The airline industry is a mixture of necessity, ambition, confusion, and frustration with a heavy dose of good old capitalism. In the old days, before Richard Branson got into the business, or before American Airlines wanted to swallow the rest of the U.S. airline industry whole, airplanes gave passengers real perks for flying. The interior of the planes was spacious enough to stretch your feet, and first-class cabins were spa-worthy. Plus the booze and the food choices were Roman orgy quality. But the interiors of these giant flying buses were nothing special. The color blue was the dominant choice of airline executives because of its calming effect on passengers. And the exterior of these people movers was white with touches of color on the tail and the airline’s logo, or they were a silver bullet color that made them look futuristic.
But fast forward to the modern age of air travel. The interior of airplanes is no longer spacious, and the drinks and food are now profit generating necessities, according to airline executives. First class is still the way to travel if you have the bucks to spend, or if you frequent flyer miles are in the mega-millions category. Airplanes are the Grey Hound buses of the 21st-century. They all have that bus quality that makes most passengers want to drive to their destination if only cars could fly. But in spite of the down-low passenger abuse, and the fares that put a dent in the budget of people who want to live like jet-setters, airplanes have become the ambassadors of nations. The exterior graphics on airplanes are over-the-top because color has a way of doing that to airliners.
American, Southwest, and Spirit gave their fleet a facelift with fresh colors and a modern aviation attitude a couple of years ago. But other airlines, from other countries, are putting on a color show that tells the world who they are and where they come from. A good example is WOW Air, the Icelandic low-cost airline that believes their bright fuchsia paint jobs are their business cards as well as their cultural expression. Etihad is another airline that isn’t afraid to show their roots. The Abu Dhabi-based airline has sand color planes with multi-color geometric shapes on the tail that represent the desert dunes of the Persian Gulf area. The tribal paintings on the tail of Fiji Airways is another good example of expressing cultural preferences and country pride.
Other airlines are also using the exterior of their planes to promote nationalism and culture. But and a lot of passengers don’t care about the exterior color of airplanes because the interiors are still shabby, and the service on most airplanes is non-existent.