees for baggage. And due to no change fees for my return flight, I went ahead and booked a return flight as well (which I indeed had to change). Even better, due to me having a companion pass, I was able to bring my wife with me when I would have had to leave her at home if I’d flown a competitor.

    Not factoring the companion pass into the equation, $800 for a last minute, direct flight without having to worry about checked bags, change fees, or other BS made a very, very difficult time for me, just a little bit less terrible. Factoring in the companion pass, to have my wife by my side at the time was priceless. The same thing would have cost me ~$2500+ (including 2x change fees) on the next cheapeast airline.

    I’m willing to admit that I’m biased, but frankly it’s not without reason. They’ve earned it. They might have great marketing for an airline, but by treating their customers as humans day-in-day-out, they remain the first airline I search if I need to get somewhere.

    ps. The new paint scheme looks fine. I’ll miss the red-bellied birds, but I like the new tail better than the old blue scheme.

  16. Did all of their old livery have the colored in beige wheels or only on some planes or an even older livery? If that’s part of the change, then that along makes this much better, since those colored in wheels look horrible, IMO. As far as the flying experience, I flew them this summer for a short round trip, and it was eh. The number of seats packed together was pretty amazing. Fortunately, it was a short flight. Only flew them because the hotel I was going to had a package deal with them on southwestvacations, which made booking the combo through them worth it.

  17. In case someone doesn’t know it (I sure didn’t until a Boeing plant tour last weekend), the green stuff you see in the beginning is a protective vinyl coating that gets washed off using warm water before painting (you can see that process as well). Interestingly, the fancy 787 is different — it has a white UV-protective coating (UV is damaging to composite materials, apparently) but it doesn’t get washed off. They rough it up and paint on top.

    P.S. If someone’s keeping track of these things, the 747-800 Internationals we saw in the plant are for Air China (x2) and Korean (at least 2). Apparently few takers for them as not operating at full capacity.

  18. It’s just a touch-up. A freshening of the logo. All brands do it. Makes customers think, subconsciously, that they are getting something new or with an improvement. All part of marketing.

  19. Jon – last minute revenue fares on any airline are usually going to be painful (in your case, Southwest was clearly the best choice; in other cases another airline may be cheaper). But, if you have miles with the legacies, you can often get a last minute “saver” award that is de facto far cheaper than any revenue fare. For example, recently, my GF needed to fly SFO-DCA with one day’s notice; a saver award seat was available on the UA non-stop for 12,500 miles plus the close-in booking fee – far cheaper than the $400 Southwest wanted for a connecting flight, or the $500+ other airlines were asking.

  20. FYI – Southwest doesn’t have the “Free bags fly here” sticker on all of their aircraft. It was for marketing. It is only on about 25% of the old livery.

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