American Airlines has just unveiled a bold  new redesign for its fleet.

However, the U.S. airline has in the process  ditched the iconic red, white, and blue stripes along the fuselage, as well as  the polished aluminum siding, drawing ire from critics.

It is the airline’s first major rebranding  effort in 40 years; the 59 new aircrafts that will be ordered this year will  also be pained in the new scheme.

‘We thought it was time to update the look -  it’s been 40 years,’ Thomas Horton, CEO of American’s parent, AMR Corp., said in  an interview.

The new livery was painted on a Boeing  777-300 that was flown into Fort Worth, Texas, overnight and was to be shown to  the public later Thursday. The plane goes into service January 31.

American expects about one-third of its  fleet, or roughly 200 planes, will sport the new look by the end of the year  with the rest to be repainted within five years.

The makeover will extend to airport signs,  self-help kiosks and American’s website.

American declined to say how much the  ‘rebranding’ campaign will cost.

But not everyone is a fan of the  overhaul. Bloomberg Businessweek said the rebranding signaled the death of ‘The  Aviator’ generation, and the beginning of ‘Team America: World  Police.’

Horton said planning for the redesign began  in the summer of 2011, when American announced it would buy hundreds of new  planes from Boeing and Airbus, many of which will be made of composite material  that can’t easily be painted in American’s traditional polished-aluminium  look.

That means American was thinking of a  makeover even before it filed for bankruptcy protection in November  2011.

Horton said bankruptcy creditors were kept  informed about the redesign. The desire to cut costs didn’t derail the  effort.

‘We’re very much coming to the end of the  restructuring, and really all the cost-reduction initiatives have been bolted  down,’ Horton said. ‘We really are at that moment now to turn the page and set  the course for a new American.’

Under pressure from creditors, AMR is  studying whether to embrace a merger with US Airways or remain on its  own.

A decision is expected soon, and Horton said  the redesign doesn’t tilt the company toward either outcome.

Horton said AMR did not tell US Airways in  advance about the new livery – ‘That wouldn’t have been appropriate; they’re a  competitor’ – but he gave US Airways Group Inc. CEO Doug Parker a courtesy  heads-up on Wednesday night.

US Airways praised the ‘compelling result’ of  the redesign, as spokesman Ed Stewart put it.

The pilots’ union at American, which has long  fought with AMR and wants company management replaced, was less  enthusiastic.

‘A new paint job is fine but it does not fix  American’s network deficiencies and toxic culture,’ said Dennis Tajer, a  spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association.

His and other unions at American support a  merger that would put US Airways executives in charge of the combined  airline.


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